Calling the case “possibly the biggest stinkin’ legal mess I’ve ever seen,” a South Dakota judge presiding over the foreclosure of Robert and Becky Blom has ordered that the nearly 28,000 head of cattle be inspected and sold.
A hearing last week in the Douglas County Courthouse, Armour, SD, involved more than 15 attorneys representing two dozen parties in the multi-million-dollar foreclosure case. After more than three hours, Judge Bruce Anderson said the involved parties were not able to answer all the questions surrounding the case, and that it will likely take so much time to unravel he would consider appointing a retired judge to preside over future proceedings.
Last week’s motions hearing addressed the issue of whether or not cattle that have not yet been moved should be sold, reports the Mitchell Daily Republic. Keeping the cattle in feedlots is incurring significant costs. The court’s appointed receiver, Lew Dirks, who has a credit account with First Dakota National Bank to cover expenses while the case is pending, said he’s already used more than $100,000, and that expenses like feed and yardage are estimated at $84,000 per week.
Judge Anderson ordered a 20-day inspection period, during which a brand inspector and interested parties can mark down which of the cattle in the feedlots they believe are theirs and what, such as tags or brands, makes them think so. After that 20-day inspection window ends, Dirks will start liquidating the cattle, and the claims from parties will then be compiled into an internet portal to evaluate which groups of cattle are in dispute. Proceeds from sales will be put into an escrow account.
Anderson told the parties at the hearing there aren’t enough cattle to fulfill every contract, and, “You have to get it in your head that you’ve sustained a loss.”
Dirks testified through his investigation he found Blom would sell the same group of cattle numerous times to multiple people. Dirks said he tracked one set of cattle that were sold 7.88 times (in some sales only a fraction of the group were sold). An earlier court proceeding estimated that more than 27,800 cattle were unaccounted for.
The case was brought by First Dakota National Bank on Feb. 8 with a complaint stating the Bloms had overdrawn their account by more than $1 million and owed a principal amount of more than $6.7 million.