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Mills v. Wood

United States District Court, D. Alaska

July 25, 2014

CAREY MILLS, Plaintiff
v.
SCOTT WOOD; DOYON LIMITED; and HUNGWITCHIN CORPORATION, Defendants.

ORDER REGARDING MOTIONS AT DOCKETS 201, 205

RALPH R. BEISTLINE, District Judge.

I. PENDING MOTIONS

At Docket 201 Defendant Doyon Limited has moved for an order clarifying the issues remaining on remand. Both Scott Wood and Hungwitchin Corporation have joined in the motion.[1] Plaintiff Carey Wood has opposed the motion[2] and the moving parties have replied.[3]

At Docket 205 Plaintiff has moved for leave to file an amended complaint. Doyon and Hungwitchin have opposed the motion[4] and Plaintiff has replied.[5]

Both motions have been fully briefed. No party has requested oral argument and this Court has determined that oral argument would not materially assist the Court in deciding the issues presented. Accordingly, the matters are submitted for decision on the moving and opposing papers.

II. BACKGROUND/ISSUES PRESENTED

This Court dismissed this action without leave to amend. On appeal, in a published decision, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for proceedings consistent with its decision.[6]

In its motion, Doyon seeks a determination by the Court that the only remaining issue before this Court is whether or not Mills has a private right of access based upon a theory of an easement by necessity or implication over the property of the Defendants. At the time Doyon filed its motion, the Third Amended Complaint set forth five separate claims: (1) judicial recognition of an R.S. 2477 right-of-way over the entire Fortymile Station-Eagle Trail; (2) an easement by implication or necessity to access his mining claims; (3) a right-of-way over the mining claim held by Wood; (4) invalidation of Wood's mining claim; and (5) damages.

Subsequently, Plaintiff filed his motion for leave to file an Amended Complaint in which he asserts two causes of action: (1) a declaratory determination the Fortymile Station-Eagle Trail is subject to a valid R.S. 2477 right-of-way; and (2) for compensatory and punitive damages resulting from the denial of access to his mining claims along the Fortymile Trail.

As relevant to the motions before the court, the Ninth Circuit held:

Accordingly, we conclude that the flexible prudential standing doctrine does not bar a legal action by landowners asserting an interest in accessing their own property over an alleged R.S. 2477 route.
Here, Mills brings precisely that sort of claim: he seeks a declaration that he may use a right-of-way over private property to access his own property interests. If successful, Mills's suit would prevent Doyon, Hungwitchin and Wood from barring Mills's access or suing him for trespass, but would not be binding on the federal government. Nor would it place additional burdens on Alaska, as Doyon argues. Alaska has already stated in a statute that it "claims, occupies, and possesses" the R.S. 2477 right-of-way in the Fortymile Trail, Alaska Stat. ยง 19.30.400(a), (d), and Doyon does not explain why Alaska would have any additional maintenance obligations if Mills succeeded on the merits of his action.
Because Mills asserts his own right to use the Fortymile Trail to access his state mining claims, his action may not be dismissed on prudential standing grounds. Accordingly, we need not consider Mills's claim that he could assert the rights of Alaska to the Fortymile Trail either as a member of the public or as a private attorney general. We therefore reverse the district court's dismissal of Mills's ...

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