Judge to revisit Easton ruling

Camp Easton Forever, Inc. filed motion to reconsider

The legal battle over a historic boy scout camp isn't over after all.

After a hearing on Wednesday over a motion for reconsideration, District Judge John Luster said he will take another look at his earlier ruling deeming that it's legal for the Inland Northwest Council of Boy Scouts to trade or sell Camp Easton on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Luster said he will weigh additional points raised on Wednesday by representatives of INC and nonprofit Camp Easton Forever Inc., which earlier sued the INC to halt a trade of the camp.

"I have some matters to look at closely and I will do so," Luster said, noting that he will make a ruling later.

Luster had ruled on May 21 that the INC is not precluded from trading or selling the more than 80-year-old camp. That freed the INC to pursue a proposed land exchange, in which the Camp Easton property would be handed over to a luxury developer, in return for a new camp at Sunup Bay.

Camp Easton Forever soon after filed a motion to reconsider, with the maintained argument that Camp Easton is part of a charitable trust requiring it be run as a camp forever.

On Wednesday, the nonprofit's attorney Kathleen Kolts questioned the judge's earlier ruling based on a statute of frauds analysis, which she deemed "has so many holes in it."

She argued that the court should have first studied whether a trust had been created for the camp, which would void the statute of fraud analysis.

Kolts pointed out that the camp is part of an implied trust, supported by the nature of F.W. Fitze's donation of the camp land to beneficiaries, the scouts.

"I can assert and prove there's a charitable trust by the donor's intent, the nature of the gift and that it's for a known charitable purpose," Kolts said.

She repeated the plaintiffs' argument that the donor's intent is clear in minutes of a 1929 meeting, where Fitze stated that he wanted the land used in perpetuity as a boys' camp.

It doesn't matter that the minutes weren't signed, Kolts added. The INC has relied on those minutes as record, she said.

"They all incorporated them into the institutional memory of the Boy Scouts," she said of INC staff. "They've quoted them, they've used them."

Kolts also rejected the court's finding that the plaintiffs, which include two boy scouts, lacked standing to file the suit because they wouldn't suffer real injury.

She asked the court to apply trust law instead of real estate law. The scouts are beneficiaries of a trust, she said, with the right to protect their interests.

"Plaintiffs here are not angry citizens seeking to rant to the government about some application of their tax dollars," she said. "They are beneficiaries of a charitable trust, whose only asset is real estate."

If the camp property is sold, she said, the trust is gone.

INC attorney Michael Ramsden argued that an implied trust does not void the statute of fraud, which Kolts refuted.

He cautioned Luster against considering any new evidence the plaintiffs' attorneys provided. He noted the court should only consider evidence provided at the previous summary judgment hearing.

The plaintiffs did not previously produce affidavits to show standing, Ramsden said.

"The plaintiffs established no distinct palpable injury that would have standing to make this claim," he said.

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