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In 2008, Kane County, Utah sued the United States under the Quiet Title Act, which was “the exclusive means by which adverse claimants c[an] challenge the United States’ title to real property.” Kane County alleged that it held title to fifteen rights-of-way under Section 8 of the Mining Act of 1866, more commonly known as “Revised Statute (R.S.) 2477.” In this case’s third trip before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, the issue this time was Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s (SUWA) challenge to the district court’s denial of its second motion to intervene. SUWA filed this second motion after the Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s determinations on the width of rights-of-way on three roadways. Responding to the issues raised, the Tenth Circuit concluded: SUWA had standing to intervene as a party defendant; SUWA’s second motion to intervene was reviewable de novo and not for an abuse of discretion; and SUWA met all requirements to intervene as of right under Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court therefore reversed the district court’s denial of SUWA’s second motion to intervene. View "Kane County, Utah v. United States" on Justia Law

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January 13, 2017, a Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department engineer inspected respondent’s property and observed inadequate and unpermitted retaining walls, one of which directed water to a single point directly above a failed 25-foot bank that had deposited five cubic yards of earth onto Riverview Drive. Unpermitted grading and terracing had contributed to bank failure and deposit of material into a nearby watercourse. On January 19, a rainstorm caused a four-foot wall of mud to slide onto Riverview Drive. Respondent moved earthen materials from the road, resulting in the runoff of materials into a local stream and on neighboring private property. Respondent believed his actions either did not require permits or were emergency measures. Respondent failed to comply with an administrative order requiring him to abate the code violations and pay abatement costs and civil penalties. Sonoma County filed suit. Respondent did not file a responsive pleading. The court entered a default judgment that ordered penalties significantly lower than ordered by the administrative hearing officer. The court of appeal reversed the order imposing civil penalties at the rate of $20 per day and directed the court to modify its judgment to require payment at $45 per day. That provision of the court’s order altered a final administrative order, was entirely unexplained, and provided respondent with a windfall he did not request. View "County of Sonoma v. Gustely" on Justia Law

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Mercer University sought immunity from liability for claims by the estate and family of Sally Stofer, who was fatally injured when she fell at a free concert hosted by the university at Washington Park in Macon, Georgia in July 2014. The park was owned by Macon-Bibb County, but Mercer had a permit to use the park for its concert series. The concert series was planned, promoted, and hosted by Mercer’s College Hill Alliance, a division of Mercer whose stated mission is to foster neighborhood revitalization for Macon’s College Hill Corridor. The trial court concluded, and the Court of Appeals agreed, that defendant was not entitled to summary judgment on its claim of immunity under Georgia’s Recreational Property Act, given evidence that Mercer hosted the concert and it might (at least indirectly) benefit financially from the event. In arriving at this conclusion, the Georgia Supreme Court surmised the Court of Appeals was led astray by language in the Supreme Court’s most recent relevant decision that was inconsistent with previous case law. After careful consideration of the statutory text and a thorough review of the case law, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that whether immunity was available under this provision requires a determination of the true scope and nature of the landowner’s invitation to use its property, and this determination properly is informed by two related considerations: (1) the nature of the activity that constitutes the use of the property in which people have been invited to engage, and (2) the nature of the property that people have been invited to use. Clarifying that considerations of evidence of Mercer’s subjective motivations in hosting the concert and some speculation of the indirect benefits Mercer might have received as a result of the concert were generally improper, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision and remanded the case with direction that the court revisit its analysis consistent with the standard that was clarified here. View "Mercer University v. Stofer" on Justia Law

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Scott Township passed an ordinance requiring that “[a]ll cemeteries . . . be kept open and accessible to the general public during daylight hours.” Knick, whose 90-acre rural property has a small family graveyard, was notified that she was violating the ordinance. Knick sought declaratory relief, arguing that the ordinance caused a taking of her property, but did not bring an inverse condemnation action. The Township withdrew the violation notice and stayed enforcement of the ordinance. The state court declined to rule on Knick’s suit. Knick filed a federal action under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that the ordinance violated the Takings Clause. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of her claim, citing Supreme Court precedent (Williamson County) that property owners must seek just compensation under state law in state court before bringing a federal claim under section 1983. The Supreme Court reversed. A government violates the Takings Clause when it takes property without compensation; a property owner may bring a Fifth Amendment claim under section 1983 at that time. The Court noted that two years after the Williamson County decision, it returned to its traditional understanding of the Fifth Amendment in deciding First English Evangelical Lutheran Church. A property owner acquires a right to compensation immediately upon an uncompensated taking because the taking itself violates the Fifth Amendment. The Court expressly overruled the state-litigation requirement as "poor reasoning" resulting from the circumstances in which the issue reached the Court. The requirement was unworkable in practice because the “preclusion trap” prevented takings plaintiffs from ever bringing their claims in federal court. There are no reliance interests on the state-litigation requirement. If post-taking compensation remedies are available, governments need not fear that federal courts will invalidate their regulations as unconstitutional. View "Knick v. Township of Scott" on Justia Law

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Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (“MDU”) appealed, and Lavern Behm cross-appealed a judgment dismissing MDU’s eminent domain action. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court misapplied North Dakota law in concluding a taking was not necessary for a public use, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for trial on eminent domain damages to be awarded to Behm. View "Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Behm" on Justia Law

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Williams County appealed a the district court’s determination that its oil and gas leases with Twin City Technical LLC, Three Horns Energy, LLC, Prairie of the South LLC, and Irish Oil & Gas Inc. (“Lessees”), were void because the County failed to comply with the public advertising requirements for the lease of public land as provided in N.D.C.C. ch. 38-09. The Lessees sued the County in September 2015, about three and a half years after executing the leases. The North Dakota Supreme Court found record showed the Lessees received a June 2013 letter informing them of potential issues with the County’s mineral ownership. The Lessees contacted the County about the ownership issues by letter in April 2015. The County submitted an affidavit from its auditor stating bonus payments had already been spent and repayment would cause great hardship. Viewing the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in a light favorable to the County, the Supreme Court concluded there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether laches applied to bar the Lessees’ claim for repayment of the bonuses. The Supreme Court reversed that part of the judgment and remand for proceedings related to whether the Lessees’ delay in bringing their lawsuit was unreasonable, and whether the County was prejudiced by the delay. The Court affirmed as to all other issues. View "Twin City Technical LLC, et al. v. Williams County, et al." on Justia Law

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The City of Lincoln appealed a district court’s amended judgment awarding damages and attorney fees for taking land owned by Lincoln Land Development, LLP. In the mid-1980s the City of Lincoln established a narrow, two-tire-track dirt road over private property to access its wastewater treatment site. In 2005 Lincoln Land Development purchased the property. In 2011 the City improved the dirt road by raising the road profile, widening the road top, constructing ditches, installing culverts and completing gravel resurfacing to standardize the width and height of the road. The City did not obtain permission from Lincoln Land Development before commencing the improvement project and did not initiate eminent domain proceedings. Lincoln Land Development sued the City in February 2015 for inverse condemnation, trespass and nuisance relating to the City’s 2011 improvement of the road. Lincoln Land Development moved to amend its complaint to assert claims relating to increased surface water drainage and damages caused by stormwater retention. The City denied a taking occurred and raised affirmative defenses, including claiming a public easement through prescriptive use, the existence of an express or implied easement, an easement by estoppel, or a government mandate required the project. The district court found Lincoln Land Development’s claims of nuisance and trespass were time-barred and dismissed them with prejudice in March 2015. In September 2017 a bench trial was held and claims based on increased surface water drainage, wetlands and stormwater retention ponds were dismissed. At the conclusion of the bench trial, the district court found that the City established a prescriptive easement in the pre-2011 road and that a taking occurred when additional property was used in the 2011 road improvement. A jury subsequently determined the value of the taking was $8,924.00 plus interest. The district court subsequently granted Lincoln Land Development’s motion for attorney fees of $122,705.50. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not err in determining that the pre-2011 two-tire-track road was under the protection of a prescriptive easement and that a taking occurred with the 2011 road improvement project. Lincoln Land Development was entitled to costs and fees. The Court therefore affirmed the amended judgment, the taking decision, and award of attorney fees. The matter was remanded for consideration of whether Lincoln Land Development should recover attorney fees on appeal. View "Lincoln Land Development, LLP v. City of Lincoln" on Justia Law

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Attas Boutrous and other landowners appeal from a judgment dismissing their action against Burleigh County, its Water Resource District, and Lincoln Township to halt a flood protection project in the Fox Island subdivision in Bismarck, denying their request for a preliminary injunction, dismissing their inverse condemnation action, and ordering them to pay Burleigh County and Lincoln Township $18,756.75 in costs and disbursements. Because we conclude the district court correctly applied the law and there are no genuine issues of material fact, we affirm the judgment. View "Becker, et al. v. Burleigh County, et al." on Justia Law

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Robert and Laurie Banderet and other plaintiffs (“Landowners”) appealed a judgment dismissing their complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Sargent County Water Resource District and Ransom County Water Resource District relating to a drainage project. The Landowners had sought a judgment declaring: (1) the Drain 11 project could not be funded as maintenance within six years at $4 per acre being assessed to the Landowners; (2) the Landowners were entitled to a hearing and vote on the project; and (3) benefited properties in Ransom County had to be included in the Drain 11 assessment district. The Landowners requested a permanent injunction restraining the Sargent County Water Resource District from proceeding with the Drain 11 project. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the Landowners were not entitled to equitable relief, and the district court properly dismissed the Landowners’ complaint. View "Banderet,et al. vs. Sargent Count Water Resource District, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Illinois General Assembly directed the Pollution Control Board to adopt rules for the use of clean construction or demolition debris (CCDD) and uncontaminated soil (US) as fill material at clean construction or demolition debris fill operations. The rules were to include “standards and procedures necessary to protect groundwater.” The legislature provided “an inexhaustive list of 12 ways to do so that the Board may consider,” including groundwater monitoring. The rules ultimately promulgated by the Board required stronger “front-end” testing and certification requirements for CCDD and US but not a “back-end” groundwater monitoring requirement. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the Board’s decision. Objectors failed to establish that the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious for relying upon an improper factor when it considered whether CCDD and US are waste. The courts rejected an argument that the Board ignored the costs of groundwater monitoring and the hazards of older and noncompliant fill. When acting in its quasi-legislative capacity, the Board has no burden to support its conclusions with a given quantum of evidence; the court rejected an argument that the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious for offering an explanation that was counter to the evidence or implausible. View "County of Will v. Pollution Control Board" on Justia Law