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Trevarton v. State

United States District Court, District of South Dakota, Western Division

March 29, 2015

DOROTHY ELLEN TREVARTON, WESLEY MURDOCK, JENNIFER MURDOCK, BRUCE and LINDA MURDOCK, husband and wife, and WILLIAM A. MILLER and LISA MILLER, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA and SOUTH DAKOTA GAME, FISH, AND PARKS, Defendants.

ORDER

JEFFREY L. VIKEN, CHIEF JUDGE

INTRODUCTION

In Trevarton, et al. v. State of South Dakota, et al., CIV. 14-5031, plaintiffs’ amended complaint seeks to quiet title to certain real property in Fall River County, South Dakota. (Docket 13). Collectively, the properties owned by plaintiffs are referred to as the “Murdock Ranch.” Id. ¶ 14. In Miller, et al. v. State of South Dakota, et al., CIV. 14-5032-JLV, plaintiffs’ complaint seeks to quiet title to property in Fall River County, South Dakota. (Docket 13). Plaintiffs’ property is referred to as the “Miller Ranch.” Id. ¶ 6. The court consolidated the cases as they involve “common questions of fact and law.” (Docket 25). Unless otherwise indicated, all references to the record will be to documents filed in Trevarton, CIV. 14-5031.

Plaintiffs seek to quiet title to their ranch properties and ask the court to determine “that all right, title, interest, and estate in the railroad easement originally owned by the Grand Island Railroad through [plaintiffs’ properties] has been abandoned and Plaintiffs . . . have resumed complete fee ownership, free of any right, claim, interest, or encumbrance by Defendants.” (Docket 13 ¶ 40(a)). Plaintiffs also seek declaratory “judgment that Defendants stand in the shoes of their railroad predecessors-in-interest concerning easement rights, whereby Defendants have no lawful right to criminally prosecute Plaintiffs and their employees from [sic] the use of their property.” Id. ¶ 40(e).

Defendants filed a renewed motion to dismiss. (Docket 18). Defendants’ motion to dismiss is premised on Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), failure to state a claim. Id. at p. 1. In the alternative, defendants move for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Id.

For the reasons stated below, defendants’ motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) is granted.

DISCUSSION

Rule 12 provides in part:

(b) . . . a party may assert the following defenses by motion:
(1) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction; . . . .
(6) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted . . . .
A motion asserting any of these defenses must be made before pleading if a responsive pleading is allowed. . . . No defense or objection is waived by joining it with one or more other defenses or objections in a responsive pleading or in a motion.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) & (6). “Motions to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction can be decided in three ways: at the pleading stage, like a Rule 12(b)(6) motion; on undisputed facts, like a summary judgment motion; and on disputed facts.” Jessie v. Potter, 516 F.3d 709, 712 (8th Cir. 2008).

Under a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, a defendant has the right to challenge the “lack of subject-matter jurisdiction . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). “Jurisdictional issues, whether they involve questions of law or of fact, are for the court to ...


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