A 3.35-mile right-of-way in Muskegon County, Michigan acquired by the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad in 1886, which was limited in scope to the operation of a railway, has not been used for railroad operations since September of 2005. Thus, in November of 2007, Mid-Michigan Railroad, which is the predecessor in interest to Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, petitioned the federal Surface Transportation Board for authority to abandon the 3.35-mile right-of-way. Although abandonment has not been authorized due to ongoing negotiations between Mid-Michigan Railroad and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, on January 14, 2015, twenty (20) landowners across whose property the right-of-way passes sued the United States claiming the federal government took their private property without paying just compensation.
On June 3, 2015, the United States moved to dismiss the landowners’ lawsuit for failure to state a claim and for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction arguing that their complaint violates three federal statutes: (1) the Little Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346, which places a $10,000 monetary limitation on the jurisdiction of all Article III courts to hear Fifth Amendment claims; (2) the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, which grants exclusive jurisdiction over Fifth Amendment claims exceeding $10,000 to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, a non-Article III court; and (3) 28 U.S.C. § 2402, which bars any right to a trial by jury for Fifth Amendment claims.
On July 13, 2015, the landowners filed their response to the motion to dismiss. Also on July 13, 2015, MSLF moved for leave to file an amicus curiae
brief on behalf of MSLF and in support of landowners. On July 14, 2015, the district court granted the motion, and MSLF’s amicus curiae
brief was filed by the clerk that same day. On August 6, 2015, the United States filed its reply brief in support of the motion to dismiss.
On March 28, 2016, the district court granted the United States’ motion to dismiss. On April 8, 2016, the landowners filed a notice of appeal with both the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Federal Circuit directed the parties to show cause, by May 23, 2016, as to why the appeal should not be dismissed or transferred to the Sixth Circuit. The briefing schedule in the Federal Circuit was stayed pending the outcome of the show cause order.
On June 27, 2016, the landowners filed their opening brief at the Sixth Circuit. On July 5, 2016, MSLF filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of Professor James Ely, Jr. and MSLF in support of the landowners. Also, on July 5, 2016, the Federal Circuit issued an order denying the requests to dismiss and transfer the landowners’ appeal. In addition, the Federal Circuit stayed briefing and ordered the parties to notify it within 14 days of the issuance of a mandate in the appeal before the Sixth Circuit. On August 31, 2016, the United States filed its response brief. On October 3, 2016, the landowners filed their reply brief. On February 2, 2017, the matter was argued before a three-judge panel.
On May 31, 2017, a panel of the Sixth Circuit upheld the lower court’s ruling. On July 14, 2017, the landowners filed a motion for rehearing and rehearing en banc. On July 21, 2017, MSLF moved for leave to file an amicus brief on behalf of Professor James W. Ely, Jr. and MSLF in support of the landowners’ petition for rehearing en banc. The motion was granted; MSLF filed its amicus brief on July 24, 2017. On August 8, 2017, the Sixth Circuit denied the petition for rehearing en banc.