Once again, President Joe Biden and his administration have done an irresponsible act by damaging the people’s property and privacy, who are residing on the service road of heavily wooded areas.
Larry ‘Wil’ Wilkins and Jane Stanton are two property owners on the service road of Bitterroot National Forest in Montana. Wil is a 72 years old American veteran and a blacksmith by profession. He is also going through post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jane lives alone on her property, as she lost her husband back in 2013.
The land where Jane and Wil live is a passage for the visitors to the forest. According to laws, only limited pass holders were allowed to enter the forest, Jane and Wil were satisfied with that limited number of people trespassing through their private land. They were living peacefully but the Biden administration ruined their peaceful environment by making the forest road public.
“Justices appeared skeptical of the Justice Department’s argument that property owners couldn’t bring a case against the government because of a 12-year limit on when a lawsuit could be filed. The case, Wilkins v. United States, involves a road leading to the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, on which the Forest Service had an easement allowing for public access,” as reported by the SCOTUS Blog.
“But two property owners say it was rarely used for that purpose until the agency in 2006 posted a sign on the road — ‘public access thru private lands’ — that attracted more visitors, who trespassed on their land and, in one instance, shot an owner’s cat. Assistant to the Solicitor General Ben Snyder took some of the most spirited questioning, including from Justice Elena Kagan, who dove into the government’s interpretation of drive-by statements in past cases to argue that the 12-year statute of limitations should preclude the complaint,” the outlet further added.
“Unless we have a clear statement that that was what was litigated, why would we try to give stare decisis to issues that weren’t identified by the court?” Kagan asked Snyder.
The report also stated:
But landowners Larry “Wil” Wilkins and Jane Stanton, represented by the property rights-focused law shop Pacific Legal Foundation, faced skepticism too, including from Chief Justice John Roberts, who pointed to a case earlier this year — Boechler v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, which dealt with tax document deadlines — that suggested, “12 years is 12 years, and you don’t get beyond that” in bringing legal action.
The government argues that a federal law called the Quiet Title Act puts a 12-year limit on lawsuits against the government for using or modifying a property. Lower courts agreed, but the case’s elevation to the high court suggests it’s not clear Congress intended to make the 12-year limit so tight in every situation.
Prior owners of the land had negotiated an easement with the Forest Service in 1962, and the government has said the new owners — who came along in 1990 and 2004 — should have been aware of the government’s claim. The property owners sued in 2018, saying the Forest Service’s placement of the sign in 2006 essentially reset the clock on the statute of limitations.
The Pacific Legal Foundation’s attorney, Jeffrey McCoy has claimed that his clients hold a strong position on this case which is why they should be given a hearing so that the timing issues related to the case can be figured out.
“With its focus on the Quiet Title Act — rather than the Forest Service specifically — the case could affect many other similar disputes in the future, lawyers have said. Legally, a question facing the court is whether the case is jurisdictional — meaning the limit applies — or non-jurisdictional,” the outlet added.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson cautioned McCoy that depending on the court’s decision on what’s considered jurisdictional, nearly identical sections of different statutes could end up with different meanings.
“That seems to me a really messy and odd way,” Jackson stated.
In questioning Snyder, liberal Justice Sotomayor took issue with the government’s interpretation of past cases and suggested the administration’s lawyer was attaching significance in places where it didn’t belong — a point Snyder said he disagreed with.
Justice Neil Gorsuch told Snyder that the Supreme Court has cautioned against reading legal opinions as legislative statutes, saying the two are not to be viewed as synonymous.
The US government has ownership of more than half of the land in the west. So there always were some chances that the civilians of that area and the government could get into a clash regarding their disputed property, hence the government introduced the Quite Title Act ( QTA ). This law ensures that the rights of civilians are secured and they can file a case against the government considering their land issues.
Wil and Jane both used this act for their land, and if not heard neutrally their last hope for peace would be gone as well as their trust in the American justice system. The Biden administration should think twice before taking any drastic action, as their endeavors mostly end up hurting the Americans.