Articles Posted in U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals

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In 1941, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the Prado Dam on the Santa Ana River near Corona, California. Plaintiffs’ predecessors purchased property in the flood control basin. The Corps anticipated inundation of property in that basin and paid for flowage easements to an elevation of 556 feet. In the 1970s, the Corps planned to modify the Dam, raising its height, increasing the size of the spillway, and enlarging the reservoir. The project was expected to raise the flood inundation line by 10 feet. Under a 1989 agreement, local agencies undertook to acquire or condemn needed property and easements. In 1999, the Orange County Flood Control District offered to purchase the plaintiffs’ property. No agreement was reached. In 2003 the Corps issued new flood-plain maps. Local governmental agencies recorded a survey showing the 566-foot flood inundation line and arranged for placement of small surveyor’s markers at the 566-foot line. Chino rezoned the plaintiffs’ property below the 566-foot line for “passive recreation and open space use.” There has not been any flooding above the 556-foot line before or after the dam level was raised. In 2011, the plaintiffs sued, claiming a taking of a flowage easement over their property between the 556-foot and 566-foot lines. The Claim Court Claims dismissed, holding that absent actual flooding, the plaintiffs could not sustain their claim. The governmental actions, at most, support apprehension of future flooding. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Stueve Bros. Farms, LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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Beginning in 1993 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers implemented temporary deviations from its 1953 Water Control Manual in operating the Clearwater Dam, to protect agricultural and other uses. Efforts to update the Manual were eventually abandoned. The state sought compensation for "taking" of its flowage easement based on flooding of the 23,000-acre Black River Wildlife Management Area, which resulted in excessive timber mortality. The Court of Claims awarded more than $5.5 million in damages. The Federal Circuit reversed, reasoning that temporary flooding, which is not "inevitably recurring," does not amount to a taking, but, at most, created tort liability. In 2012, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that government-induced flooding can qualify as a Fifth Amendment taking, even if temporary in duration. On remand, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court, after addressing the issues noted by the Supreme Court: whether the injury was caused by authorized government action, whether the injury was a foreseeable result of that action, and whether the injury constituted a sufficiently severe invasion that interfered with the owner’s reasonable expectations as to the use of the land. View "AR Game & Fish Comm'n v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1903 the railroad acquired a right-of-way for a 100-foot wide, 76-mile long, strip across Arizona land near the Mexican border. After operating for about 100 years, the railroad initiated proceedings to abandon the railway with the Department of Transportation’s Surface Transportation Board, which issued a Notice of Interim Trail or Abandonment (NITU) in 2006 authorizing conversion to a public trail under the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The landowners sued, alleging that issuance of the NITU constituted a compensable taking. The claims court dismissed, reasoning that the government had not physically invaded the property. The Federal Circuit reversed and held that the takings claim accrued when the 2006 NITU issued. During discovery on remand, the government produced a NITU affecting the property that had issued in 1998. There was no indication that the NITU was published; the landowners submitted declarations that they were not aware of the 1998 NITU. The claims court held that the limitations period began in 1998 and that the claims were time-barred. The Federal Circuit reversed. In these circumstances, the government’s interest in bright-line legal rules must yield to the landowners’ right to receive actual or constructive notice that their claims have accrued. View "Ladd v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1908, the United States granted the railroad right-of-way to Pacific Railroad Company for railroad purposes. In 1976, the government conveyed 83.32 acres of land partially burdened by the right-of-way to Brandt’s parents, in fee simple, subject to the right-of-way. In 1987, WYCO acquired the railroad right-of-way and operated the rail line. In 1996, WYCO filed a Notice of Intent to Abandon Rail Service with the Surface Transportation Board. The STB approved abandonment in 2003, and, in 2004, WYCO notified the STB that it had completed abandonment. In 2006, the government sought declaratory judgment that title to the abandoned right-of-way had vested in the government under the National Trails System Improvements Act of 1988, 16 U.S.C. 1248(c). Brandt sought quiet title and argued that, to the extent the government acquired some interest in land formerly occupied by the easement, that interest would constitute a taking for which just compensation is owed. The Claims Court dismissed the takings claim for lack of jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1500. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that Brandt did not have claims “pending” for purposes of section 1500 when he filed his takings complaint. View "Brandt v. United States" on Justia Law

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McGuire leased farmland in Arizona from the Colorado River Indian Tribes with approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. After the BIA removed a bridge that he used to access portions of the leased property, McGuire filed a Fifth Amendment claim. McGuire does not claim that removal of the bridge was itself a taking, but rather that the BIA’s alleged refusal to authorize replacement of the bridge was a taking of his property rights. The Court of Federal Claims rejected the claim. The Federal Circuit affirmed, holding that the regulatory takings claim never ripened because McGuire failed to pursue administrative remedies. Even if McGuire’s claim had ripened, he had no cognizable property interest in the bridge, which he neither possessed nor controlled because it was in a BIA right-of-way. No federal regulation gave him a property interest and he was not entitled to an easement by necessity. View "McGuire v. United States" on Justia Law

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Indian Harbor sought reimbursement under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1993, 106 Stat. 2315, 2371; 107 Stat. 1547, 1745 for environmental cleanup costs associated with the development of the former Marine Corps Air Station Tustin military base in southern California. The Court of Federal Claims determined that Indian Harbor failed to identify a “claim for personal injury or property” that triggered the government’s duty to indemnify and dismissed. The Federal Circuit reversed, relying on the purposes of the Act, to encourage cleanup and redevelopment of former military installations. View "Indian Harbor Ins. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1968, Lost Tree entered an option to purchase approximately 2,750 acres on Florida’s coast, near Vero Beach, encompassing a barrier island, bisected by the A-1-A Highway, and stretching west to islands on the Indian River. Lost Tree purchased substantially all of the land, including the 4.99-acre “Plat 57” on John’s Island. Through the mid-1990s, Lost Tree developed approximately 1,300 acres into the gated residential community, John’s Island, which includes golf courses, a beach club, a hotel, condominiums, and single family homes. In 2002 Lost Tree first considered development of Plat 57 and applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for a permit under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344, to fill 2.13 acres of wetland. The Corps denied the application in 2004, reasoning that the parcel as a whole included Plat 57, a neighboring upland plat, and scattered wetlands in the vicinity stating that less environmentally damaging alternatives were available, and that Lost Tree “has had very reasonable use of its land.” The Court of Federal Claims denied takings claim. The Federal Circuit reversed, holding that the court erred in determining the relevant parcel. Plat 57 alone was the relevant parcel: Lost Tree had distinct economic expectations for Plat 57. View "Lost Tree Vill. Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1996, CP sued the United States, claiming that CP owned minerals underlying Louisiana property (Groups A, B, and C mineral servitudes), and that between 1943 and 1978, the government imposed a drilling and operations moratorium while the surface was used for bombing and artillery practice. It alleged that starting in 1992, the government, claiming ownership, has granted oil and gas leases covering the property. The district court granted the government summary judgment with regard to Groups A and B because the prescription period was not suspended by the moratoriums. Concerning Group C, the court granted CP summary judgment, finding that servitude imprescriptible. The Fifth Circuit affirmed; certiorari was denied. In1998, CP filed another complaint in the Claims Court, alleging taking without just compensation, as an alternative to its district court action. In 2004, the Claims Court dismissed the Groups A and B claims and limited the C claim to post-1992 action. The court found that the government’s issuance of leases after 1997 constituted a compensable temporary taking, but subsequently dismissed, finding that the facts alleged in the district court complaint were nearly identical. The complaints were “for or in respect to” the same claim and 28 U.S.C. 1500 precluded jurisdiction. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Cent. Pines Land Co., LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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In 1942, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation dammed the upper San Joaquin River near Friant, California. Friant Dam still operates, generates electricity and collects water for agriculture, but causes portions of the river to dry up, leading to extermination of Chinook salmon and other ecological consequences. In 1988 environmental groups sued the federal government, claiming violations of state and federal environmental protection laws. In 2006, the parties reached a settlement that obliged the government to release water to restore and maintain fish populations downstream, while continuing to support surrounding landowners, who depend on the water. Congress subsequently passed the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act, 123 Stat. 1349, directing the Secretary of the Interior to implement the Settlement. In 2009 the Bureau of Reclamation initiated the first release of water. In August 2010, downstream owners sued the government for takings, alleging that the releases unlawfully impaired property rights in the water and inundated their land. Two of the environmental groups involved in the first case moved to intervene as of right. The Court of Federal Claims denied their motion, finding that the groups’ interests were sufficiently aligned with the government’s as to create no foundation for intervention. The Federal Circuit affirmed. View "Wolfsen Land & Cattle Co. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Landowners along a trail in Missouri and Kansas sought to join an existing “takings” suit against the United States, concerning the Rails-to-Trails program, filed under the Tucker Act. The initial plaintiff characterized her suit as a class action on behalf of herself and similarly situated persons; the owners qualified as such persons. The class action had been filed before the running of the six-year statute of limitations for the Tucker Act; however, the plaintiffs who sought to join as named parties did not do so until after the limitations period had run. The Court of Federal Claims refused to permit the original plaintiff to amend her complaint for joinder of additional plaintiffs; their suits were dismissed as time barred. The Federal Circuit reversed; the merits are before the Court of Federal Claims. In the meantime, the owners filed “protective suits” under 28 U.S.C. 1346, the “Little Tucker Act” which authorizes suits against the government in federal district courts, if damages sought do not exceed $10,000. The district courts declined to stay those suits pending the appeal and dismissed them as time barred. The Federal Circuit vacated and instructed the district courts to dismiss those suits without prejudice. View "Evans v. United States" on Justia Law