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Archived: Private Property Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been one of the nation's leading centers fighting to ensure that property owners are accorded all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. MSLF defends property owners who cannot afford to fight back against government lawyers and environmental groups to protect their property rights. MSLF's litigation has helped to ensure the preservation of one of America's most valuable and valued freedoms--the right to own and use property.

Brandt v. United States

Why We Fight:

When the federal government conveys a patent (title) to a landowner that contains a “subject to” provision regarding an existing railroad right-of-way, the federal government retains no right to the right-of-way if it is abandoned by the railroad; that land belongs to the landowner.

Summary:

The U.S. Forest Service sued a Wyoming landowner and argued that it owned a railroad right-of-way that had reverted to him when the railroad abandoned its use; the agency wanted the land for a public trail.

Legal Question:

Whether the federal government may seize private property without paying just compensation?

Plaintiffs:

Marvin M. Brandt, Trustee and Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust

Defendant:

United States of America

Court:

U.S. Court of Federal Claims (No. 09-265)

Related case: Brandt v. United States

Stayed in light of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States of America on remand from the Supreme Court of the United States.

On February 25, 1904, pursuant to the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act, the Laramie, Hahns Peak and Pacific Railroad Company filed with the U.S. Department of the Interior and thus, in 1908, acquired a 200-foot by 66-mile right-of-way from Laramie, Wyoming, to the Colorado State line. The railroad operated until September 1995. In May 1996, the owner, the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad Company, filed a Notice of Intent to Abandon Rail Service from the State line to near Laramie, Wyoming. It removed the track and ties in 1999 and 2000; service was terminated at the end of 2003.

The land along the railroad right-of-way was reserved from the public domain by presidential proclamation and became part of the Medicine Bow National Forest. Thus, the private land areas of Albany, Fox Park, and Mountain Home along the right-of-way were acquired after the establishment of the railroad and are subject to it. At Albany, private lots were platted over the right-of-way and the land conveyed subject to the railroad easement.

Mr. Marvin Brandt owns 83 acres of private land patented to him on February 18, 1976, as part of a land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service. In April 2005, the Forest Service issued a notice of its plans to convert the rail way into a public trail. On July 14, 2006, the United States filed a complaint for declaratory judgment of abandonment and to quiet title to the right-of-way along the abandoned railroad line. On March 3, 2009, the Wyoming federal district court rejected Mr. Brandt's assertion that the United States possessed no interest in the easement and that the land reverted to him. On March 4, 2009, the district court dismissed Mr. Brandt's takings counterclaim.

On April 28, 2009, Mr. Brandt filed his complaint with the Court of Federal Claims.  On June 29, 2009, the United States filed a motion to dismiss.  After the motion to dismiss was briefed, on October 27, 2009, the Court of Federal Claims stayed the takings case pending a decision from the Tenth Circuit in United States v. Wyoming and Colorado Railroad Company. 

On June 29, 2011, the United States filed a motion to lift the stay to allow the Court of Federal Claims to determine whether it has subject-matter jurisdiction over the suit and filed another motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. On August 1, 2011, Mr. Brandt filed a response to the motion to lift the stay and the motion to dismiss to which the United States replied on August 11, 2011 and August 18, 2011.

On November 22, 2011, oral arguments were conducted before the Court of Federal Claims. On November 30, 2011, the Court of Federal Claims dismissed Mr. Brandt's lawsuit. On March 19, 2012, Mr. Brand filed his opening brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C. On May 3, 2012, the United States filed its answer brief.  On May 21, 2012, Mr. Brandt filed his reply brief. On August 10, 2012, oral arguments were held.

On March 26, 2013, the Federal Circuit reversed and remanded, ruling that 28 U.S.C. § 1500 does not bar Brandt’s complaint.  On June 10, 2013, the United States filed a petition for rehearing en banc.  On July 17, 2013, Brandt filed a response to the United States’ petition.  On August 19, 2013, the Federal Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc and remanded the case to the Court of Federal Claims.  On October 28, 2013, the Court of Federal Claims stayed the case pending the outcome of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States of America before the Supreme Court of the United States. 

On March 11, 2014, after the Supreme Court ruled in Brandt’s favor, the Court of Federal Claims lifted its stay in the case and ordered the parties to file a joint status report by May 9, 2014.  On May 8, 2014, the parties filed the report and requested that the Court of Federal Claims order the parties to file another report within either 14 days of when a judgment in United States of America v. Wyoming and Colorado Railroad Company, Inc., et al. 2:06-CV-00184-ABJ (D. Wyo.) becomes final and non-appealable, or 90 days, i.e., August 6, 2014, whichever comes first.  On May 9, 2014, the Court of Federal Claims stayed the case and ordered the parties to file another joint status report within 14 days after the judgment in the district court case becomes final and non-appealable.

 


No Status Updates
  • Wyoming Man Sustains Appeals Court Victory

    Aug 19, 2013
    A Wyoming man whose lawsuit for “just compensation” for use of his private property as a federal trail was reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in March 2013 prevailed today when the full appeals court denied the federal government’s motion to rehear the ruling.
  • Wyoming Man Resists Challenge To Appeals Court Victory

    Jul 17, 2013
    A Wyoming man whose lawsuit for “just compensation” for use of his private property as a federal trail was reinstated by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in March 2013 today urged the appeals court to deny the federal government’s motion to rehear the ruling.
  • Wyoming Man’s Case Before Washington, D.C. Appeals Court

    Aug 10, 2012
    DENVER, CO. An attorney for a Wyoming man whose lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. for just compensation for the use of his private property as a federal trail was dismissed in November 2011, today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to reinstate the
  • Wyoming Man Urges Appeals Court To Reject Fed’s Argument

    May 21, 2012
    DENVER, CO. A Wyoming man whose lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. for just compensation for the use of his private property as a federal trail was dismissed in November 2011, today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to reject arguments by federal l
  • Wyoming Man Fights Feds' Attempt To Dismiss Lawsuit

    Aug 1, 2011
    DENVER, CO. A Wyoming man today fought against a motion by federal lawyers to dismiss a lawsuit he filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., in which he seeks just compensation for the use of his private property as a federal trail. Marvin M. Brandt of Fox Park, Wyoming, who


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