Layon property owners say district court has no jurisdiction
Tuesday, 11 November 2008 02:41
by Therese Hart
Variety News Staff
ATTORNEYS representing Layon property owners have filed a motion to dismiss the declaratory judgment and lift the temporary stay that U.S. District Court Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood issued Oct. 22 during a quarterly status hearing on the closure of the Ordot Dump and construction of the new landfill in Layon, Inarajan. Earlier, receiver Gershman, Brickner & Bratton had told the court of its concern about whether the government had title to the Layon site, which is where the new landfill will be built.
The court converted the receiver's oral statement into a motion for declaratory judgment under the Declaratory Judgment Act and issued an order staying any action by the Superior Court of Guam in the eminent domain proceeding pending the District Court's determination of whether the government of Guam has acquired legal title to the Layon site, according to court documents filed by Atty. Lee T. Camacho for Atty. Anita Arriola.
Arriola's lawfirm --- Arriola, Cowan & Arriola --- represents Layon property owners Oxford Properties & Finance Ltd., Joaquin C. Arriola and Douglas F. Cushnie.
Arriola's filing states that the District Court lacks jurisdiction to interpret local law governing eminent domain and to determine whether GovGuam has complied with all statutory requirements.
Furthermore, the filing states that without an independent basis for subject matter jurisdiction, the declaratory judgment act standing alone does not grant the court jurisdiction to interpret Guam law governing the exercise of eminent domain.
No federal questions
Arriola's filing also states that the eminent domain case raises no federal questions. Without original jurisdiction over the claims raised in the eminent domain case, the court is prohibited from removing the case from Superior Court to District Court.
"Guam law provides that the Superior Court of Guam has original jurisdiction of eminent domain proceedings initiated by the Government of Guam concerning Guam real properties…. the Superior Court of Guam shall have jurisdiction over all actions for condemnation of private property for public use by the government of Guam."
The filing states that district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, law, or treaties of the United States and that GovGuam filed the eminent domain action in the Superior Court of Guam pursuant to its authority to do so under Guam law.
The taking of the Dandan property is not a federal taking and is therefore not based upon the taking clause of the U.S. Constitution or/and U.S. laws.
Whether or not GovGuam has complied with the stringent statutory requirements under Guam's eminent domain law is a matter of purely local law, according to Arriola's filing, and the District Court should abstain from ruling on issues of local law that are currently pending before the Superior Court of Guam.
Oxford Properties & Finance holds a 50 percent undivided interest in all property originally designated as Lot B, Dandan, Inarajan.
Arriola owns five percent interest in the undivided one-half interest in Lot B owned by Calvo's Insurance Underwriters, Inc. (or 2.5 percent interest of the whole Lot B). After conveyance of the 5 percent interest to Arriola, Cushnie and Mitchell A. Stevens, the interest was further sold so that the current holders of the five percent are: Arriola with two-sixths interest; Cushnie at three-sixths interest; and Young Chull Kim at one-sixth interests. Many of the landowners acquired their interests in 1979, according to court documents.
Atty. Randall Cunliffe of Cunliffe & Cook, filed a memorandum of points and authorities in support of the motion to dismiss. Cunliffe represents Calvo's Insurance Undewriters, Inc.; Valencia Investments Corporation; Henry Sy; Jones & Guerrero Company, Inc.; Alfred C. and Diane Z. Ysrael; and Lee M. and Joan S. Holmes.
Cunliffe's filing in District Court challenges Tydingco-Gatewood's issuance of a declaratory judgment, stating that 28 USC§2201 authorizes the "courts of the United States" upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, to declare the rights and other legal relations of any other interested parties seeking such declaration on cases of actual controversy within its jurisdiction."
According to Cunliffe's filing, "28 USC§1330 et. Seq., does not establish that the District Courts have jurisdiction over a condemnation proceeding between a state or territory and land within a state or territory. Therefore, this matter should be dismissed."
Cunliffe's filing also states that he, nor his clients, were not served by the Superior Court with any documents in the action and that his clients are not parties to the action.
Cunliffe also stated in his filing that he was concerned about the court's appearance of partiality.