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Wilkinson v. Pitkin County Bd. of County Comm'rs

Citation: 28 ELR 21253
(05/04/1998)

The court holds that, under Colorado law, plaintiffs' claims relating to a county's denial of their applications to develop 29 mining claims are barred by the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel. The court first holds that res judicata bars this federal action. Although plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed without prejudice the due process, equal protection, and just compensation claims raised in their first state court proceeding, they could or did have these claims decided in their second state court proceeding. The court next rejects plaintiffs' argument that their "as applied" due process and equal rights causes-of-action are legally distinct from their previous facial challenges in state court. Thus, the court holds that res judicata and collateral estoppel bar these "as applied" claims. The court also rejects plaintiffs' argument that Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172 (1985), requires filing an inverse condemnation action in state court before they could file their 42 U.S.C. § 1983 federal claims. The facts set forth in the state court actions are the same facts necessary for the determination of the federal claims. Also, plaintiffs asserted federal claims in the state court proceedings, which were fully adjudicated, and the Colorado rules against claim splitting required them to do so. The court then holds that alleged newly discovered evidence of collusive actions by the county and its officials, which could bar application of res judicata or collateral estoppel principles, should be considered by the state courts. The court last holds that collateral estoppel bars plaintiffs' claim that their possessory interests in each of their separate mining claims have been extinguished by defendants' land use code.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Donald M. Ostrander, Ronald E. von Lembke
Duncan, Ostrander & Dingess
7800 E. Union Ave., Ste. 550, Denver CO 80237
(303) 779-0200

Counsel for Defendants
John M. Ely, County Attorney
Pitkin County Attorney's Office
76 Service Center Rd., Aspen CO 81611
(970) 920-5190

Before Porfilio, Kelly, and Henry, JJ.