821 F.2d 638 (Fed. Cir. 1987), 86-1700, Yuba Natural Resources, Inc. v. United States

Docket Nº:Appeal No. 86-1700.
Citation:821 F.2d 638
Party Name:YUBA NATURAL RESOURCES, INC. and Placer Service Corporation, Appellants, v. UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.
Case Date:June 18, 1987
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
 
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Page 638

821 F.2d 638 (Fed. Cir. 1987)

YUBA NATURAL RESOURCES, INC. and Placer Service Corporation,

Appellants,

v.

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee.

Appeal No. 86-1700.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

June 18, 1987

John J. Dacey, Goldstein, Barceloux & Goldstein, San Francisco, Cal., argued for

Page 639

appellants. With him on the brief were Burton J. Goldstein and Janet A. Econome, San Francisco, Cal., of counsel.

Dirk Snel, Dept. of Justice, Land & Natural Resources Div., Washington, D.C., argued for appellee. With him on the brief were F. Henry Habicht, II, Asst. Atty. Gen., Glen R. Goodsell and Elizabeth Ann Peterson, Washington, D.C.

Before MARKEY, Chief Judge, and RICH and NIES, Circuit Judges.

RICH, Circuit Judge.

This is an interlocutory appeal certified by Judge Miller of the United States Claims Court under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1292(d)(2) here on petition of Yuba Natural Resources, Inc. (Yuba) presenting the question whether the taking of Yuba's mineral rights in land owned in fee by the United States was temporary or permanent. We granted Yuba permission to take this appeal on September 23, 1986. The Claims Court, in its July 19, 1986, opinion, 10 Cl.Ct. 486, held that the United States had permanently taken Yuba's right to mine minerals by prohibiting Yuba from mining the property in question during a period in which the United States contended that it owned the mineral rights. August 14, 1986, the Claims Court on Yuba's motion amended its opinion and order to say that "a controlling question of law is involved" as to which "an immediate appeal ... may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation," namely, whether the taking was temporary as contended by Yuba. We hold that the taking was temporary.

Background

The background is set out in a prior opinion by this court, Yuba Goldfields, Inc. v. United States, 723 F.2d 884 (Fed.Cir.1983), whereby the Claims Court's grant of summary judgment holding there was no taking was vacated. Briefly, the facts are that Yuba has owned and mined minerals, namely gold, on the land in question since nearly the turn of the century. Yuba received a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers, dated April 9, 1976, stating that the precious mineral rights belonged to the United States and that Yuba was prohibited thereafter from extracting minerals from the land. After years of fruitless negotiations between Yuba and the United States, Yuba sued and won quiet title to the precious mineral rights in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in 1981. Having appealed that decision, the United States also withdrew its appeal on January 4, 1982, and retracted its letter on January 29, 1982.

Yuba then brought suit in the Claims Court alleging a nearly six-year taking and that court granted summary judgment to the United States on the ground that no taking occurred because the United States thought in good faith that it owned the mineral rights, acted in its proprietary rather than its sovereign capacity, and did not physically bar Yuba from use of the land. This court vacated the summary judgment and remanded for trial because the Claims Court's reasons, on the record as it then stood, were irrelevant to the question whether Yuba's mineral rights were taken, the court did not draw all inferences in Yuba's favor, and there were material questions of fact that could only be resolved after trial. This court further remarked that if the record did not change significantly at trial, that "the scenario brings to mind the salutary view that, whatever the outcome, the United States wins when justice is done." The court did not, however, hold that a taking occurred but left that question for decision by the Claims Court.

The Claims Court's opinion after trial was that the facts were not significantly changed from the time of reversal of...

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