Turnabout is Fair Play for a Rancher Who’s Fed Up

By: Amos S. Eno
Posted on:08/31/2011

Lawsuits . . . they're not just for activists anymore

This is one of the climactic stories from our month-long series of blog posts on the Chilton Ranch in southeast Arizona.

In July of 2002, the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity published a news release and photographs online, alleging that the Chiltons were mismanaging their Montana Allotment on the Coronado National Forest.  

According to the CBD website, “The Center for Biological Diversity works through science, law and creative media to secure a future for all species, great or small, hovering on the brink of extinction.”  The Chiltons had endured unfounded attacks and allegations from the CBD before, so when CBD ignored their request to have the “libelous and defamatory” material taken down from the website, Jim decided to fight back. (Note: Sue, Jim's wife, was on the Arizona Game and Fish Commission at the time, so Jim says "We decided to have just my father, my brother and I as plaintiffs.")  Jim, his dad and his brother filed a lawsuit against the CBD - an organization whose expertise is lawsuits!

On March 2, 2005, after a lengthy jury trial in January of that year, the court issued its final judgment:

“The court finds that the Center for Biological Diversity posted a News Advisory (press release) which included links to 21 photographs on its website in July 2002. . . . The court finds and declares that the Defendants made false statements in their News Advisory; this court further finds and declares that the Defendants’ News Advisory did not accurately describe the condition of the Montana Allotment . . . This court further finds and declares that the Defendants’ News Advisory contained misleading photographs.”

Jim’s summation: “They lie and misrepresent and are not on the side of truth.  The jury agreed because they voted 10 to 0 that the CBD had defamed me intentionally and with malice.  On a vote of 9 to 1 they ordered $100,000 for damages, and on top of that, they voted 9 to 1 to award me $500,000 in punitive damages!”

The libelous pictures issued by CBD and their subsequent explanation during trial have to be seen to be believed.  They can be accessed at the Chilton Ranch website.

Our final, and possibly most disturbing, post in this series about the Chilton Ranch comes next.