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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 4, 2004


Bully lawsuit

Semi-trailer trucks don’t file lawsuits over the fact they’re too big to travel some of the cow paths Idaho calls roads.

SUVs don’t file suits over the fact they can’t drive down the valley’s bike path or trails traveled by only horses or mountain bikes.

Why? Because common sense tells them it’s a silly thing to do.

Yet, California businessman Ron Tutor has decided to continue his legal battle to land his Boeing business jet in Hailey, despite the fact that it exceeds the 95,000 pound weight limit on the little airport’s runway.

Last month, Idaho Federal District Court Judge Lynn B. Winmill ruled against every single count of Tutor’s lawsuit against Friedman Memorial Airport. Tutor’s attorneys are preparing an appeal.

The court ruled that Tutor was not denied due process or equal protection under the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions.

The court ruled that Friedman airport did not violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution because prohibiting heavy jets from landing on a runway that isn’t designed to support them does not interfere with interstate commerce.

The court ruled that Tutor was not denied the right to travel, which is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In fact, the court noted Tutor had traveled to Hailey many times—on smaller planes.

The court referred to an earlier Ninth Circuit opinion when it held, "Indeed, even a complete lack of choice in means of travel ‘may be unfortunate, but is not unconstitutional.’’’

The court also said that Tutor had no right to take private legal action under federal laws that apply to noise, capacity and improvements at airports that accept federal money. That, said the court, is the right of the Secretary of Transportation, who oversees such airports.

The court denied Tutor any injunctions granting access to the airport.

Though he lost on all counts, Tutor won’t give it up.

As a multimillionaire, perhaps Tutor won’t miss the money the suit is costing him for expensive attorneys. Still, it seems like it would be a lot more fun to charter slimmer luxury jets for his trips to the valley than to pay legal fees.

As for the little airport, the continuing lawsuit is draining money from its coffers that would be better spent on safety and terminal improvements. The airport has spent $600,000 on the suit to date, and the January bills aren’t in yet.

Tutor has a right under the law to appeal the court’s decision, but the move is looking more like a bully action against a small town airport that can ill afford to defend itself than an appeal to remedy injustice.

The attraction of Sun Valley as a vacation destination is understandable. But the lengths to which Tutor is going in demanding the privilege to arrive in any plane he chooses defies all logic.



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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.