Mills v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Standing
  • Date Filed: 01-29-2014
  • Case #: 12-35589
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Ikuta for the Court; Chief Judges Kozinski and Berzon
  • Full Text Opinion

The Quiet Title Act permits a plaintiff to waive the federal government's right of sovereign immunity when there is a “dispute” over real property interest claimed by the federal government.

Carey Mills appealed the dismissal of his claims for right-of-way to his mining claims on state lands in which access would cross both federal and private lands. Mills first petitioned the Bureau of Land Management, which subsequently denied the petition on grounds that it was not authorized to grant easements on State lands. Mills sought to enjoin Alaska in an action because it was the property owners of the trail in question. Mills sued the federal government, a corporation with real property interests, and another mineral claimant with unpatented mine claims on common law property grounds that Mills had an easement by necessity to his mining claims. The lower court did not grant the enjoinment of the State, dismissed the claim against the government on sovereign immunity grounds, and on prudential grounds dismissed the claim against the corporation. The Ninth Circuit reviewed de novo because “claims against the government lack subject matter jurisdiction unless the government waives sovereign immunity.” However, the Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2409a, which permits a plaintiff to name the Federal government in a suit over ownership of real property, requires that the interest in the real property in question must be in “dispute,” and the United States had never claimed an interest in the trail in question. Therefore, the United States did not waive sovereign immunity through a claimed interest in disputed real property. The panel then reviewed the prudential claim de novo, holding that Mills had prudential standing because he had specific property interest to his own property that necessarily crossed state and private land. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART.

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