641 N.W.2d 651 (S.D. 2002), 21908, Douville v. Christensen

Docket Nº:21908.
Citation:641 N.W.2d 651, 2002 SD 33
Opinion Judge:[8] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gilbertson, Chief Justice
Party Name:Robert DOUVILLE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. Russ CHRISTENSEN, Steve Hartman, and Donald Randall, in their capacity as Township Supervisors of Brule Township and Milo Speckels, Robert Feltman, and John Glaus, in their capacity as Township Supervisors of Chamberlain, Township, Brule County, South Dakota, Defendants and Appellees.
Attorney:[7] John R. Steele of Steele and Steele, P.C. Plankinton, South Dakota
Case Date:March 06, 2002
Court:Supreme Court of South Dakota
 
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Page 651

641 N.W.2d 651 (S.D. 2002)

2002 SD 33

Robert DOUVILLE, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

Russ CHRISTENSEN, Steve Hartman, and Donald Randall, in their capacity as Township Supervisors of Brule Township and Milo Speckels, Robert Feltman, and John Glaus, in their capacity as Township Supervisors of Chamberlain, Township, Brule County, South Dakota, Defendants and Appellees.

No. 21908.

Supreme Court of South Dakota

March 6, 2002.

Argued Jan. 8, 2002.

Page 652

John R. Steele of Steele and Steele, P.C., Plankinton, for plaintiff and appellant.

J.M. Grossenburg, Winner, for defendants and appellees.

GILBERTSON, Chief Justice.

[¶ 1.] Robert Douville (Douville), a resident of Chamberlain, South Dakota, seeks a writ of mandamus against Chamberlain and Brule Townships for the removal of an earthen dam obstructing a section line right-of-way located on the border between the two townships. We reverse the trial court's denial of the writ.

FACTS AND PROCEDURE

[¶ 2.] The section line right-of-way at issue in this case is approximately one and one-half miles in length and is located between Brule and Chamberlain Townships. The section line extends westward to the edge of the Missouri River (Lake Francis Case). It is undisputed that neither township has ever constructed or maintained any kind of roadbed on this portion of the section line. The section line remains unimproved and impassable by motor vehicle, on horseback or by foot because of an earthen dam with impounded water located on and running perpendicular to the right-of-way.

[¶ 3.] The dam was built in 1947, with funding provided by the federal government, and supplies water for cattle located on the land. Alvin Reuer (Reuer), the current owner, purchased the property in 1964. On August 24, 1982, both Brule and Chamberlain Townships each purported to grant Reuer conditional easements to construct a dam. The easements stipulated that they would continue in effect only until such time as "... the Board is required by operation of law to open and maintain said property line as an actual road."

[¶ 4.] Douville seeks a writ of mandamus compelling the townships to remove the dam from the section line. The circuit court, however, denied the writ. It concluded "[a] township has no duty pursuant to SDCL 31-32-9 to remove obstructions

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from section lines that have not been improved or altered from their natural state for the purpose of vehicle travel." Douville raises the following issue for appeal:

Whether a township has a legal duty to remove man-made obstructions from an unimproved section line right-of-way.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 5.] The grant or denial of a writ of mandamus is discretionary. Willoughby v. Grim, 1998 SD 68, ¶ 6, 581 N.W.2d 165, 167 (citations omitted). Therefore, we review denial of a writ of mandamus under an abuse of discretion standard. Id.

[¶ 6.] We review statutory interpretation de novo, giving no deference to the interpretation of the trial court. Furthermore,

[s]ince statutes must be construed according to their intent, the intent must be determined from the statute as a whole, as well as enactments relating to the same subject. But, in construing statutes together it is presumed that the [L]egislature did not intend an absurd or unreasonable result. When the question is which of two enactments the [L]egislature intended to apply to a particular situation, terms of a...

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