In this book, a writer recounts a farmer’s 15-month legal battle with the federal government.
For 40 years, 86-year-old C.P. Mincey put out a net for the purposes of catching fish in Garden City Beach, South Carolina. In 2013, while pulling in the net with his grandson, David Lane, the farmer discovered a dead dolphin caught in it. On the same day, his home was visited by two representatives of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and a federal agent from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to investigate the dolphin’s death. Mincey was later charged with a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. He was bewildered—he firmly believed he had broken no laws, and had taken every reasonable precaution to avoid inadvertently ensnaring a dolphin. In addition, hundreds of dolphins, killed by a rampant virus, had washed ashore on the East Coast in the last year, raising serious questions about the farmer’s culpability. Nevertheless, he was formally charged and hit with an inexplicably onerous fine: $6,500. Mincey was furious, and hired his son-in-law, LaFon LeGette, a veteran attorney, to represent him at a federal hearing. Walker (Alaska Highway Flight Log, 2017, etc.) follows the 15-month legal clash in granular detail, a remarkably scrupulous display of journalistic rigor. In cases like these, it’s exceedingly rare for the government to lose. The crux of the author’s account is governmental abuse of power. As LeGette contends in his closing argument: “No matter the ruling of this Court, the Government will never be able to change the fact that it has abused the rights of a law-abiding citizen and purposely sought to damage his good name in an attempt to convict him of a crime he did not commit.” But the chief virtue of Walker’s reportage doubles as its principal vice—the microscopically presented details can be overwhelming. And while LeGette’s performance is impressive, the courtroom action is generally less than dramatic—the case hinges on technicalities like the lawfulness of the government’s seizure of property and the dolphin’s cause of death.
An intelligent study of governmental overreach hampered by legal minutiae.