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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

of interest to railroad bed owners or trail users The Feds lost their land grab scheme. ;)

Syllabus
Congress passed the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875 to provide railroad companies "right[s] of way through the public lands of the United States," 43 U. S. C. § 934. One such right of way, obtained by a railroad in 1908, crosses land that the United States conveyed to the Brandt family in a 1976 land patent. That patent stated, as relevant here, that the land was granted subject to the railroad's rights in the 1875 Act right of way, but it did not specify what would occur if the railroad later relinquished those rights. Years later, a successor railroad abandoned the right of way with federal approval. The Government then sought a judicial declaration of abandonment and an order quieting title in the United States to the abandoned right of way, including the stretch that crossed the land conveyed in the Brandt patent. Petitioners contested the claim, asserting that the right of way was a mere easement that was extinguished when the railroad abandoned it, so that Brandt now enjoys full title to his land without the burden of the easement. The Government countered that the 1875 Act granted the railroad something more than a mere easement, and that the United States retained a reversionary interest in that land once the railroad abandoned it. The District Court granted summary judgment to the Government and quieted title in the United States to the right of way. The Tenth Circuit affirmed.

Held: The right of way was an easement that was terminated by the railroad's abandonment, leaving Brandt's land unburdened. Pp. 8-17.

http://www2.bloomberglaw.com/public/desktop/document/Marvin_M_Brandt_Revocable_Trust_v_United_States_No_121173_US_Mar_/1