Custer Battlefield Museum Files Lawsuit Against the United States In U.S. Federal Court of Claims
GARRYOWEN, Mont., Jan. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — After years of harassment, false allegations, and wrongful persecution, Christopher Kortlander, founding director of the Custer Battlefield Museum, and the businesses he operates at Garryowen, Montana, have filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit in the U.S. Federal Court of Claims in Washington DC against the United States (1:11-cv-00601-MBH Kortlander et al v. USA). The lawsuit was filed in response to the actions of various law enforcement agents of the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of the Interior, and the United States. Kortlander states that the purpose of the suit is to recover from the damages caused by years of malicious prosecution by the many federal agencies involved in two raids on his businesses and private residence.
Kortlander said, “Our courts have created a special class of citizens who are federal agents. These special citizens are granted ‘qualified immunity’ by the courts for their wrongful, even unconstitutional actions.” Although private citizens are generally precluded from suing federal agents, a Bivens action sometimes can allow those who have been victimized by federal agents to seek legal redress directly against the agents as individuals. Kortlander pursued a Bivens case, but the court determined that the federal agents’ alleged wrongdoing was not sufficiently demonstrated.
Thus, the victim of federal abuse of authority is left to seek recourse against the agencies involved using a Federal Tort Claim Act filed in the U.S. Federal Court of Claims, which Kortlander is now pursuing. Said Kortlander, “It is ironic that the U.S. Supreme Court recently acknowledged the civil rights of a convicted felon in Bond v. United States (90-1227, USSC, June 16, 2011), one of the most important decisions on federalism in recent times, but my rights as an innocent citizen victim have thus far been denied.”
Even worse than the recently publicized federal harassment of Gibson Guitar Corp., Kortlander alleges that numerous federal agents from several agencies conducted an unremitting witch hunt against him, dating back to 1996. At that time, Kortlander dated the ex-wife of a BLM Special Agent who used his federal law enforcement authority to spy on the comings and goings of his ex-wife and Kortlander. Following Kortlander’s report of harassment, the agent was reassigned out of the BLM and his law enforcement undercover team was disbanded. Since then, Kortlander says he has been targeted by federal law enforcement agents, with the intent of destroying his reputation as a dealer in historical artifacts, and forcing him to close the businesses he owns and operates in Garryowen, Montana, which includes the Custer Battlefield Museum that he founded in 1995.
In 2005 and again in 2008, Kortlander’s home and businesses were raided by dozens of heavily armed federal agents, many brandishing automatic weapons, who made misrepresentations to the court in order to obtain search warrants. In these raids, hundreds of artifacts were seized from Kortlander’s home, his offices, and from the Custer Battlefield Museum, along with several computers and thousands of pages of business records and personal correspondence.
The first raid was conducted ostensibly to search for evidence that Kortlander had sold one military button with the incorrect documentation. The second raid was based on claims that Kortlander was selling federally protected Indian artifacts, many with eagle feathers, which had been on public display at the non-profit Custer Battlefield Museum for more than a decade.
Said Kortlander, “Despite repeated raids on my home and my businesses, and the destruction of my personal reputation, I had done nothing wrong, and no criminal charges were ever filed against me,” although, Kortlander says, the threat of impending multiple federal felony indictments were held over his head for nearly five years. “I’m still trying to force the government to return all the seized items,” he added.
“I’m not the only person this has happened to,” Kortlander continued. “For every case like mine that is mentioned in the media, there are many more that never get noticed. Federal agents can and have destroyed the lives of many law-abiding citizens. If you run afoul of the administration bureaucracy, you can be targeted for financial ruin and public humiliation without the benefit of the Constitutional protections which a defendant enjoys when a case is filed for prosecution in the judicial branch of government. I’m determined to bring this misuse of federal power and taxpayer dollars into the light of day.”
Kortlander stated: “The Bill of Rights and the Constitution were designed to define and limit the power of the federal government, and the pervasive expansion of federal power over those it is expected to serve, something which threatens the freedom of all Americans. This government that draws its authority from we the people, is increasingly strengthening its grip of the lives and businesses of all of us. And this is wrong for all Americans in the land of the free.”
Kortlander’s lawsuit was filed with the U.S. Court of Claims on September 19, 2011.
SOURCE Custer Battlefield Museum