United States District Court, D. Nevada
C. JONES United States District Judge.
action arises out of a dispute over whether the United States
reserved title to a segment of road or only an easement for
its use when it patented certain land. Pending before the
Court is a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction and cross-motions for summary judgment.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Saving America's Mustangs (“SAM”) owns and
operates a wild horse sanctuary near Elko, Nevada. (Compl.
¶ 2, ECF No. 1). On or about June 2, 1967, the United
States issued a land patent (“the Patent”) to
Plaintiff's predecessor-in-interest. (Id. ¶
4). The Patent included a reservation (“the
Reservation”) for use and maintenance of a five-mile
road (“the Road”) that traverses Plaintiff's
property in a north-south direction. (See Id.
¶¶ 4-5). The Reservation was for use by the United
States and its agents and employees, not for use by the
public. (Id. ¶¶ 7- 10). Members of the
public have since 2013 been using roads on SAM's property
and otherwise trespassing. (Id. ¶ 12). SAM
therefore installed access gates on the Road and gave the
Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) keys to the
gates. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). BLM, however, has
asserted that the public has the right to use the Road and
that SAM's installation of gates on the Road violates the
Reservation. (Id. ¶ 14).
sued BLM in this Court under the Declaratory Judgment and
Quiet Title Acts. BLM moved to dismiss for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. The Court granted the motion in part,
dismissing the duplicative declaratory judgment claim but
refusing to dismiss the quiet title claim. BLM has again
moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, and the parties
have filed cross-motions for summary judgment on the merits.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARDS
must grant summary judgment when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those which may affect
the outcome of the case. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute as to a
material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for
a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving
party. See Id. A principal purpose of summary
judgment is “to isolate and dispose of factually
unsupported claims.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).
determining summary judgment, a court uses a burden-shifting
scheme. The moving party must first satisfy its initial
burden. “When the party moving for summary judgment
would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward
with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if
the evidence went uncontroverted at trial.” C.A.R.
Transp. Brokerage Co. v. Darden Rests., Inc., 213 F.3d
474, 480 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted). In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears
the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party
can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence
to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's
case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed
to make a showing sufficient to establish an element
essential to that party's case on which that party will
bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 323-24.
moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary
judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the
nonmoving party's evidence. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress
& Co., 398 U.S. 144 (1970). If the moving party
meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the
opposing party to establish a genuine issue of material fact.
See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To establish the
existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not
establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor.
It is sufficient that “the claimed factual dispute be
shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties'
differing versions of the truth at trial.” T.W.
Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec. Contractors Ass'n,
809 F.2d 626, 631 (9th Cir. 1987). In other words, the
nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying
solely on conclusory allegations unsupported by facts.
See Taylor v. List, 880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir.
1989). Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions
and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts
by producing competent evidence that shows a genuine issue
for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 324.
summary judgment stage, a court's function is not to
weigh the evidence and determine the truth, but to determine
whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The evidence of the nonmovant
is “to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are
to be drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255. But if
the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
See Id. at 249-50. Notably, facts are only viewed in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party where there
is a genuine dispute about those facts. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). That is, even if the
underlying claim contains a reasonableness test, where a
party's evidence is so clearly contradicted by the record
as a whole that no reasonable jury could believe it, “a
court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes
of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.”
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Court previously denied a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, ruling that there was a dispute
to title over the Road between SAM and BLM, and that the
present dispute had arisen within twelve years of SAM filing
the Complaint. See Leisnoi, Inc. v. United States,
267 F.3d 1019, 1024-25 (9th Cir. 2001). BLM again asks the
Court to dismiss, arguing that its previous motion was
directed to the face of the Complaint but that its current
motion is a factual attack. See Thornhill Publ'g Co.,
Inc. v. Gen. Tel. & Elec. Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 733
(9th Cir. 1979). The Court previously found that SAM had
provided evidence sufficient to show jurisdiction, i.e., that
the statute of limitations had not run on the claim.
(See Sorenson Decl. ¶¶ 4-7, ECF No. 10-2;
Pickens Decl. ¶¶ 3, 6, 13, ECF No. 10-3). BLM now
adduces evidence that SAM's predecessor-in-interest, Von
Sorensen, was aware of public use of the road well prior to
twelve years before the present lawsuit was filed. (Sorenson
Dep. 37, ECF No. 27-2) (testifying that members of the public
used the Road between 1977 and 1984)). He also testified that
vehicles would occasionally use the Road from prior to the
Patent being issued in 1967 until he and his wife sold the
land in 2010, and that he and his wife never questioned
public use of the road or attempted to stop anyone from using
it. (Id. 39-43). This evidence tends to show that
public use of the Road was long known to SAM's
adduces no contrary evidence. It argues that under the law of
the case, the Court should ignore BLM's evidence because
the Court already ruled that SAM had provided evidence
sufficient to show jurisdiction. The law of the case doctrine
does not bind a court from reconsidering its own rulings.
Anyway, although the Court previously cited to SAM's
evidence, BLM had not yet attempted to make a factual attack
against jurisdiction. It has done so now. When the testimony
of Von Sorenson submitted by BLM is considered against the
testimony of Von Sorenson previously submitted by SAM, there
remains no genuine issue of material fact. The Court
previously cited to SAM's evidence that Sorenson claimed
never to have been explicitly told by the United States that
the public could use the Road. But BLM's evidence makes
it clear he was ...