Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Second Judicial District, Nome, Ben Esch, Judge. Superior Court No. 2NO-11-00148 CI.
Samuel J. Fortier, Fortier & Mikko, P.C., Anchorage, for Appellant.
Sarah M. Carver, Bethel, and James J. Davis, Jr., Anchorage, Alaska Legal Services Corp., for Appellee.
Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.
Harold Hawkins and Rosalind Attatayuk married and lived together in St. Michael until 1981, when they dissolved their marriage. Hawkins was awarded the couple's home in the dissolution and continued to reside on the property, which was federally owned. In 1993 Attatayuk applied for and received a restricted townsite deed to the land by allegedly fraudulent means. She brought a trespass action against Hawkins, al leging that she had undisputed title to the land. Hawkins denied this allegation. The superior court ruled on summary judgment that Attatayuk's restricted townsite deed gave her title to the land. Because Alaska state courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate title or right to possession of restricted townsite property, the only issue presented in this appeal is whether the superior court adjudicated title to the land in question. We hold that the superior court
did adjudicate title and, as a result, exceeded its jurisdiction.
II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
In 1926, Congress enacted the Alaska Native Townsite Act, extending the provisions of the federal townsite laws to Alaska Natives. Under the Townsite Act, Native townsite residents could receive a restricted deed that was inalienable absent federal approval. The Townsite Act was repealed in 1976, but a savings provision protected all land use rights existing at that time. Federal regulations allowed qualifying Native residents to apply for a restricted townsite deed after the Townsite Act was repealed.
Harold Hawkins and Rosalind Attatayuk married in 1972 and lived in St. Michael in a house they owned located on federal land. In 1981 Attatayuk moved to Nome, but the couple did not dissolve their marriage until 1988. In their petition for dissolution, the only asset that the couple listed as real property was: " house 20 x 30 two story in St. Michael." Hawkins and Attatayuk stated that they jointly owned the house and sought to have the court award it to Hawkins, which the court did. Hawkins continued to ...