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Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States of America

Legal Question:

Whether the federal government may seize private property without paying just compensation and whether the federal government may ignore reversionary property interests of landowners in its operation of the rails-to-trails program?

Plaintiff:

United States of America

Defendants:

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

Court:

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

None - MSLF's victory for its client Marvin Brandt is complete!
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. Therefore, the abandonment of the railroad right-of-way creates a title conflict between these ownerships and the effects of the 1988 rails-to-trails act. 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 (D.Wyo., No. 06cv184). On August 8, 2006, Mr. Brandt filed his answer.

On October 10, 2007, Mr. Brandt and the United States filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On November 13, 2007, the United States and Mr. Brandt filed responses to the cross-motions for summary judgment. On December 4, 2007, the United States and Mr. Brandt filed replies in support of the cross-motions for summary judgment. On December 21, 2007, Mr. Brandt filed a motion for oral argument on the cross-motions for summary judgment. On January 9, 2008, the United States filed a response to Mr. Brandt's motion for oral argument, stating it would follow the decision of the Court in the matter.

On April 8, 2008, the District Court granted the United States' motion for summary judgment and denied Mr. Brandt's motion for summary judgment. On April 18, 2008, Mr. Brandt filed a motion to transfer his third counterclaim (takings claim) to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. That same day, the United States filed its opposition to the motion and a motion to dismiss the takings claim.

On March 3, 2009, the District Court entered judgment, declaring abandonment and quieting title to the railroad right-of-way, and on March 4, 2009, it denied Mr. Brandt's motion to transfer the third counterclaim (takings claim) to the Claims Court and granted the government's motion to dismiss the third counterclaim.

On April 29, 2009, Mr. Brandt filed his notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and on May 1, 2009, the appeal was docketed by the Tenth Circuit. On September 30, 2009, Mr. Brandt filed his opening brief. On January 21, 2010, Mr. Brandt filed his reply brief.  Oral argument was held before a three-judge panel on May 4, 2010.  On September 11, 2012, the Tenth Circuit issued a per curiam opinion affirming the district court.  On October 24, 2012, Mr. Brandt filed a petition for rehearing en banc and/or a panel rehearing. On December 18, 2012, the United States filed an opposition. On December 26, 2012, the Tenth Circuit denied the petition. 

On March 22, 2013, Mr. Brandt filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States.  On September 5, 2013, the United States filed a brief agreeing that the Court should grant certiorari.  On October 1, 2013, the Court granted the petition.  On November 15, 2013, Mr. Brandt filed his brief on the merits.  On December 16, 2013, the United States filed its response brief.  On January 7, 2014, Mr. Brandt filed his reply brief.  On January 14, 2014, the Court heard oral arguments. 

On March 8, 2014, the Supreme Court, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts ruled 8-1 in favor of Mr. Brandt.  Justice Sotomayor filed a lone dissent.  On April 11, 2014, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the Tenth Circuit.  On April 11, 2014, the Tenth Circuit recalled the mandate and vacated its earlier judgment.  On May 5, 2014, the Tenth Circuit issued a new judgment reversing that part of the district court’s judgment addressing the railroad right-of-way and remanding for further proceedings on that issue consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion.  On September 22, 2015, the Wyoming federal district court quieted title to the right-of-way to Mr. Brandt.

On October 21, 2015, Mr. Brandt, pursuant to the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), filed a motion for attorneys’ fees and expenses.  On November 4, 2015, the United States filed an opposition and on November 12, 2015, Mr. Brandt filed a reply.   On September 28, 2016, the district court denied Mr. Brandt's motion under the EAJA. On October 28, 2016, Mr. Brandt filed his notice of appeal.  On May 16, 2017, for the payment of $50,000 by the Forest Service in full satisfaction of Mr. Brandt’s claims for attorneys’ fees and expenses under the Equal Access to Justice Act, Mr. Brandt dismissed his appeal.

 

 

 

 

 

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