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The issue at the center of this decades-long water rights case involved the Pojoaque Basin of New Mexico. A settlement was reached among many of the parties involved. The district court overruled the objectors and entered a final judgment. The objecting parties appealed, arguing the settlement was contrary to law because it altered the state-law priority system, and the New Mexico Attorney General could not agree to enforce the settlement without the state legislature's approval. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals determined, as provided in the agreement, the State Engineer promulgated rules for the administration of water rights in the Basin. Those rules explicitly provided that non-settling parties “have the same rights and benefits that would be available without the settlement agreement” and that those rights “shall only be curtailed . . . to the extent such curtailment would occur without the settlement agreement.” However, though the settlement preserved their rights, it did not confer the objector-appellants standing to challenge it. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the case for dismissal of the objections for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "New Mexico v. Aamodt" on Justia Law

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Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town (“AQTT”) appeals several orders entered in favor of the United States, the Secretary and Associate Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI”), the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (the “Creek Nation”). AQTT was a federally recognized Indian Tribe organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act (“OIWA”). AQTT filed a complaint against the United States and several federal officials (collectively, the “Federal Defendants”) alleging property known as the Wetumka Project lands were purchased under OIWA for the benefit of AQTT. It requested a declaratory judgment and an order compelling the government to assign the Wetumka Project lands to AQTT and provide AQTT with a full and complete accounting of related trust funds and assets. On the Federal Defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, the district court dismissed AQTT’s claim for land assignment and denied the motion as to an accounting of trust assets. The parties then promptly filed cross-motions for summary judgment. All were denied. The case was remanded to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (“IBIA”) for further development of the trust accounting issue. After the IBIA decided that the government did not hold any funds in trust for AQTT, the case returned to district court. AQTT filed an amended complaint, adding the Creek Nation as a defendant and arguing that the IBIA’s decision was arbitrary and capricious. The Creek Nation moved to dismiss, and that motion was granted on sovereign immunity grounds. In the amended complaint, AQTT also attempted to revive its land assignment claim based on newly discovered evidence. The district court again dismissed the claim. AQTT and the Federal Defendants then renewed their crossmotions for summary judgment. The district court upheld the IBIA’s decision. In granting the government’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, the district court dismissed AQTT’s claims for assignment of the Wetumka Project lands for failure to join the Creek Nation, an indispensable party because the IBIA determined the Creek Nation, not AQTT, was the legal beneficiary of the funds related to the Wetumka Project lands. In affirming the district court, the Tenth Circuit concluded the IBIA’s determination was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary or capricious: the deeds of conveyance for the Wetumka Project lands plainly placed the land in trust for the Creek Nation, and did not create a vested beneficial interest in any other entity. View "Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City of Brookhaven, holding that its ordinance regulating adult businesses was not unconstitutional. The city passed the ordinance for the stated purpose of preventing the negative secondary effects of such businesses. As a preliminary matter, the court held that res judicata did not preclude Stardust from litigating its claims in this appeal. On the merits, the court held that the ordinance did not impermissibly restrict Stardust's constitutionally protected speech; the ordinance was not unconstitutionally vague in violation of due process; the City's enforcement of the ordinance did not violate Stardust's equal protection rights; and the ordinance did not impermissibly infringe on individuals' substantive due process right to intimate sexual activity. View "Stardust, 3007 LLC v. City of Brookhaven" on Justia Law

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Fremont approved a development project in its Niles historical district, which is characterized by unusual trees and historic buildings. The historic overlay district was intended to preserve its “small town character.” The six-acre site was vacant; the developer proposed building 85 residential townhomes in its southern portion and mixed residential and retail in the northern portion. Opponents objected that some three-story buildings might block hill views; to the architectural style and choice of colors and materials on building exteriors; and to the Project’s density as a generator of traffic and parking problems. The city adopted a mitigated negative declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act, rather than prepare an environmental impact report, finding the Project as mitigated would have no significant adverse environmental impact. The trial court granted the objectors’ petition and ordered the city to vacate its approvals "absent compliance with CEQA in the preparation of an EIR.” The court of appeal affirmed, stating the Project’s compatibility with the historical district is properly analyzed as aesthetic impacts. Substantial evidence supports a fair argument of a significant aesthetic impact and a fair argument of significant traffic impacts, notwithstanding a professional traffic study concluding the anticipated adverse impacts fell below the city’s predetermined thresholds of significance. View "Protect Niles v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the circuit court did not err when it found that an automobile graveyard was a lawful nonconforming use because the use began prior to the enactment of the county’s zoning ordinances and had not been discontinued. The Acting Zoning Administrator of Price William County determined that the use of one parcel as an automobile graveyard was not a lawful nonconforming use. The Prince William County Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) upheld the Administrator’s denial of the non-conforming use verification for the parcel. The circuit court reversed the BZA’s decision, finding that the use of the parcel as an automobile salvage business operation predated the zoning ordinances of Prince William County and that the pre-existing lawful nonconforming use was never abandoned or discontinued. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lawful nonconforming use of the parcel as an automobile graveyard was not terminated by discontinuance of the use. View "Prince William Board of County Supervisors v. Archie" on Justia Law

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At issue before the South Carolina Supreme court was the propriety of the grant of partial summary judgment in a condemnation action. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court's ruling that the landowner, David Powell, was not entitled to compensation for any diminution in value of his remaining property due to the rerouting of a major highway which previously was easily accessible from his property. South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) condemned a portion of Powell's 2.5 acre property in connection with its upgrade to U.S. Highway 17 Bypass (the Bypass) near the Backgate area of Myrtle Beach. His unimproved parcel, located on the corner of Emory Road and Old Socastee Highway, was originally separated from the Bypass by a power line easement and a frontage road; access to that major thoroughfare was via Emory Road, which intersected with the Bypass. Because Powell's property was zoned "highly commercial," his easy access to the Bypass significantly enhanced its value. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new trial. The record contained evidence the condemnation of Powell's property, the closure of the intersection, and the curving of the frontage road over the condemned parcel were all integrally connected components of the project, creating a material issue of fact as to which of these acts was a direct and proximate cause of the taking, thus rendering summary judgment improper. Employing the clear language of our just compensation statute, the Court held that a jury should have been permitted to hear evidence on the diminution in value to the remaining property. View "SCDOT v. Powell" on Justia Law

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The Washington Supreme Court affirmed lower courts' decisions in four cases which all presented the same issue: whether Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority could condemn Seattle's electrical transmission line easements located in the city of Bellevue to extend the Transit's regional light rail system. The Supreme Court held that Sound Transit had the statutory authority to condemn the easement, and the condemnation met public use and necessity requirements. The Court remanded the cases back to the trial court, however, for consideration of the prior public use doctrine, and for a finding on whether the two public uses were compatible. View "Cent. Puget Sound Reg'l Transit Auth. v. WR-SRI 120th N. LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2005, World Outreach, a Christian religious organization, purchased a Chicago building from the YMCA, which had operated a community center and 168 single-room occupancies (SROs) for 80 years. The community center was a “legal nonconforming use,” which, under Chicago’s zoning ordinance, “is not affected by changes of tenancy, ownership, or management.” The city nonetheless insisted that a Special Use Permit was required. While the city was unlawfully withholding licenses, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Thousands of residents were evacuated and transplanted. WO claimed that it had a verbal agreement with Federal Emergency Management Agency to use the SRO rooms at $750 per room, per month, for one year, but never received any evacuees. The city sued WO for operating the community center without a permit but later voluntarily dismissed. WO then sued the city, citing the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc. In August 2007, the city issued the licenses. Following a remand, the district court granted WO summary judgment on its claim for defending the frivolous lawsuit, awarding $15,000, but rejected all other claims. On remand of the RLUIPA claim regarding the city’s unlawful deprivation of the licenses. WO ultimately reduced its damages claim from $2.44 million to $363,000 in February 2016. In April 2016, the city made an offer of judgment of $25,001 “plus reasonable costs and attorney’s fees.” WO accepted and sought $1,913,929.20 in attorney’s fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s modification of the lodestar to $1,559,991.50, application of a 70% across-the-board reduction, and award of $467,973.45, noting that the award of $40,001 was a “dismal failure” in contrast to the damages sought for nearly nine years. View "World Outreach Conference Center v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Town of Mount Vernon on its land use violation complaint filed pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 30-A, 4452 and Me. R. Civ. P. 80K, holding that a generator on Landowners’ property was a structure and thus must meet the requirements of the Town’s Land Use Ordinance regarding structures. On appeal from a decision of the Town’s code enforcement officer, the Mount Vernon Board of Appeals determined that a relatively large generator that Landowners had installed on their small lot was a “structure” under the Ordinance. When Landowners failed to comply with the Towns’ request for the removal of the generator, the Town filed a land use violation complaint. The district court determined that the Board’s decision was res judicata as to whether the generator met the definition of “structure” in the Ordinance and found Landowners in violation of the Ordinance, assessing penalty and attorney fees. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court correctly determined that the Board’s decision was binding on Landowners; and (2) the court did not err in finding that Landowners were in violation of the Ordinance and assessing a penalty. View "Town of Mount Vernon v. Landherr" on Justia Law

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Because Defendant’s signs on her property were not “advertising signs,” the trial court properly concluded that municipal regulation of the signs was outside the scope of a municipality’s zoning commission’s authority to regulate the height, size, and location of “advertising signs and billboards” under Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-2. Plaintiff, the zoning enforcement officer for the city of Milford, requested permanent injunctions ordering Defendant, a homeowner, to remove the subject signs from her property that were not in compliance with city zoning regulations and precluding her from occupying the property until she obtained certificates that she had made home improvements to her residence.The trial court denied Plaintiff’s request for the permanent injunctions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the phrase “advertising signs” under section 8-2 means any form of public announcement intended to aid directly or indirectly in the sale of goods or services, in the promulgation of a doctrine or idea, in securing attendance, or the like; (2) Defendant’s signs were not advertising signs under section 8-2, and therefore, the trial court properly concluded that the City lacked authority to regulate Defendant’s signs; and (3) the facts did not support the “extraordinary equitable remedy” of a permanent injunction prohibiting Defendant from occupying her premises. View "Kutcha v. Arisian" on Justia Law