Lessons From The Ranch Rescue Fiasco
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[See also: A Reader Offers Pro Bono Tax Advice To Ranch Rescue Victims]

In the unfolding history of citizen groups keeping watch against the illegal alien invasion on the Mexican border, the undisputed All-American Patriot hall of fame so far includes Jim Gilchrist's Minuteman Project, Chris Simcox's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and Glenn Spencer's American Border Patrol . . . while the border hall of shame remains the sole province of the hapless Ranch Rescue.

Though arguably the first to organize help for private border landowners, Ranch Rescue's leaders were recently chewed up and spat out by one of the Treason Lobby's most vicious attack dogs—none other than Morris Dees' Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF).

The New York Times's Andrew Pollack reported on August 19 all the gory details of how Ranch Rescue founder Jack Foote, along with his sidekick Casey Nethercott—previously convicted of felony assault in California, it turns out—both failed to answer tort claims filed against them by the SPLC, as the result of their botched 2003 "Operation Falcon" in South Texas. [2 Illegal Immigrants Win Arizona Ranch in Court]

When the smoke had cleared, Foote had an outstanding legal judgment over his head, Nethercott wound up in jail on a gun charge (as a convicted felon, he wasn't supposed to possess one), and Nethercott's sister lost an Arizona ranch property to the SPLC's plaintiff illegal aliens.

But the SPLC's trouncing of Ranch Rescue nevertheless provides a valuable, although extremely costly, case study for all future efforts of border-watchers, both on public and private land. The misadventures of Foote and Nethercott illustrate what NOT to do in running a private border watch. [NOTE: I previously covered Ranch Rescue before its implosion here and here; and noted its happier days with Soldier of Fortune magazine here.]

So for the benefit of all border-watching Minutemen, past, present and future, I offer these lessons learned from Ranch Rescue:

  • Beware the tort claim! All personal injury lawsuits—tort claims—are serious business and MUST be answered, as well as defended vigorously by the best lawyer you can afford...and then some. Not answering a claim filed against you is the only sure-fire way to LOSE a case, and leave yourself open to virtually unlimited liability for injuries, real or imagined, dreamed-up by the plaintiffs.

  • If sued, HIRE AN ATTORNEY! The fact that Foote and Nethercott did not hire an attorney to respond to the SPLC's personal injury claim on behalf of the illegal aliens was absolutely mind-boggling. When hiring legal counsel, the attorney must be licensed in the state where the lawsuit was filed, and be experienced with that state's laws relating to personal injury, citizens' arrest provisions, firearms regulations, or anything else relevant to the case.

  • If you're ever touched, harmed or assaulted, sue the bastards! If while conducting Minuteman duties, the Treason Lobby's "protesting" rent-a-mob street thugs ever so much as land one drop of spittle on you, they and their organizational handlers have just opened themselves up to the same kind of tort liability as suffered by Ranch Rescue. So fight fire with fire! If you're ever kicked, spat upon or otherwise harassed by the street provocateurs of "tolerance," sue the specific Treason Lobby organizations that brought them out to harm you—and the horse they rode in on.

  • Don't hire felons. It would be a good idea for border-watch organizers and/or private landowners to conduct some type of background investigation on all border watch volunteers. So in order to protect your bank account from liability, Rule #1 should be to tell previously-convicted felons to take a hike. It's just not worth the risk. (See below.)

  • Property owners: don't let yahoos on your land. There was one particular item from the New York Times, almost completely lost in the Ranch Rescue furor, which was even more amazing to me than the loss of Nethercott's land to illegal aliens. The real story: the fact that the Texas ranch owner who invited Foote and Nethercott on his property settled his part of the SPLC lawsuit for $100,000 rather than face an even greater exposure to liability in court. Where there's smoke, there's fire. The rancher's settlement is a pretty good indication that there was indeed something rotten with Operation Falcon. The Texas rancher's $100,000 loss here screams out to all border landowners: "Know your Minutemen." Don't let anyone on your property unless you do have the highest level of confidence in their professionalism, competence and restraint.

  • Don't touch the aliens. Glenn Spencer's Border Cam, video-camera-laden UAVs, as well as the Minuteman Project's trademark binoculars and cell phone (note the updated colonist logo on their web site) have avoided all of the problems associated with the murky area of citizen's arrest law. Bravo! The how-to of detaining a trespasser or a suspected thief, whether on your own property or not, is a legal minefield of state-specific codes and case law. Ranch Rescue's choice not to adopt a "no contact" rule opened them up to tort claim liability . . . and they paid the price.

  • Be vigilant! In doing the jobs that the American government won't do, Minutemen (and women) must bear all the risks as well as the rewards of a job well done. But no one ever said that stopping the illegal alien invasion was going to be easy.

The extraordinary phenomenon of private citizens peacefully defending their country's border when the federal government failed to do so has been the single greatest victory for immigration reform since California's Proposition 187 in 1994.

This is a mortal threat to the Treason Lobby. It will respond with unscrupulous viciousness. It can be beaten—but it has to be handled with extreme care.

Godspeed, Minutemen!

Juan Mann [send him email] is a lawyer and the proprietor of DeportAliens.com.

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