U.S. District Judge Denies Pershing County Attempt to Block Burning Man Lawsuit

San Francisco, April 29, 2013 — U.S. District Judge Robert C. Jones issued an order Friday denying Pershing County’s attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Black Rock City, LLC challenging the County’s unconstitutional festival permitting process.

Burning Man organizers sued Pershing County in August 2012 after the County breached a series of agreements it had previously entered into with Black Rock City, LLC, and enacted an unconstitutional ordinance that singles out the Burning Man event.

“The ordinance is nothing more than the county’s thinly veiled attempt to exact more fees or drive the internationally-renowned art event out of Nevada,” said Raymond Allen, Government Relations Manager for Black Rock City, LLC. “Both actions are violations of the First Amendment.”

The Pershing County ordinance increased the costs Black Rock City, LLC had to pay from around $180,000 in 2011 to over $600,000 in 2013.

Black Rock City, LLC is also pursuing action in the State Legislature to clarify a vague and outdated state statute that the county relied on when it enacted the local ordinance in question. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman David Bobzien, models the state statute on the Washoe and Storey County ordinances by exempting federal land.

The Nevada Assembly overwhelmingly passed the bill, AB374, on April 23. The Senate Government Affairs Committee will take up the bill May 8.

“The judge’s ruling is a major victory for Burning Man,” said Terry Gross, General Counsel for Black Rock City, LLC. “The county attempted to dismiss the entire case, and the court denied that as to all critical claims. The only claim that was completely denied by the Court was for preemption, and we plan to appeal that decision at the appropriate time.”

Burning Man brings in over $30 million for businesses in Northern Nevada each year as participants travel from all fifty states and numerous countries worldwide to attend the Burning Man event.

For 22 years, the Black Rock Desert outside Reno, Nev., has been home to the increasingly popular and influential Burning Man arts event. Started on a beach in San Francisco in 1986, Burning Man now attracts nearly 60,000 participants annually, from every U.S. state and 22 countries. For more information about the lawsuit please see brcvpc.com. For media inquiries, please call 415.865.3600.

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

24 Comments on “U.S. District Judge Denies Pershing County Attempt to Block Burning Man Lawsuit

  • aaaaaa says:


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  • Revolver says:

    Isn’t there some kind of godforsaken desert in California we could go to next year instead? Forget Nevada. Let the dead bury the dead.

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  • Trilo says:

    Thank you to all the Nevada lawmakers and residents involved in supporting AB374 so far. Here’s hoping it reaches the finish line!

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  • Todd Gardiner says:

    The “godforsaken deserts” in California have much more brutal temperatures and much more heavy use, Revolver.

    El Mirage, for instance. August highs of 100 degrees, cooling down to 90 degrees in September. And you need to buy off road permits from California to drive onto it. And it probably gets too much weekly use for California to turn it over to Burning Man for two months (build and tear down included).

    That’s the kicker. Build, then event, then LNT clean up mean that seven square miles of property are off limits for about two months, plus a perimeter during the event that extends outward a mile in every direction.

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  • Crissa says:

    Wait, Pershing County? The County that not a single resident actually can see the festival or its attendees without going really, really far out of their way to? That County?

    Ugh, reminds me of the legislation that bars Indian Reservations from prosecuting non-members for violating the law. When I was a kid, the Res police would complain that they weren’t allowed to hold anyone for more than 45 minutes, and often the County Sherif would never show. And that’s for an arrestible offense! Never mind misdemeanors. They ended up just having blanket rules that non-Res couldn’t use the beach, the river, etc ’cause they just weren’t able to enforce basic misdemeanors like littering or intoxicated minors.


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  • Mark says:

    YES, way to go Burning Man, you foiled a obvious attempt by local Nevada government to extort monies. Hopefully, the instigators will be criminally charged as they should be. Egotistical elected officials, should have paid them off with cash in a brown paper bag like most of all the other Nevada elected officials!

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  • stinky minky says:

    Does this mean, if the LLC wins, that ticket prices will go down? Or that they will reimburse ticket payers some of that money? Clearly that is one of the excuses used to double the ticket prices in the past two years.

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  • Now there’s one gamble where the Nevada politicos rightly lost their pants! Thank you for an aggressive defense, BMOrg! But seems to me, it’s time to keep looking elsewhere. Let’s see where else our “goose that lays golden eggs” might be able to roost besides Nowhere, Nevada.

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  • Julie aka winebuff says:

    Congrats Burning Man legal group. So awesome! You are getting a big high five from Oregon.

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  • Theo says:

    I few years ago when the BLM was hassling us there was talk of moving to a nearby Indian Reservation and as I recall they were quite open to the idea. The local tribes can’t cash in on the casino goldmine like tribes in other states have because gambling is legal throughout the state. Maybe there could be a win-win here?

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  • Jacques Porche says:

    There are hundreds of acres of Oregon for sale you can buy for the money you are spending on fascist Nevada fees. Jackson, Jackson County, Oregon House For Sale – 720 Acres $1,375,000 Tom Harrison 541-772-0000 MLS-ID# 17002. May be able to get him down to 750K, and Nevada’s permits demanded 600K? Hmmm…

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  • Jenn a.k.a. Jennilltelliya says:

    Congratulations to the BMorg! It is nice to see some justice! Lovelock (pershing county) has not ever been able to recognize a good thing….probably because they are the biggest wierdo’s in the closet! I think I speak for a lot of Nevadans when I say thank you for choosing the Black Rock to make BM happen. I would hate to see it leave this state! Love you mean it.

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  • Jim Graham says:

    Hi all,
    Jim Graham here, the new communications person for Burning Man. I just wanted to say thanks for all the comments. I read all of them and pass along the relavant ones to the right people.

    There will be more news coming up on this issue in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

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  • Leo says:

    There is plenty of wide open space in southeast Oregon. Why not buy some land instead of leasing from BLM. I think Jacques Porche has the right idea.

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  • freshied says:

    Gerald, I think you got it wrong, Nevada politicos are on our side! Pershing County lost their pants. I think if it were to move, it needs to stay somewhere in the black rock desert and on the playa. I do not know what the event would turn into if it was not on the playa. Much of the event is based on surviving in the harsh conditions. Move it to a grassy field and I think it would NOT be the same.

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  • santamuerta says:

    Gosh. Having just read the district court order, I have this observation. Rather than hire some silk stocking mercedes driving lawyers, Burning Man should have gotten a crusty old lawyer practicing in a street level cinder block office on bail bondsman way.

    The law suit would have stayed in state court. A writ filed to force the Pershing County Clerk to assign the case randomly to one of the two district judges. If Judge Wagner was assigned the case a $ 300.00 fee could be paid to preempt him. A new judge assigned The order declared void. End of story.

    What in the world was it taken to federal court. Even the federal district court judge doesn’ seem to understand there is no recusal procedure in Nevada. Its preempt or prove bias. Not recusal.

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  • Blaze says:

    Agree w/ Freshie, so much about the site is unique and iconic to the experience. The vast flatness – it lends so much to large art, esp. with dust blowing through. It makes it so hard to grasp scale, and really underpins the fractal nature of our perspective.
    The legal hassles will happen anywhere we go, let us hash it out now.

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  • roissy says:

    Now if we could only get the ORG to give Gerlach one dollar from each ticket sold to help offset the impact the event has on the residents.

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  • Fez Monkey says:

    Is there a link to the District Court’s order available?

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  • mouse says:

    i have not a missed a BLACK ROCK BURNINGMAN, if it was to be moved .. it would lose that isolated get away from the regular grind of the human way….. it is unique, the man is raised and fallen every year with a ritual that only the Black Rock can bring……. the jackson county burning man ?? the indian reservation burning man ??? the californian desert burning man ??? … come on burners, we are 60,000 strong we will not give in … we have our constituion..
    THE 10 PRINCIPLES…. live it! we will not move…we will not fold like a cheap walmart lawn chair… we will rise to the occasion and live our dreams for the period of what we all call OUR BURNING MAN !!!!!!

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  • kirk says:

    How about the great salt flats in Utah, plenty of room and great roads

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  • jaysus says:

    1) Re: Buying land – 720 acres is just over 1 square mile, tiny. BRC is 7 miles plus.
    2) I think BM really needs to work harder to support local communities with the increased ticket prices.
    3) Love

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  • andy mac a dandy says:

    Isn’t it funny that when the Nevada desert was used for testing weapons of mass destruction, no one batted an eye lid, but when you guys want to go out there and have a bit of peaceful fun the man goes ape, they did the same thing here in the UK, when raving originally licked off in the late 80’s, not too sure what they are afraid of, but the sight of other ppl kicking back and letting loose is obviously too much for a certain class of ppl to bare.

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  • thecybo says:

    As I will be coming from the west I would have little impact on the following purposed action against Preshing county, Nv, But those burnners that are traveling from the east along interstate 80 can really make their presences known by boycotting all the business in Pershing County. That would include Gas, motels, grocery stores; not even a slurpee at the 7-11!
    I would also suggest that a formal letter/ petition signed by anyone who will be traveling through Pershing County of their support of the boycott because of the county’s act of bad faith and un neighborly stance of increasing the permit costs to $600 to $800 million. If this happens the extra costs will have to be reflected in increased ticket prices.
    Copies of this letter of intent should be sent to the county district attorney Jim Shirley ( who instigated the change of permit fees), the local news papers, and the chamber of commerce to let all the residents (6,734 (2011)) know that exact financial impact that Blackrock city ( the largest city in the county; for one week anyway) has on their local economics.

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