Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for King County in an action to quiet title to a rail corridor that the Surface Transportation Board had railbanked under the Trails Act. As a preliminary matter, the panel held that it had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 because plaintiffs' state law claim necessarily turned on some construction of federal law that was actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disrupting any congressionally approved federal-state balance. The panel also held that plaintiffs lacked Article III and statutory standing to challenge King County's interest in the Corridor because they have no property interests in the Corridor; King County owns the portion of the Corridor adjacent to the Hornish Property in fee; the Trails Act preserved the railroad easement and created a new easement for trail use, both of which were conveyed to King County; and the centerline presumption did not apply in this case. The panel also held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to and quieted title in King County where King County possessed the railroad easement and recreational easement, and the easement's width adjacent to the Non-Hornish Plaintiffs' properties was 100 feet. Finally, the panel denied plaintiffs' motion to supplement the record. View "Hornish v. King County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the museum in an action brought by plaintiff to recover artwork that was taken by the Nazis from her faither-in-law. The panel held that the Dutch government's transfer of the paintings and its later decisions about the conveyance were "sovereign acts" requiring application of the act of state doctrine. The panel applied the act of state doctrine here, because the relief sought by plaintiff would necessitate the court's declaring invalid at least three official acts of the Dutch government performed within its own territory. The panel also held that exceptions to the act of state doctrine did not apply and the policies underlying the doctrine supported its application in this case. View "Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena" on Justia Law

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The 2007 mortgage crisis pushed to near-default the government-sponsored Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac), collectively, “the Enterprises.” The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), 12 U.S.C. 4511, established an independent agency, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to regulate the Enterprises and the Federal Home Loan Banks. FHFA’s Director placed the Enterprises under the Agency’s conservatorship. SFR owns Nevada properties, acquired from homeowners’ associations (HOAs) following foreclosures on liens for unpaid association dues. FHFA obtained a summary judgment declaration that HERA's Foreclosure Bar, 12 U.S.C. 4617(j)(3) preempts any Nevada law that would permit a foreclosure on a superiority lien to extinguish a property interest of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac while they are under FHFA’s conservatorship, that the HOA Sale did not extinguish the Enterprises’ interest in the properties and did not convey the properties free and clear to SFR, and that title to the properties is quieted in either Fannie Mae’s or Freddie Mac’s favor insofar as the Defendants’ interest, if any, is subject to the interest of the Enterprises or the interest of the Enterprises’ successors. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Under HERA, FHFA possessed enforceable interests in the properties at the time of the HOA foreclosure sales. Nevada law did not provide SFR with a constitutionally-protected property interest in purchasing the houses with clear title, and, even assuming such an interest, SFR had adequate procedural protections. View "Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation v. SFR Investments Pool 1, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing an action brought by the United States and the Walker River Paiute Tribe against the Walker River Irrigation District and others over water rights in the Walker River basin. In 2015, without briefing or argument on the issue, the district court sua sponte dismissed all of the Tribe's and the United States' counterclaims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds. The panel held that the district court had continuing jurisdiction over the counterclaims and that it erred in dismissing the claims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds without giving the parties an opportunity to brief the issue. On remand, the panel ordered the reassignment of this case to another district judge. View "United States v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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Farmers filed suit alleging injury to their water rights after the Nevada State Engineer and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved change applications for a voluntary water rights leasing program managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in the Walker River Basin. The Ninth Circuit principally held that the Decree court failed to defer to the findings and conclusions of the state agencies and, to the extent the Decree court entered its own findings, those findings were clear error. In this case, the Engineer properly found that a transfer to the Foundation limited to the consumption portion would avoid conflict and injury to other existing water rights, the findings were supported by substantial evidence, and the Engineer applied the correct legal rule. The panel also held that the export restriction of the Walker River Decree did not prohibit delivering water to Walker Lake because Walker Lake was part of the Walker River Basin. View "United States v. U.S. Board of Water Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit certified to the Supreme Court of Nevada the following question: Does the public trust doctrine apply to rights already adjudicated and settled under the doctrine of prior appropriation and, if so, to what extent? View "Mineral County v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and remanded with instructions to enter judgment in favor of defendant in an action brought by the owner of a mobile home park alleging that the City engaged in an unconstitutional taking. Plaintiff alleged that the City violated the Fifth Amendment when it approved a lower rent increase than he had requested. The panel applied the factors in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978), and held that plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to create a triable question of fact as to the economic impact caused by the City's denial of larger rent increases; plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence supporting its investment-backed expectations claim; and the character of the City's action could not be characterized as a physical invasion by the government. Based on the evidence, the panel held that no reasonable finder of fact could conclude that the denials of plaintiff's requested rent increases were the functional equivalent of a direct appropriation of the property. View "Colony Cove Properties, LLC v. City of Carson" on Justia Law

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Gilman filed a voluntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition. Phillips was a creditor. Gilman identified properties in Van Nuys and Northridge, describing the Northridge property as “in escrow” and claiming a household exemption for the Van Nuys property, and stating “Debtor has Cancer and has not been able to work.” He did not list any contracts relating to the sale of the Van Nuys property. Gilman would later admit that escrow was open on that property when he filed for bankruptcy. Phillips filed an adversary proceeding, alleging fraud, and objected to Gilman’s homestead exemption. Gilman did not oppose the objection and did not appear at the hearing. The bankruptcy court sustained Phillips’ objections. Gilman filed an amended Schedule C, claiming a reduced exemption and obtained Rule 60(b) relief, based on his counsel’s mistaken failure to oppose Phillips’ objections. The bankruptcy court held that escrow did not eliminate Gilman’s right to a homestead exemption. The Ninth Circuit held that it had jurisdiction to review the district court’s order affirming the grant of the homestead exemption; that the bankruptcy court did not abuse its discretion in granting Rule 60(b) relief from judgment on the ground of excusable neglect; and that the bankruptcy court erred in concluding that the debtor established his claim to a homestead exemption under California law without determining whether the debtor intended to continue to reside in the property. View "Phillips v. Gilman" on Justia Law

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The Borrowers filed suit against Wells Fargo based on Wells Fargo and its predecessors' alleged miscalculation of interest on the Borrowers' loans. The Ninth Circuit held that the Home Owners' Loan Act (HOLA) did not preempt the Borrowers' "Interest Rate Calculation" breach of contract claim, which arose under Washington law, because a common law breach of contract claim was not the type of law listed in paragraph (b) of 12 C.F.R. 560.2, but comes within paragraph (c) of that regulation and is a law that only incidentally affects the lending operations of federal savings associations. The panel affirmed summary judgment for Wells Fargo on the Borrowers' "Use of Unapproved Indexes" breach of contract claim, and the other claims related to this alleged conduct by the Lenders. In this case, the Lenders gave notice to their primary regulators of their intent to substitute the Indexes used to calculate interest on the Borrowers' loans and the regulators did not object. The panel also affirmed the denial of the Borrowers' motion for discovery sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 because the Borrowers failed to show prejudice resulting from this ruling. Finally, the panel vacated the district court's denial of attorneys' fees without prejudice. View "Camidoglio LLC v. Wells Fargo" on Justia Law

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Defendants, debtors who have failed to repay loans held by BB&T, appealed the respective judgments of the district court against them. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the judgment, holding that BB&T had standing to bring the action; issue preclusion did not bar BB&T's arguments; Subsection (1)(c) of Nev. Rev. Stat. 40.459(1)(c), which limited the ability of a third party to profit by purchasing real estate debt at a discount and foreclosing at full price, was preempted by federal law as applied to transferees of the FDIC; the district court did not err in granting summary judgment to BB&T in spite of defendants' affirmative defenses of breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, estoppel, modifications, laches, and failure to mitigate damages; the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying defendants' late-filed motion to amend pleadings because defendants' did not demonstrate good cause nor excusable neglect; defendants were not entitled to a jury trial on the fair market value of the property; and BB&T did not violate Nev. Rev. Stat. 163.120(2) concerning notice to trust beneficiaries. View "Branch Banking & Trust Co. v. D.M.S.I., LLC" on Justia Law