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Good v. Skagit Cty.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20434
Nos. 45436-6-1, 17 P.3d 1216/(Wash. Ct. App., 01/29/2001)

The court holds that the National Trails System Act (Trails Act), which allows a state, local, or private entity to temporarily convert inactive rail corridors into trails until they are again used for railroads, preempts an individual's state-law just compensation claim and, therefore, the just compensation claim must be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims under the Tucker Act. Skagit County, Washington, acquired a railroad's right-of-way to property for use as a public trail under the Trails Act. Owners of the land underlying the corridor petitioned the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the agency in charge of regulating railroad property, to reopen the abandonment proceedings to the right-of-way claiming that they had full possessory rights to the land and were entitled to compensation under state law for the county's alleged taking of their property. The STB found no reason to reopen the abandonment proceedings. The landowners then brought their claim for just compensation in state court. The court first holds that the Trails Act preempts their state-law claim. When Congress passed the Trails Act, it deemed interim trail use to be a discontinuance rather than an abandonment, effectively preventing property interests from reverting under state law. Moreover, the STB retains jurisdiction during the interim trail use, and as long as that is the case, state law is preempted. Therefore, the court next holds that allegations of a taking resulting from a transfer of property under the Trails Act must be brought in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (6 pp., ELR Order No. L-330).

Counsel for Appellant
Russell C. Brooks
Pacific Legal Foundation
10940 NE 33d Pl., Ste. 109, Bellevue WA 98004
(425) 635-0970

Counsel for Respondent
Paul H. Reilly
Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney's Office
605 S. Third St., Mount Vernon WA 98273
(360) 336-9460