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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 29, 2022


For the second time in the past two months, District Court Judge Raymond Finch has denied a request to have the lawsuit against the Beal-V.I. government land exchange moved to federal court.
On Thursday afternoon Finch denied a request made by lawyers representing Caribbean Space Technologies, an affiliate of Texas-based Beal Aerospace Technologies, to have the case moved from Territorial Court to District Court.
Because of the removal motion, closing arguments scheduled for Friday in the land exchange lawsuit have been postponed.
On Nov. 24, CST’s lawyers Daryl Dodson and Adriane Dudley filed a motion to have the case heard in District Court. On Thursday, however, Finch remanded the case back to Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews, saying territorial law governs it. Finch also said the CST removal action was filed too late.
On Oct. 8, Andrews granted Senator Alicia "Chuckie" Hansen’s request for a temporary restraining order against the land swap, which had been approved by the V.I. Legislature three days earlier. Andrews ruled Gov. Charles Turnbull violated the public trust when he sent the land exchange agreement to the Senate for approval.
Following Andrews’ decision, V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron moved that the case be heard in District Court and the temporary restraining order stayed. Stridiron said a majority of the issues pertained to federal laws and therefore the case should have been heard in District Court.
In his decision to deny Stridiron’s motion, Finch said the District Court didn’t have jurisdiction in the matter.
Since then, attorneys have been trying to convince Andrews why a permanent injunction against the land swap should or should not be granted.
Ned Jacobs, Hansen’s attorney, said the CST lawyers filed the removal motion after Andrews concluded the two-week trial where 22 witnesses took the stand and more than 80 documents were entered into evidence.
"It was only after the trial did the Beal lawyers try to shift it to District Court," Jacobs said.
Andrews had scheduled closing arguments for Dec. 3. But because of the removal motion, he postponed the hearing indefinitely.
Jacobs said closing arguments might be rescheduled for next week. Once the closing arguments are completed, Jacobs said Andrews would either take the case under advisement and then issue a written ruling or rule immediately from the bench.
On Oct. 5, the Legislature approved the land swap so that Texas-based Beal could acquire 14.5 acres of land, once the home of the Camp Arawak youth camp, for a portion of a parking lot. The lot would accompany Beal’s proposed $57-million world headquarters and rocket assembly plant near Great Pond Bay. In exchange for the Camp Arawak land, the government would receive acreage owned by Beal in Estates Whim and Grange Hill.
Opponents of the swap contend that the Camp Arawak land was deeded to the people of the territory to be developed into a park and therefore cannot be traded away.
Meanwhile, Beal is also negotiating for a launch site with the goverment of Guyana (see earlier story).

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