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Grantwood Village v. Missouri Pac. R.R. Co.

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20212
Nos. 95-3588, 95 F.3d 654/(8th Cir., 09/09/1996)

The court upholds rail-to-trails conversion effected under the National Trail Systems Act. Although plaintiff village initiated the suit in state court as a quietclaim action, asserting title to a right-of-way that a railroad transferred to a company for trail use, it is in essence a collateral attack on the Interstate Commerce Commission's (ICC's) order authorizing interim trail use on the right-of-way. Because the ICC has exclusive and plenary authority to determine whether a rail line has been abandoned, the question of whether the railroad abandoned the right-of-way involves federal law. Therefore, federal jurisdiction is proper and the district court did not err in refusing to remand this case to state court. The court next holds that the district court correctly concluded that it did not have jurisdiction to review the ICC's decision, because the Hobbs Act confers on circuit courts exclusive jurisdiction over any action to enjoin, suspend, or determine the validity of an ICC order. The court next holds that the village waived any challenge to the validity of the ICC's order, because it failed to make its arguments to the ICC and failed to file a petition for judicial review within 60 days of the ICC's decision, as required by the Hobbs Act. The court therefore holds that federal law preempts state law on the question of abandonment while the ICC retains jurisdiction over the right-of-way. Therefore, the ICC's authorization of interim trail use under the Trail Act precludes a finding of abandonment of the right-of-way under state law. Moreover, even though the railroad allegedly abandoned the line before the Trail Act was passed, the railroad could only have abandoned its right-of-way if the ICC authorized it to, which the ICC did not do in this case.

Counsel for Appellant
Mark F. Hearne II
Ziercher & Hocker
231 S. Bemiston Ave., Ste. 800, St. Louis MO 63105
(314) 727-5822

Counsel for Appellees
J. Peter Schmitz
Schmitz, Kopman, Schreiber & Kaveney
222 S. Central Ave., Ste. 1101, St. Louis MO 63105
(314) 862-7555

Before BOWMAN, BEAM, and MURPHY, Circuit Judges.