604 F.2d 1239 (9th Cir. 1979), 78-2370, Franquez v. United States

Docket Nº:78-2370.
Citation:604 F.2d 1239
Party Name:Maria Torres FRANQUEZ, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant. Joaquina Mendiola PALOMO, Does I-X and Estate of Doe, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant. Delfina Cruz CRUZ, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant. Felicita Santos SAN NICOLAS, Plaintiff-Appel
Case Date:September 24, 1979
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
 
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Page 1239

604 F.2d 1239 (9th Cir. 1979)

Maria Torres FRANQUEZ, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant.

Joaquina Mendiola PALOMO, Does I-X and Estate of Doe,

Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant.

Delfina Cruz CRUZ, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant.

Felicita Santos SAN NICOLAS, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant.

Juan C. MATERNE a/k/a Juan Materne Materne and Potenciana

Cruz Materne, Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 78-2370.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

September 24, 1979

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Robert L. Klarquist, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C. (argued), John J. Zimmerman, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., on brief.

John A. Bohn, Agana, Guam (argued), Charles P. Starkey, Agana, Guam, on brief.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Guam.

Before ELY, and SNEED, Circuit Judges, and FITZGERALD, [*] District Judge.

FITZGERALD, District Judge:

This consolidated appeal comes before us on limited record and presents a narrow issue for review. The district court denied motions made by the United States to strike plaintiffs' demands for a jury trial and granted trial by jury on the issue of fair compensation in cases brought under Section 204 of the Omnibus Territories Act of 1977. 1 The district court certified its interlocutory order for immediate appeal under 28 U.S.C. Section 1292(b). We affirm.

In the closing part of the Second World War and extending into postwar "cold war" years, the Department of Defense established large military bases on the island of Guam. 2 The United States acquired land for these bases from Guamanian landowners either by negotiated sale or condemnation proceedings, conducted in most cases under military authority. 3 In the following years the government and people of Guam contended that the United States had dealt unfairly with Guamanian landowners and had obtained land under conditions and procedures which failed to protect their right to fair and just compensation. 4

Congress, responding to these complaints, in 1977 enacted Section 204 of the Omnibus Territories Act which provides in part as follows:

Notwithstanding any law or court decision to the contrary, the District Court of Guam is hereby granted authority and jurisdiction to review claims of persons, their heirs or legatees, from whom interests in land on Guam were acquired other than through judicial condemnation proceedings, in which the issue of compensation was adjudicated in a contested trial in the District Court of Guam, by the United States between July 21, 1944, and August 23, 1963, and to award fair compensation in those cases where it is determined that less than fair market value

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was paid as a result of (1) duress, unfair influence, or other unconscionable actions, or (2) unfair, unjust, and inequitable actions of the United States. 5

The district court 6 is authorized to employ the services of such special masters or judges as are necessary to carry out the purposes and intent of the statute. 7 However, the statute is silent on the question of whether the court may order a jury trial. Awards under Section 204 are judgments against the United States. 8 Prior judicial condemnation judgments in which the issue of compensation was adjudicated in a contested trial in the District of Guam remain res judicata, and cannot be reopened. 9

Appellees are all claimants under Section 204 who filed timely demands for trial by jury pursuant to Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The district court ordered jury trial on the issue of just compensation, and the government has appealed. We conclude that the district court was correct.

It is well established that there is no constitutional right to a jury trial in suits brought against the United States. Suits against the government require a legislative waiver of sovereign immunity, and are not suits at common law within the meaning of the Seventh Amendment. Glidden Company v. Zdanok, 370 U.S. 530, 572, 82 S.Ct. 1459, 8 L.Ed.2d 671 (1961). Since the sovereign need not allow suit against it, Congress is free to allow suit on whatever terms it chooses, and may grant or deny jury trial as it sees fit. McElrath v. United States, 102 U.S. 426, 26 L.Ed. 189 (1880).

As recognized by the district court, the legislative history of the Omnibus Territories Act provides little aid in determining whether Congress intended to grant or deny trial by jury under Section 204. The bill originally proposed by the House of Representatives contained a provision which directed the Secretary of Interior to review, determine, and pay claims arising from postwar land acquisitions in Guam by the United States. 10 The Senate disapproved this provision and drafted a new provision and procedure which provided for review of claims in the District Court of Guam. The Senate Committee reported that "(a)t base, the issue is the constitutional question of just compensation for federal acquisitions," and "any affirmative verdicts should stand as judgments against the United States without the necessity of additional authorization and the uncertainty of appropriations." 11 The House later adopted an amended version of the provision proposed by the Senate, the present Section 204. Although not dispositive, we note that the use of the term "verdict" is of some significance and conclude that grant of trial by jury is not inconsistent with legislative intent.

Although the district court did not find express congressional intent, it noted that the purpose of the Act was to provide for review of claims of landowners whose properties were unfairly acquired by the United States through the power of eminent domain. The court concluded that by "fair implication," Congress intended such claimants to be given the same rights as those landowners who had contested through jury trial the issue of fair compensation. By analogy, therefore, the district court determined that claimants under Section 204 should have the...

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