Tenth Circuit: Express or Implicit Dispute of Title Necessary to Trigger Quiet Title Act’s “Disputed Title” Requirement

January 8, 2015

By Susan Hoyt

Byron White U.S. Courthouse

Byron White U.S. Courthouse

The 10th Circuit’s recent decision in Kane County, Utah v. United States, 772 F.3d 1205 (10th Cir. 2014), resolved some issues while obfuscating others.

The Court potentially created a split between the 9th and 10th Circuits when it defined what constitutes “disputed title” for purposes of the Quiet Title Act (QTA). “The Tenth Circuit, as a matter of first impression, evaluated what requirements satisfy the QTA’s “disputed title” requirement. The Tenth Circuit rejected the Ninth Circuit’s “cloud on title” standard and instead held that, to satisfy the QTA’s “disputed title” element, the plaintiff must show that the United States has either expressly disputed title or taken action that implicitly disputes it. Actions that produce ambiguity are not enough to satisfy the disputed title element.

The Tenth Circuit then turned its attention to the district court’s conclusion that Public Water Reserve (PWR) 107 had served to “reserve” two parcels of land across which Swallow Park Road runs from operation of R.S. 2477. The Tenth Circuit analyzed PWR 107, finding that it was intended to provide public access to certain water springs, and noted that it would be “nonsensical” to hold that the provision of public access to the springs expressly excluded the construction of roadways under R.S. 2477 on which the public could access the water springs.”

Read full story | CBA CLE Legal Connection

Daggett County Lands Compromise Touted as Model for Nation | Deseret News

By Amy Joi O’Donoghue

October 22, 2014

“A compromise reached on contentious, decades-old land disputes in Daggett County will be incorporated into a lands bill in Congress and could serve as the template for how the rest of the country strikes a balance between conservation and resource development.

During a Wednesday announcement of the deal brokered under the direction of Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Daggett County Commissioner Jerry Steglich said if groups could reach agreement there, it could happen about anywhere.

The agreement, Steglich said, has Daggett County giving up one-fifth of its land mass — about 100,000 acres for wilderness and conservation designations — with an eye to getting nearly 7,000 acres for resort development he said will help diversify the county’s economic base.”

Read Full Story | Deseret News

Tenth Circuit Denies SUWA’s Intervention in Kane R.S. 2477 Bald Knoll Appeal

Earlier this month the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals denied intervention by the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) and The Wilderness Society (TWS) into an ongoing R.S. 2477 roads lawsuit in Kane County. The suit, an effort by the State of Utah and Kane County to quiet title to 15 roads in the Bald Knoll area of Kane County, resulted in the Utah Federal District Court awarding title to 12 of the roads to the state and county.

Initially, in May of 2009, the lower court (the Utah Federal District Court) denied intervention by SUWA and TWS. The Tenth Circuit affirmed this order. On appeal to the Tenth Circuit in 2013, SUWA and TWS again moved to intervene seeking full participation in this lawsuit. On September 2, 2014, the Tenth Circuit panel denied intervention.

SUWA and TWS immediately moved for amicus curiae status. The Tenth Circuit granted this request but prohibited SUWA and TWS’s participation in the oral argument. Amicus status allows SUWA and TWS to file briefs as “friends of the court” but not as parties. The court may consider amicus filings but the extent and weight of such consideration are discretionary.

Is Utah’s demand for routes over federal land too late? | The Salt Lake Tribune

By Brian Maffly

July 31, 2014

“Utah is suing the federal government in 22 counties, demanding title to thousands of miles of routes across public lands.

But in a new move that could sharply narrow the disputes, federal lawyers and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance are arguing the state waited decades too long to file its claims.

They disagree, however, on which legal deadline applies.

Asking a judge to dismiss Garfield County’s claims, federal attorneys point to a federal act. SUWA, attacking Tooele County’s claims, cites a state law in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in 3rd District Court in Tooele.

“Case law is thin in this area” said SUWA legal director Steve Bloch, “and we are hopeful this is a tool to challenge state’s wasteful spending and anti-wilderness agenda.”

State lawyers are still preparing a response to the federal filing and have yet to study the argument raised in the SUWA suit.

But Tony Rampton, the assistant Utah attorney general spearheading state litigation over the routes, believes the statute SUWA invokes may not be relevant.

The claims date back to a Civil War-era statute known as RS 2477, which once granted counties title to routes crossing public land. It was repealed with the passage of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, or FLPMA, in 1976.

To prevail on a particular route claim under the federal Quiet Title Act today, counties must document 10 years of continuous use prior to 1976.”

Read full story | The Salt Lake Tribune