Ariz. rancher trying to get land back from the courts

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TUCSON, Ariz. – Casey Nethercott was in Cochise County Superior Court Tuesday, hoping to get his ranch back.

The courts took Nethercott’s 70-acre ranch near Douglas away from him in 2005 and gave it to two illegal immigrants to help satisfy a lawsuit.

"This is illegal, unwarranted and if it happened again in another courtroom, those lawyers possibly could be arrested for what they did," Nethercott said in court.

In 2003, Nethercott was part of a border patrol vigilante group called Ranch Rescue.

He stopped two illegal immigrants in Texas who alleged that Nethercott threatened and pistol-whipped them. Nethercott was never convicted of those crimes but was sent to prison in Texas for unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.

In 2006, Arizona voters passed a constitutional amendment to prevent anyone in the country illegally from collecting punitive damages in a legal case no matter what happens to them.

Then in April, Gov. Jan Brewer added to the law, making it retroactive to 2004. Brewer’s move helped prop the door open for Nethercott to try and get his land back.

"This law states that illegals do not and will not come into this country and take American homes," Nethercott said. "Our House signed it. Our Senate signed it and our governor signed it."

According to the Cochise County judge, there were a few problems with Nethercott’s argument and, therefore, ruled against him.

Jana Flagler is a lawyer representing the Southern Poverty Law Center. It’s the group that helped the immigrants in the lawsuit.

"Mr. Nethercott’s cause of action accrued too early," Flagler said. "Also, no punitive damages were awarded against Mr. Nethercott in Texas, only compensatory damages so the argument of the plaintiffs is that the law also didn't apply for that reason."

3TV tried to get a comment from Nethercott after the judge’s ruling, but he was unavailable.

Nethercott Complaint