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Ninth Circuit Dismisses Northern Cheyenne Boundary Dispute Case November 7, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in 9th Circuit, Federal Circuits.
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Fidelity Exploration v. United States, No. 06-35307 (9th Cir. Nov. 6, 2007)


Issue(s): Quiet Title Act > Statute of Limitations >> Claim Accrual; Federal Courts > Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Fidelity Exploration sued the United States to quiet title to a five mile stretch of the bed of the Tongue River. In 1926, Congress confirmed a presidential executive order setting the middle of the main channel of the Tongue River as a boundary of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. The State of Montana leased a five mile stretch of the river bed to Fidelity in 2002.

The Quiet Title Act, subject to some exceptions, places a 12-year statute of limitations on all actions filed under the Act. The limitations period begins to run when the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s predecessor-in-interest knew or should have known of its claim. The Court held that Montana was Fidelity’s predecessor in interest. It reasoned that if the Act specifically exempts suits by states from the limitations period but not their successors in interest, then a plain reading of the Act’s notice provision means predecessors in interest must include states. Montana had notice of a claim in 1926 when Congress acted to fix the Reservation boundary. Therefore, Fidelity’s window to sue on their claim closed decades ago and the Court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction.

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