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Press Release


For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana
Montana AUSA Mark Smith receives DOJ Deputy Director's Award
Montana U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme, left, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Smith at the 2019 Department of Justice Deputy Director's Award Ceremony in Washington D.C.

WASHINGTON – Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Smith of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Montana was one of 172 members of the Department of Justice recognized by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, and Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) Director James Crowell, IV at the 35th Director’s Awards Ceremony today in Washington D.C.

The District of Montana was one of 31 districts represented at the ceremony which was held in the Great Hall at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. AUSA Smith was recognized for his work on a case involving public access for a popular trail into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.

In his prepared remarks, Deputy Attorney General Rosen told the awardees, “Today’s honorees have earned the esteem of their colleagues.  But most importantly, you have earned the gratitude of your fellow citizens — whose communities you have made safer, whose lives you have improved, and whose trust you have rewarded.”

In his prepared remarks, EOUSA Director Crowell said, “The Department of Justice is in truth a deployed force.  Your work isn’t easy, but it is vital to the functioning and enduring nature of our democracy.  As federal prosecutors, we are held to a higher standard, a standard that requires us to ensure that we uphold the rule of law and the fundamental rules of fairness in every trial, every settlement, every plea, and every legal argument in which we are involved.”

In the public access case, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June affirmed a ruling by U.S District Judge Sam E. Haddon that the Forest Service possessed an easement by prescription for itself and the public on a trail known as the Indian Creek Trail, in the Madison Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. The trail provides public access into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.

AUSA Smith argued the case before the Circuit Court.

“Mark and his team worked tirelessly on behalf of the United States to protect the rights of the public to access and enjoy public lands. This award is well deserved,” said U.S. Attorney Alme.

The case began in 2014 when the Wonder Ranch, LLC, sued the United States under the Quiet Title Act, claiming that the trail, which crosses its 80-acre parcel east of Cameron, was used by the public by permission of the landowner, and that no public right of access existed. The United States countersued, claiming that a prescriptive easement across the Wonder Ranch for the public and the Forest Service to use the trail had been clearly established through many decades of stock, recreational and commercial use.

After an eight-day trial in 2016, the District Court ruled for the government that a public easement had been established and maintained through generations of use of the trail.

EOUSA provides oversight, general executive assistance, and direction to the 94 United States Attorneys’ offices around the country. For more information on EOUSA and its mission, visit





Clair Johnson Howard
Public Information Officer

Updated June 20, 2019