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Kathy Stupak-Thrall: Property Rights Hero

In 1993, at a property rights gathering in Denver, Colorado, a booth showed a topographical map of a forested, rural area at the western tip of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with this banner, “Help Straighten Out Crooked Lake.” “I’ll bite,” I told the woman at the booth. “How do we straighten out Crooked Lake?” Kathy Stupak-Thrall’s grandfather had built a cabin near Crooked Lake where she and her husband Ben and their children summered. But a neighbor, the U.S. Forest Service, thought it had the right to regulate her use of the lake contrary to 156 years of Michigan law.

Mountain States Legal Foundation took her case. Our journey led us to a federal district court in Michigan, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, including a rare en banc hearing there, and then back to Michigan where her property rights, and those of her neighbors—a World War II disabled veteran and his wife—were upheld. In 2013, the Forest Service, despite her victory over the agency, resumed its mischief; so, with Kathy’s urging, we agreed to represent her neighbors David and Pamela Herr. Their two landmark victories at the 6th Circuit were appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States by radical environmental groups that intervened in the case. Days ago, the Court denied the petition; Kathy and her neighbors’ triumph was at last complete.

Recently, I keynoted the Property Rights Foundation of America’s 22nd Annual National Conference in Latham, New York.  I was introduced by Kathy, so I took the occasion to present her an Eagle Award for being a passionate, patriotic, and relentlessly persistent client. We could not have done it without her.

You share in that award that Kathy Stupak-Thrall received, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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