State of Alaska Dept. of Nat. Res. v. United States, No. 14-35051 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Agnes and Anne Purdy dispute the State’s claim of ownership to rights-of-way for four public trails that cross the Purdys' land, seeking to stop members of the public from trespassing on their property by using the trails. The Purdys acquired ownership of the parcels in question under the Alaska Native Allotment Act, 43 U.S.C. 270–1 et seq. The State filed suit against the Purdys and the United States, contending that the Purdys' allotments are subject to rights-of-way. The State further alleges that, by virtue of public use, it acquired ownership of the rights-of-way under an unusual federal statute known as R.S. 2477. The district court dismissed the quiet title and declaratory judgment claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and entered partial final judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). The remainder of the action has been stayed pending resolution of this appeal. The court concluded that the district court correctly held that the State’s quiet title claim is barred because the United States is a necessary party to that claim but has not waived its immunity from suit pursuant to the Indian lands exception of the Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. 2409a. The court also concluded that the district court correctly dismissed the State’s claim for declaratory relief under 28 U.S.C. 2201, which sought essentially the same relief as the quiet title claim. Although the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear the State’s condemnation claim, that claim may not proceed as pleaded. The court remanded as to this claim so that the State may be given an opportunity to amend the claim. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.