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No easement by necessity when parcel is landlocked because of eminent domain

August 10th, 2014 by Joseph William Singer

When a taking of property by eminent domain to build a highway bifurcated a parcel, one part became landlocked but obtained access to a public road by permission over neighboring property. When that permission ended many years later and the parcel became landlocked the owner sought an easement by necessity over the neighbor’s land but the court found the traditional requirements for such an easement to be lacking. Since the parcel had not become landlocked when severed from the neighboring land there was no basis for imposing an obligation on that neighbor to create an easement for access to the roads. Nor did the owner obtain a prescriptive easement because access to the land had been by permission. No claim was made for a constructive trust or easement by estoppel, alternative theories that might have been relevant if the owner of the servient estate had induced the owner of the landlocked parcel to invest in reliance on the easement. The implication of the case may be that the owner should have received a greater amount of just compensation at the time of the exercise of the eminent domain power given the landlocked nature of the property. Clifton v. Wilkinson, 748 S.E.2d 372 (Va. 2013).

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Tribal sovereign immunity precludes tax foreclosure action against tribe

August 3rd, 2014 by Joseph William Singer

The Supreme Court’s recent reaffirmation of the long-standing rule that that Indian nations have sovereign immunity from suit in the absence of waiver by the tribe or abrogation by Congress, Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Cmty., 134 S.Ct. 2024 (2014),  led the Second Circuit to reaffirm its earlier decision to deny a county the power to foreclose on tribal land for failure to pay state property taxes. Cayuga Indian Nation v. Seneca Cnty., 2014 WL 3746795 (2d Cir. 2014). While having a right without a remedy would seem to render the right meaningless, the oddity of this situation can be attributed to the vagaries of federal Indian law and casts doubt on the wisdom of earlier decisions that authorized the state to tax tribal land. For the earlier Second Circuit decision, see Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y. v. Madison Cnty., 605 F.3d 149 (2d Cir. 2010), vacated, 131 S.Ct. 704 (2011). The Supreme Court decision holding that tribal land is subject to state taxes at least when it was held by non-Indians in fee simple and bought back by the tribe even if it is within the original borders of tribal territory and the cession of land was never lawfully ratified by statute or treaty. City of Sherrill, NY v. Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y., 544 U.S. 197 (2005).

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