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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.

Mann v. United States

Legal Question:

Whether a lessee who prevails against the United States for its seizure of his valuable geothermal lease is entitled to be paid attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA)?

Plaintiff:

Stanley Mann, dba Crown Geothermal Ltd.

Defendant:

United States of America

Court:

U.S. Court of Federal Claims
None.

On November 1, 1981, the Bureau of Land Management entered into a 10-year lease for geothermal resources near Las Cruces, New Mexico. The lessee drilled wells capable of production in paying quantities and invested substantial sums in the lease. On or about November 23, 1993, the BLM sent, by certified mail, an undated document to the lessee at the wrong address, which was returned unclaimed, triggering an expiration of the lease by operation of law. The appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals was denied.

On April 6, 1998, MSLF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mann and Crowne Geothermal. The United States filed a motion to dismiss on February 26, 1999, to which MSLF responded on August 23, 1999. The United States filed a responsive brief on February 11, 2000. MSLF filed its final brief on April 24, 2000. Oral arguments took place on June 13, 2001. On September 3, 2002, the Court of Federal Claims ruled that the BLM's general "constructive notice" regulations controlled over its specific geothermal regulations requiring "actual receipt of notice." The Court thereupon granted the motion of the United States to dismiss Mann's case.

On December 30, 2002, Mann filed its opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to which the United States responded on February 19, 2003, to which Mann replied on March 10, 2003. Oral arguments were held on June 3, 2003, in Washington, D.C.On June 27, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that the United States had breached Mr. Mann's leasing by failing to send notice of a potential cancellation to Mr. Mann's "last address of record." The case was returned to the Court of Federal Claims and dispositive motions were filed.

On September 1, 2005, arguments were held regarding the federal government's motion for partial summary judgment. On November 28, 2005, the court denied the government's motion. A trial was held November 28-30, 2005. Post-trial briefs were filed on February 2, March 3, and March 8, 2006. On April 9, 2009, Mr. Mann was awarded $869,501.52 in damages. On August 28, 2009, Mr. Mann timely filed his bill of costs and an application for attorneys' fees and non-taxable expenses.  On June 11, 2010, the court awarded Mr. Mann $5,159.70 in costs, slightly less than had been billed.  On June 20, 2012, Mr. Mann filed a notice advising that his application for attorney fees is still pending.

On July 14, 2014, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered the federal government to pay Mr. Mann more than a third of a million dollars in attorneys' fees and expenses.  On November 25, 2014, that payment was made.

  • Feds Pay Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses for Illegal Breach

    Nov 25, 2014
    The federal government, under a federal court order, paid a Colorado man over a third of a million dollars in attorneys’ fees and expenses today for illegally breaching a producing and valuable geothermal lease.
  • Feds Ordered To Pay Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses For Illegal Breach

    Jul 14, 2014
    The federal government was ordered to pay a Colorado man more than a third of a million dollars in attorneys’ fees and expenses for illegally breaching a producing and valuable geothermal lease.
  • Feds Ordered To Pay For Illegal Breach of Energy Lease

    Apr 13, 2009
    The federal government was ordered to pay a Colorado man more than three quarters of a million dollars today for illegally breaching a producing and very valuable geothermal lease.
  • Feds’ Opposition to Paying For Illegal Breach Has No Merit

    Mar 3, 2006
    The federal government’s legal brief in opposition to paying for its illegal breach of a producing and very valuable geothermal lease is totally without merit and must be rejected, the former lessee argued today in a brief filed before the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
  • Millions Owed By Feds for Illegal Breach Of Federal Lease

    Feb 1, 2006
    The federal government’s illegal breach of a producing and valuable geothermal lease requires the payment of millions of dollars in damages in accordance with established legal principles, the former lessee argued today in a post-trial brief filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.


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