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Richard Howard Battey
File:Richard Howard Battey.jpg
Born Richard Howard Battey
(1929-10-16)October 16, 1929
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Died May 6, 2017(2017-05-06) (aged 87)
Alexandria, Minnesota
Education University of South Dakota
University of South Dakota School of Law (J.D.)

Richard Howard Battey (October 16, 1929 – May 6, 2017) was a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota.

Education and career[edit | edit source]

Battey was born in Aberdeen, South Dakota. After attending the University of South Dakota in 1950, he received a Juris Doctor from the University of South Dakota School of Law in 1953. After serving as a United States Army Lieutenant from 1953 to 1955, he went into private practice in Redfield, South Dakota from 1955 to 1985.[1] Battey was the judge responsible for the false imprisonment of Lakota Holy man Douglas White.[citation needed]

Federal judicial service[edit | edit source]

Battey was nominated to be a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota by Ronald Reagan on September 27, 1985. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 25, 1985, and received his commission on October 28, 1985. He served as Chief Judge from 1994 to 1998. He assumed senior status on January 1, 1999, serving in that status until his death.[1]

'Sue' dinosaur fossil dispute[edit | edit source]

Battey is known for being the presiding judge in the dispute over the recovery fossil remains on Federal lands including by the Sue discoverer Peter Larson and Black Hills Institute of Geological Research paleontologists. Battey, controversially, did not recuse himself from the prosecution of Larson. Following a trial on charges unrelated to the "Sue" T. rex find,[2] Larson was convicted of two felonies and two misdemeanors,[3] charges which some considered politically motivated.[4] The felonies involved the "failure to fill out forms," which resulted from contested instructions from Battey. The trial record shows that Battey told the jury to ignore testimony from the government's own customs witnesses, testimony that normally would have resulted in acquittals in these charges.[5] Battey sentenced Larson two years in federal prison despite the maximum sentence being only six months. In 2015, South Dakota lawmakers have petitioned Barack Obama for a formal full pardon of Larson.[6] Battey is portrayed in a negative light for his handling of Sue Dinosaur Case in the Sundance Film Festival Documentary Dinosaur 13.

Notable law clerks[edit | edit source]

Among Battey's notable judicial law clerks were David Lust and Marty Jackley.

Death[edit | edit source]

Richard Battey died in Alexandria, Minnesota on May 6, 2017.[7]

References[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

  • Richard Howard Battey at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Andrew Wendell Bogue
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota
1985–1999
Succeeded by
Karen Schreier
Preceded by
John Bailey Jones
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota
1994–1998
Succeeded by
Lawrence L. Piersol

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