State of Alaska Dep't of Nat. Res. v United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Property Law
  • Date Filed: 03-14-2016
  • Case #: 14-35051
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Watford for the Court; Circuit Judges Candy, Bybee
  • Full Text Opinion

Summary judgment may be granted when a suit is brought under the Alaska’s Quiet Title Act, when the United States is not a party, when a claim declaratory relief is the same as a quiet title claim, and when a condemnation claim is improperly pleaded.

Alaska brought a suit against two Alaska natives, Agnes and Anne Purdy. Agnes Purdy owns 160-acres of land and Anne owns 40-acres. The state claims a rights-of-way to four public trails crossing Purdys’ land and wants to have them open for public use. The Purdys disagreed with the state and wanted to stop the public from going onto the trails. Alaska sought quiet title to the four trails, a declaratory judgment, and a condemnation for public use. The state claimed that the trails were used throughout the late1800s, which was before the Purdy’s ownership started. The state also cited a federal statute which provides “the right of way for the construction of highways over public lands, not reserved for public uses, is granted.” 43 U.S.C. § 932 (1970). Although it was repealed, the rights-of-way portion was preserved. All of Alaska’s claims were dismissed for a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit looked into whether there was subject matter jurisdiction. The panel found Alaska’s quiet title claim action barred. Further, it reasoned that the United States need to be a party under the Alaska’s Quiet Title Act and did not waive its immunity under the exemption under the Quiet Title Act’s Indian lands. Also, the panel held that the claim for declaratory relief was essentially the same relief sought for as the quiet title claim. In regards to the condemnation, the court found that it could not proceed as pleaded. The panel concluded that the district court properly dismissed the claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. AFFIRMED in part, VACATED in part, and REMANDED.

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