Roger Sundahl: Who Is Paying for Your Lawsuit Marvin Nelson?

A drilling rig is pictured near Lake Sakakawea near New Town, N.D., on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Some fear that uncertainty about who owns the minerals under the lake will deter oil development in the area. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

This guest post was submitted by Roger Sundahl of Bismarck. Sundahl graduated from UND in 1965 and served two years as an officer in the U.S. Army. My entire working career has been in the food ingredient industry, where I continue to work a self employed industrial food ingredient broker. He has been married to a member of the Wilkinson family for 54 years.

On September 28, 2017, the North Dakota Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Wilkinson v. Board of School Lands of the State of North Dakota, ruling that the Wilkinson mineral acres were not only the subject of an unconstitutional taking by the State, but they were also subject to North Dakota Century Code 61-33.1, which was the codified version of Senate Bill 2134 that was overwhelmingly passed by the North Dakota Legislature and signed by Governor Burgum in 2017.

On January 10, 2018, Rep. Marvin Nelson and a group of taxpayers, none of whom are mineral owners, filed a Complaint seeking to delay and strike down Chapter 61-33.1, N.D.C.C., and further delay the return of our mineral acres, that were unconstitutionally taken by the State. Rep. Nelson opposed Senate Bill 2134. As a member of the Wilkinson family, married to the second oldest granddaughter of Tom and Evelyn Wilkinson, I would like to ask Rep. Nelson et. al., who is paying the legal bill for their Complaint?

…I would like to ask Rep. Nelson et. al. who is paying their legal bill to try to wrongfully claim our minerals while ignoring the decision of the North Dakota Supreme Court?

My family, and the people of North Dakota, deserve to know if Rep. Nelson has promised taxpayers’ dollars of hardworking North Dakotans to continue harassing our family in wrongfully trying to claim our minerals, and the minerals of thousands of other private landowners. The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled that the State couldn’t take private property via the flooding of our property caused by Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea. The North Dakota Legislature and Governor Burgum agreed that the State shouldn’t be able to take the property of private landowners when it passed Senate Bill 2134. Yet, we are forced to continue incurring legal fees as Rep. Nelson refuses to abide by what the North Dakota Supreme Court and his own legislature decided by overwhelming majorities.

The struggle for the return of the family mineral acres has been a long and expensive journey for us, playing out for over seven years, and costing several hundred thousand dollars. Members of the family are regular people who have had to drain retirement savings, use money that could have helped children and grandchildren defray the high cost of college, and make other personal sacrifices to pay our legal bill, and our legal expenses continue to accrue as a result of the Complaint filed by Rep. Nelson et. al.

We note that Rep. Nelson et. al. have engaged a law firm from Edina, Minnesota to press their Complaint. I am advised that hourly fees for Twin Cities law firms are typically in the $350 + range. That being the case, I would like to ask Rep. Nelson et. al. who is paying their legal bill to try to wrongfully claim our minerals while ignoring the decision of the North Dakota Supreme Court?

Rep. Nelson and his lawyers would be well served by reading the decision of the North Dakota Supreme Court in our case. It was crystal clear. Any outcome that results in the State having our minerals is an unconstitutional taking and we’d be titled to compensation. I’d also like to ask Rep. Nelson where the State is going to get the money to pay for not only taking our minerals, but the minerals of thousands of other mineral owners if the State proceeds with its unconstitutional taking. Rep. Nelson is an elected state representative. Our family and the public deserves answers to these questions.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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