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Luker v. Sykes

Supreme Court of Alaska

October 16, 2015

JILU H. LUKER and GEORGE W. LUKER II, Appellants and Cross-Appellees,
v.
DWANE J. SYKES, Appellee and Cross-Appellant

Page 1192

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Michael P. McConahy, Judge. Superior Court No. 4FA-06-02646 CI.

Jilu H. Luker, Appellant and Cross-Appellee, Pro se, Canyon Country, California.[1]

Dwane J. Sykes, Appellee and Cross-Appellant, Pro se, South Ogden, Utah.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Stowers, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices.

OPINION

Page 1193

MAASSEN, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

A property owner sued neighboring property owners, claiming that he had access rights across their land because of both an express easement and a right of way created by federal law. He also sought damages for a number of alleged torts. Following trial, the superior court found that both the express easement and the federally created right of way existed but found against the easement holder on all his tort claims. The owners of the burdened property appealed the finding of a federally created right of way, and the easement holder cross-appealed the superior court's dismissal of his damages claims and its rulings on a number of procedural issues.

We reverse the superior court's finding of a federally created right of way, concluding that the court erred in determining when the land at issue was no longer subject to the federal law. We affirm the superior court's judgment in all other respects, including its finding of an express easement.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

The central issue in this case is whether Duane Sykes has a right to access his property across his neighbors' lots, identified in this opinion by their tax lot numbers, 3318 and 3353. The land containing the two lots -- now belonging to Jilu and George Luker -- was originally obtained from the United States government by Elbridge Walker through the federal homestead laws.[2] Walker

Page 1194

applied for a patent to the land in October 1958 and again in July 1961. The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved a survey of the land in 1962, and the Department issued Walker a patent in 1963. The property was acquired by Sykes's wife in 1973 in a foreclosure sale, and in August 1974 the Sykeses transferred ...


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