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Crawford v. Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport Authority

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

March 1, 2019

Vicente Palacios Crawford, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam; Eddie Baza Calvo; Ricardo C. Duenas, GIAA Board Chairman; Anthony Ada, In His Official Capacity as Chairperson of the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted November 13, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District No. 1:15-cv-00001 of Guam Frances Tydingco-Gatewood, Chief District Judge, Presiding

          Scott M. Grzenczyk (argued), Jordan Elias, and Daniel C. Girard, Girard Gibbs LLP, San Francisco, California; Ignacio Cruz Aguigui, The Law Offices of Ignacio Cruz Aguigui, Tamuning, Guam; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Genevieve Rapadas (argued), Jay D. Trickett, and Kathleen V. Fisher, Calvo Fisher & Jacob LLP, Hagåtña, Guam, for Defendants-Appellees Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam, and Ricardo C. Duenas.

          David J. Highsmith (argued), Assistant Attorney General; Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, Tamuning, Guam; for Defendants-Appellees Eddie Baza Calvo and Anthony Ada.

          Before: Sidney R. Thomas, Chief Judge, Susan P. Graber, Circuit Judge, and Leslie E. Kobayashi, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Civil Rights

         The panel dismissed the appeal in part and affirmed in part the district court's summary judgment in an action brought by plaintiff, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Guam law, alleging procedural due process and equal protection violations in connection with plaintiff's attempts to be compensated for ancestral land taken by the government of Guam for the operation of A.B. Won Pat International Airport.

         The United States government took control of substantial amounts of privately owned land on Guam for military purposes around the time of World War II. Plaintiff's ancestral land is in a region where many of the taken properties were subsequently transferred by the United States to the government of Guam, including land where the international airport is now located. In 1999, the Guam legislature passed the Guam Ancestral Lands Act, which added Chapter 80 to the Guam Code Annotated and established an administrative process for exercising ancestral property rights. However, no claims by ancestral landowners whose land is currently being used for public purposes have been considered and resolved through compensation.

         The panel held that because the International Airport Authority was not named in either the appealed due process or equal protection violation counts, it was not a proper party to the appeal and therefore needed to be dismissed. The panel further held that it would consider the merits of plaintiff's equal protection claims only against the Guam government defendants.

         The panel held that while the Guam legislature had clearly established a process to receive, evaluate, and compensate ancestral property right claims, the legislature did not design the process to be sufficiently definite to transform plaintiff's expectation into a property right entitled to due process protection. The panel therefore held that provisions of Chapter 80 and the Guam Public Laws, whether examined individually or read together, did not give rise to a protected property interest under the Due Process Clause.

         Plaintiff also alleged Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights violations because, unlike the ancestral landowners who had received full compensation by the return of lands that were no longer being used by the government, plaintiff's land has not been returned and he had not been compensated. The panel held that the statutory differences in treatment between a landowner whose lands were no longer in use and one whose lands continued to be used was not irrational, and served an important purpose-to resolve efficiently the ancestral land claims of the landowners whose lands were no longer in use. The panel therefore concluded that the classifications established in the statutory scheme survived rational basis review and the panel affirmed the district court's summary judgment on the equal protection claim.

          OPINION

          KOBAYASHI, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Around the time of World War II, the United States government took, for little or no compensation, numerous tracts of real property from private Guamanian landowners for military use. Plaintiff Vicente Palacios Crawford is the son of two such landowners. Plaintiff's ancestral land is in the Tiyan region, where many of the taken properties were subsequently transferred by the United States to the government of Guam. Defendant Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport Authority, Guam ("GIAA") currently operates the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, which is located on ancestral lands in the Tiyan region, including Plaintiff's. In its several attempts to address this past injustice, the government of Guam established administrative entities and procedures to receive and resolve ancestral landowners' claims for the taking of their lands without adequate compensation. These efforts have a convoluted history of enactment and partial repeal, as well as a lack of funding. As a result, no claims by ancestral landowners whose land is currently being used for public purposes have been considered and resolved through compensation. Plaintiff filed this action against the GIAA Defendants-the GIAA and GIAA chairperson Ricardo C. Duenas[1]-and the Government Defendants-Governor Edward Calvo[2] and Guam Ancestral Lands Commission ("GALC") chairperson Anthony Ada[3]-and asserts that lengthy delays in the compensation process violate his constitutional rights to procedural due process and equal protection. Plaintiff appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants. We have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Historical Background

         The United States government took control of substantial amounts of privately owned land on Guam for military purposes during and immediately after World War II. At the time, many of the landowners received little or no compensation. After World War II ended, Congress transferred land no longer necessary for American military use to the naval government of Guam. Later, the Organic Act of Guam, Pub. L. No. 630, 64 Stat. 384 (1950), created the government of Guam, transferred certain land from the naval government of Guam to the new government of Guam, and placed other land under the control of the government of Guam for the benefit of the people of Guam.

         In a condemnation proceeding brought by the naval government of Guam in 1950, Plaintiff's mother, Josefina Palacios Crawford (formerly Josefina Palacios Flores), received $8, 340.00 as compensation for the taking of her property, Lot 5204 in the Tiyan region. On January 25, 1980, Josefina Crawford, individually and as Jesus C. Flores's heir, filed a complaint against the United States, seeking further compensation, pursuant to 48 U.S.C. § 1424c ("J. Crawford v. United States").[4] Josefina Crawford, and other similarly situated claimants, agreed to a stipulated judgment with the United States in a consolidated case in 1992. All of the consolidated claims were extinguished by agreement. Thus, in 1993, Josefina Crawford was awarded $71, 227.22 for the taking of Lot 5204.

         In 1994, Congress enacted the Guam Excess Lands Act, Pub. L. No. 103-339, 108 Stat. 3116 (1994), authorizing the transfer of land in Guam from the United States to the government of Guam, with the requirement that the government of Guam develop a plan to use the land for public benefit. The Guam legislature, the I Liheslaturan Guåhan, has repeatedly expressed its intent to restore the excess lands to the original owners or their heirs. See, e.g., Guam Pub. L. 23-141, § 3 (1997). In 1999, the Guam legislature passed the Guam Ancestral Lands Act ("GALA"), Guam Pub. L. 25-45, § 1 (1999), which recognized that the powers granted to Guam's agencies by previous legislation had proven inadequate to implement remedies for the ancestral landowners, id. § 2(a). Significantly, the GALA added Chapter 80 to Title 21 of the Guam Code Annotated (21 Guam Code Ann. §§ 80101 to 80104), [5] which

affirms and formally recognizes the "Ancestral Property Right"; establishes an administrative process for the exercise of that right; and creates the Guam Ancestral Lands Commission ["the Commission" or "GALC"] and authorizes the Commission to administer the provisions of this Chapter in order that original landowners, their heirs and their descendants may expeditiously exercise all their fundamental civil rights in the property they own. The exercise of "ancestral property right" claims shall be applicable to lands already declared excess by the Federal government and shall also be applicable to all future declaration of excess lands either by the United States Government or by the government of Guam.

21 Guam Code Ann. § 80102(c). In order to provide a remedy for ancestral landowners, the Guam legislature ordered GALC to establish a "Land Bank Trust" to manage and, if necessary, develop the land returned from the United States and to use any income generated by the land to compensate the ancestral landowners. Id. § 80104(e) ("The Commission shall establish rules and regulations pursuant to the Administration Adjudication Law for the Guam-based trust. The resulting income shall be used to provide just compensation for those dispossessed ancestral landowners."). However, no payments have been made from the Land Bank Trust to ancestral landowners because of a bureaucratic impasse: the rules and regulations for the Land Bank Trust have not been finalized, and no claims can be paid until the rules and regulations are finalized.

         In 2000, the United States transferred to the GIAA, by quitclaim deed, the land in the Tiyan region on which the international airport now sits. This deed requires that the transferred property "be used for public airport purposes for the use and benefit of the public on reasonable terms and without unjust discrimination." It also provides that the airport property cannot be sold or otherwise used without the Federal Aviation Administration's consent and that all revenues generated by the airport can be used only for the airport's capital or operating costs. If the GIAA fails to comply with these restrictions, the United States can retake possession of the transferred land. In short, the quitclaim deed prevents the return of the airport property, or the payment of compensation from revenue generated by the land, to ancestral landowners, including Plaintiff.

         The Guam legislature has attempted repeatedly to create a compensation process for those ancestral landowners whose land is used for the airport.[6] See, e.g., Guam Pub. L. 24-214 (1998) (establishing the Tiyan Trust); Guam Pub. L. 26-100, § 5 (2002) (repealing Pub. L. 24-214). Among these attempts is Public Law 26-100, which established a GIAA Task Force ("the Task Force") to identify properties under GIAA control that are required for "strictly airport-related operations." Guam Pub. L. 26-100, § 4 (2002). The Task Force was charged with identifying lands "excess to the needs of GIAA," as well as non-Tiyan properties that could be conveyed as compensation to ancestral landowners whose Tiyan lands could not be returned. Id. The current version of § 4 requires the Task Force to identify the ancestral landowners who had properties taken for use by the airport and to identify land owned by the government of Guam that can be used to compensate those ancestral landowners by way of a land exchange. Guam Pub. L. 30-6, § 1 (2009).

         The Task Force ultimately proposed a land exchange of two parcels of property in the Land Bank Trust for the release of claims by ancestral landowners whose land had been taken and used for the airport. See Guam Pub. L. 30-158 (2010) (effectuating the exchange); see also id., Exh. A (P/L 30-6 Tiyan Task Force Report). Because the proposed land exchange excluded the ancestral landowners whose lands were not used for the airport, these excluded ancestral landowners filed a class action in the Guam Superior Court to enjoin the land exchange, Gange, et al. v. Gov't of Guam, et al., Civil Case No. 1461-10. The superior court in 2013 found that the proposed land exchange would constitute a taking of property without compensation and granted a permanent injunction. In response, Governor Calvo announced in 2014 that GALC would disburse $3.2 million to the ancestral landowners throughout Guam. None of these funds have yet been paid to any ancestral landowners.

         B. Plaintiff's Ancestral Property Right Claim

         The Government Defendants concede that Plaintiff has rights under the GALA as an ancestral landowner because of his mother's ownership of Lot 5204, and that he is not likely to regain possession or title because his land is still being used for the airport.

         On August 16, 2002, Plaintiff submitted to GALC an Ancestral Title and Compensation Application regarding Lot 5204. More than 130 ancestral landowners filed claims regarding lands being used by the GIAA for the airport ("Airport Ancestral Lands Claims"). GALC has not held any hearings regarding the Airport Ancestral Lands Claims, and the government of Guam has not compensated any ...


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