Territorial Court Judge Alphonso Andrews on Wednesday granted plaintiff Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansens request for a permanent injunction against the land swap that was approved by the Legislature on Oct. 5.
Caribbean Space Technologies, an affiliate of Beal Aerospace Inc., and the V.I. government were blocked from implementing their land exchange agreement.
Andrews granted Hansens request for a permanent injunction against the land swap. The swap would have given CST 14.5 acres of public land known as Camp Arawak in exchange for land it owns in Estate Whim and Grange Hill.
CST, owned by Texas-based land developer and neophyte satellite entrepreneur Andrew Beal, contends that it needs the Camp Arawak land for a portion of its world headquarters and rocket assembly plant.
Hansen and 19 other plaintiffs, however, contend the Camp Arawak land was deeded to the people of the Virgin Islands in 1974 and cannot be traded away. On Oct. 8 Andrews granted Hansens request for a temporary restraining order against the land deal.
Andrews ruled that Gov. Charles Turnbull violated the public trust when he sent the land exchange agreement to the Senate for approval.
In court Wednesday, Andrews said he would issue copies of his 52-page decision Thursday. Instead, the judge cited key elements explaining his opinion. He said his decision didnt discuss the Legislatures action or the alleged economic benefits of Beals proposal.
Rather, he said the "plain and simple issue in the case is if the proposal of the transfer of the Camp Arawak land is legal."
Andrews said the legislative act transferring the Camp Arawak land carried the name CST while the actual land exchange agreement made reference to Beal Aerospace. That was the same problem Turnbull cited when he allowed the act to become law without his signature at the end of October.
The judge said that as a matter of law, Beal Aerospace and CST are two separate and distinct companies.
"Even though the two companies are owned essentially by the same person, by a legal standpoint they possess separate existences. A mere change in the name carries significant legal ramifications," Andrews said. "The bottom line is what the Legislature has done is . . . to attempt an impossibility.
"The reality is there is no assignment" of rights, he said.
Andrews also blasted Attorney General Iver Stridiron for being "disingenuous" when he told Hansen in a letter Oct. 8 that Camp Arawak was public trust land and then had Assistant Attorney General Michael McLaurin argue in court that the government had no commitment to the property.
"The court finds that argument to be unattainable and disingenuous at best," Andrews said. "The (land exchange)agreement is contrary to the trust."
Finally, Andrews noted that even if there was conformity in the act approving the land exchange, the Legislatures attempt would still be illegal because it would violate the doctrine of separation of powers. He said even though land is being substituted in Estate Whim and Grange Hill, the act doesnt call for the land to be held as park property by the government.
Andrews said the harm that would be done if the exchange was carried out wouldnt be mitigated simply because other properties exist. He noted the historical and archeological significance of the Camp Arawak site.
"The harm is all too obvious. The government and CST simply failed to recognize the value of property ownership," Andrews said. "(Camp Arawak) is a place where African ancestors lived and worked. The structures are tangible links. They tell a story of the ancestors struggle, which led to their freedom.
"(Transfer) magnifies the harm of the use deprivation of Camp Arawak."