By Tim Leeds
A Hill County game farm owner is challenging the constitutionality of an initiative that banned such farms in Montana.
"The Kafkas have been suffering under this for more than a year," said Kafka spokesman Henry Kreigel of Bozeman. " Basically they're saying I-143 is draconian in nature."
Kim Kafka declined to comment today on his lawsuit.
Kafka and his wife, Cindy Kafka, filed the suit last week in state District Court in Havre against the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks because of its enforcement of Initiative 143. I-143 banned the licensing of new game farm operations, expansions or license transfers, and fee shooting of the farms' animals. The initiative was passed by Montana voters Nov. 7, 2000, by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.
The Kafkas, who received a license for their game farm from FWP in 1999, claim in the suit that they had a vested interest in their game farm operation, Kreigel said. Removing their right to charge a fee to shoot the animals, without compensation, violates their rights to property and due process under the U.S. and Montana constitutions, Kreigel said.
A federal judge in November 2001 threw out a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the initiative. That complaint was filed early in 2001 by the Kafkas and Pat and Connie Corbett of Sidney on behalf of the game farm industry.
The suit asked for up to $100 million in damages and claimed the law violates federal and state constitutional rights, including the right to pursue life's basic necessities, and to possess and protect property.
Dismissal of the complaint was requested by the game farm operators. Stan Kaleczyc, attorney for the plaintiffs, said at the time that the Montana Alternative Livestock Producers had decided to drop the legal challenge.
The law targeted in the suit financially ruined 92 Montana businesses and the families which rely on those businesses for most, if not all, of their income,'' Mark Taylor, a spokesman for the group, said at the time. As a result, the producers collectively had to determine how to spend their limited resources, and continuing with the federal lawsuit would have been a protracted and costly undertaking.''
The order by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Great Falls didn't prevent the game farm owners from reviving the suit later.
Molloy had earlier rejected the game farm owners' request for an injunction that would temporarily suspend the part of Initiative 143 that bans shooting of game farm animals for a fee.
In that ruling, the judge called the prohibition a legitimate effort by the state to protect Montana's traditional hunting heritage and said the critics had failed to show it violated their constitutional rights.
Other cases are still in litigation about I-143, including one questioning whether the ban prevents game farmers from selling the animal to a customer and then letting the customer shoot it.
The Kafkas are the only plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, Kreigel said.
Lawyers John Bloomquist of Helena and Chris Young of Havre are representing the Kafkas.
The Kafkas are requesting a jury trial. No trial date has been set.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.