A recent article by Professor Donald J. Kochan, Chapman University School of Law, published in Brigham Young University Law Review, discusses legislation in the state of Utah that “demand[s] that the federal government, by December 31, 2014, ‘extinguish title’ to certain public lands that the federal government currently holds (totaling an estimated more than 20 million acres).” The article is available for download here.

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Over the Government’s objection, the Court of Federal Claims has ordered the Government to provide discovery to plaintiffs regarding factual issues raised by the Government’s motion to dismiss a takings claim brought by shareholders of Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Association (Freddie) stock.  The case arises out of the financial crisis of 2008, when the Government put both corporations into conservatorship.

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Supreme Court Rejects Government’s Efforts to Derail Rails-to-Trails Claims

March 12, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court has confirmed that fee owners of western lands burdened by certain now-abandoned railroad easements granted by the government in the nineteenth century also own the land underlying those railroad easements.  In Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, the Government claimed that it, and not the current fee owner, owned the reversionary interests for the railroad easements, and that it received title when the railroad abandoned any easement granted under the 1875 Railroad Act.  Both the trial court and the Tenth Circuit agreed when this case was before them. The decision potentially affected thousands of miles of now-abandoned railroad easements in the West.

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Lost Profits Claim Lost in the Federal Circuit

March 4, 2014

In Nycal Offshore Development v. United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the U.S. Court of Federal Claims’ holding that Nycal, an oil development company, had failed to prove its claim for lost-profit damages following the Government’s breach of contract.  The case arose out of oil and gas leases made off the coast of California by the Government to several natural-resource development companies, including Nycal.  After the leases were granted, Congress passed legislation giving California greater ability to halt development under the leases—which it did, making the leases worthless.  The development companies sued for breach of contract, and ultimately were awarded $1.1 billion in restitution damages.

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Courts Sinks Former Naval Officer’s Backpay Case

March 3, 2014

Former-commissioned Naval officer Troy Allen Lewis launched a promising career in the U.S. Navy, joining the service via the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program and in training to become a medical doctor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.  But while attending the Uniformed Services University, Lewis was arrested in 2007 for allegedly engaging in an online chat with a 10-year-old girl.  Lewis was ultimately convicted of attempted coercion and enticement of a minor with an intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

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End of the Line for Some Rails-to-Trails Plaintiffs, Others Move Ahead

February 28, 2014

Following abandonment of a portion of the easement on which the railroad line runs, in 2009 the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation purchased the line for interim use as a hiking and biking trail under Section 8(d) of the Trail Act.  That purchase was made on behalf of the Dickinson County Trails Board and the Osceola County Conservation Board. In 2010 the landowners who owned the land over which the abandoned easement lies filed a complaint in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking just compensation for the taking of their reversionary interests resulting from the changed, non-railroad use of the railroad easement.

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Third-Party Contract Claims Remain Unpaid

February 21, 2014

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and Open Range Communications, Inc. executed a loan agreement whereby the federal government (through RUS) would provide funds to Open Range for construction of a wireless broadband network for rural communities.  RUS hired G4S Technology LLC to carry out some of the engineering responsibilities.

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Reasonably Prudent Investor Interest Rate Used in Takings Judgment

February 13, 2014

The CFC recently awarded interest at the Moody’s long-term corporate bond rate to several groups of rails-to-trails plaintiffs as part of their just compensation judgment, rejecting the Government’s argument that the court should instead use the much lower short-term Treasury bond rate. The court explained that Moody’s rate cover the broadest segment of the interest-rate spectrum:

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Judge’s Recusal Wipes Slate Clean

February 12, 2014

After issuing two substantive rulings—including a motion to dismiss, partial summary judgment, and a cross-motion to amend the complaint—the CFC judge assigned to Demodulation, Inc. v. United States informed the parties that she intended to recuse herself from the case.  The judge to whom the case was reassigned chose to vacate those decisions to avoid any appearance of partiality, wiping the slate clean of 27 months of litigation.

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Federal Circuit Attempts to Stabilize Beachfront Erosion Takings Case

February 11, 2014

The Federal Circuit recently held that it was error for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to dismiss a waterfront takings case as untimely filed, and remanded the case back to the trial court for resolution.  This case arose from the gradual erosion of beachfront property on Lake Michigan caused by the Government’s installation of several waterfront jetties on Lake Michigan.

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