Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

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In the 1980s, Simonson began exploring for deposits of pumicite, a porous volcanic rock, which he thought had potential commercial applications. Simonson found high quality pumicite in Kern County and located 23 mining claims in his name. For two decades, Simonson commissioned scientific testing. Lab reports and industry analyses confirmed that pumicite could be useful in industrial paint and plastic manufacture; Simonson began taking orders. In 1987, Simonson submitted a Plan of Operations to Bureau of Land Management to mine 100,000 tons per year. BLM conditionally approved the plan, specifying that it had not yet determined whether Simonson had discovered valuable minerals under the General Mining Law, 30 U.S.C. 22. Simonson postponed mining until BLM completed its common/uncommon variety determination, but hired a consultant to generate investor interest. In 1989, the BLM concluded that Reoforce pumicite was an uncommon mineral, locatable under federal law, but did not establish that Simonson had a right to patent his claims. From 1987-1995, Simonson mined only 200 tons of pumicite and sold only five. In 1995, BLM stated that the lands encompassing 10 of the claims would be transferred to become part of Red Rock Canyon State Park. An agreement between BLM and California permitted some mining claimants to continue operating, depending on prior use of the mine, subject to California’s Surface Mining and Reclamation Act. Ultimately, BLM found pumicite not marketable and the claims invalid. The Department of the Interior later granted Simonson a conditional right to mine some claims. Simonson then sought compensation for a temporary taking (1995-2008). The Federal Circuit affirmed rejection of the claims. Although the character of the government's action did not weigh heavily against the taking claim, the economic-impact and reasonable-investment-backed-expectations factors weighed heavily against Simonson. View "Reoforce, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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The High Line is an elevated “linear park” in New York City that runs along the west side of Manhattan from Gansevoort Street to 34th Street. The park, used for walking, jogging, and other recreational purposes, occupied the elevated viaduct of a former railway line. In 2005, the elevated viaduct was converted to a public recreational trail under the authority of the National Trails System Act. Before the Federal District Court of Appeals was a takings matter: appellant Romanoff Equities, Inc., contended that the conversion of the railway property to a trail entailed a taking of its property without just compensation. The Court of Federal Claims held, on summary judgment, that the conversion did not result in a taking of Romanoff’s property. Finding no reversible error, the Federal District appellate court affirmed. View "Romanoff Equities, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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Landowners filed a class action suit challenging the federal Surface Transportation Board’s approval of King County using a Burlington Northern Railroad corridor as a public trail, pursuant the National Trails Systems Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The Claims Court approved a $110 million settlement agreement and an award to class counsel of approximately $35 million in attorney fees under the common fund doctrine. Two class members challenged the approval and award. The Federal Circuit vacated, noting that the government also challenged the approval, claiming that class counsel failed to disclose information necessary to allow class members to assess the fairness and reasonableness of the proposed settlement. The government had standing to raise its challenge under the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act (URA), 42 U.S.C. 4654(c) and its arguments were not barred by waiver or estoppel.The Claims Court erred in approving a settlement agreement where class counsel withheld critical information not provided in the mailed notice to class members, but which had been produced and was readily available. Although a “common fund” exists in this case, the URA attorney fee provision provides for reasonable fees and preempts application of the common fund doctrine. View "Haggart v. United States" on Justia Law

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Abutting landowners claimed that the United States effected a taking of their property without just compensation when it converted a former railroad corridor between Sarasota and Venice, Florida, into a recreational trail pursuant to the National Trails System Act Amendments of 1983, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d), because deeds transferred by their predecessors-in-title to a railroad company granted only easements on their land for railroad purposes and, upon termination of the use of the land as a railroad, left the landowners unencumbered title and possession of their land. The Federal Circuit affirmed partial summary judgment in favor of the government, holding that the owners lacked a property right or interest in the land-at-issue because the railroad company, had obtained fee simple title to the land. The court noted that the state’s highest court has confirmed that, under Florida law, a railroad can acquire either an easement or fee simple title to a railroad right-of-way and that no statute, state policy, or factual considerations prevails over the language of the deeds when the language is clear; the language of the six deeds-at-issue clearly convey fee simple title on their face. View "Rogers v. United States" on Justia Law