Judge to Acting Public Lands Chief: You're Out

William Pendley removed from role after ruling says he's been 'unlawfully' serving for 424 days
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2020 6:00 AM CDT
Judge to Acting Public Lands Chief: You're Out
In this Aug. 14, 2020, file photo, William Perry Pendley, acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, speaks to the media in Eagle, Colo.   (Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily via AP, File)

He had a good, but apparently illegal, run. William Perry Pendley got some bad news Friday via a federal judge, who ordered the 75-year-old to be removed as the head of the Bureau of Land Management, a role he'd held for 424 days without Senate confirmation. "Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the acting BLM director," Chief District Judge Brian Morris of Montana said in his ruling, noting Pendley "did not follow any of the permissible paths" to getting his job, which he was appointed to by Department of Interior chief David Bernhardt in July 2019, per CNN. Morris also ruled that Bernhardt can't just choose someone else to fill Pendley's slot, as the new BLM leader needs to be appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by the Democratic governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, and the state's Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

In June, Trump formally nominated Pendley to lead the BLM, but in August he withdrew the nomination after pressure from Democrats and even some GOPers, per NPR. A spokesman for the Department of the Interior decried the ruling and said the department would be appealing, calling it an "outrageous" decision that ignores a "long-standing practice" of the department used by other administrations as well. But Bullock and conservation groups are applauding, with the governor calling the ruling a "win for the Constitution." "Montanans can rest easy knowing that National Public Lands Day will begin with William Perry Pendley packing his desk and vacating the director's office at the Bureau of Land Management," Bullock said in a statement, per the Hill. (Read more Bureau of Land Management stories.)

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