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When we last left this strange saga, the Dept. of the Interior had
decided to give SUE back to rancher Maurice Williams, who was looking
to make as much $$$ as possible from a new sale.
Only pending lawsuits from the Black Hills Institute and the Cheyenne
River Sioux Tribe stood in the way of Williams cutting a deal with the
highest bidder. The fossil cannot be released until all suits and appeals
The Tribe has recently *dropped* their suit. They had filed this suit
for custody of SUE based on Maurice Williams' failure to purchase a
$100 business license from the Tribe. In their opinion, this invalidated
Williams' sale of SUE to the Black Hills Institute. Many legal observers
thought this case was very weak at best, and now it appears that the Tribe
has also decided that this effort was futile.
That leaves only the appeal filed by the Black Hills Institute as a barrier
to the great T. rex auction of the century. As I understand things, there
are now several possible outcomes:
Scenarios where the Black Hills Natural History Museum gets custody:
1)Maurice Williams and the BHI reach some sort of agreement which
results in the BHI getting custody and then dropping their appeal.
2)The case finally gets heard by the Supreme Court, which rules that
a fossil cannot be classified as "real estate", and thus the initial
sale between Williams and the BHI is ruled a valid business
transaction. SUE would then be returned to the BHI(in spite of the
Dept of Interior's position that Williams owns the fossil).
In these scenarios, SUE would take her place (along with T. rex
fossils Stan and Duffy) as the centerpiece of the Black Hills Natural
History Museum in Hill City, South Dakota. This would certainly make for
a world-class T. rex exhibit.
Scenarios where Williams gets custody:
1)The Black Hills Institute decides to drop their appeal. The Dept.
of the Interior would then give SUE back to Williams and the
bidding will commence. In lieu of an agreement between the BHI
and Williams, this appeal won't be dropped until sometime well
after hell freezes over(or the Supreme Court rules on it).
2)The Supreme Court upholds the classification of SUE as "real estate"
and awards custody to Williams. As far as I have been able to tell,
this would be an unlikely ruling for the Supreme Court to make and
would open up lots of cans of worms in the form of illegal "real
Nobody knows where SUE would end up in these scenarios. Williams is likely
to accept the highest offer be it domestic, foreign, or private.
The Supreme Court only deals with a limited number of cases each year.
Estimates vary on how long it will take for them to hear this one, but
it could be many years. As Mickey mentioned in an earlier post, Williams
seems to be interested only in his profit with little regard for the
scientific aspect. Maybe the combination of knowing that a Supreme
Court ruling is years away (and even then they may well rule against him)
will motivate Williams to seek a more modest deal with the Institute. At
least this would give him something *now* rather than possibly nothing in
the distant future.