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Major Jurisdictional Ruling; Arizona Land Dispute

Major Jurisdictional Ruling; Arizona Land Dispute

The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona has decided an arcane legal principal in Domina Law Group's client’s favor.

When an Arizona crop farmer rented under developed land from the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), he embarked expensive improvements designed to make the property first rate, first class crop land.

But a year or two into his project, the U.S. BIA abruptly removed a critical bridge providing ingress and egress across a large irrigational canal. This was the farmer’s only way into his fields and out with his crops.

With no bridge, the farmer was out of business. He had no choice but to seek bankruptcy relief. The only way out of bankruptcy for the farmer was to seek redress for removal of the bridge. Domina Law Group was hired to sue the federal government. Papers were filed claiming the government had wrongly condemned the bridge, and farm. This touched off a jurisdictional dispute with little guiding precedent to help the Court decide it.

Domina Law Group and its client want the case tried in Arizona. The government prefers a trial in the District of Columbia. Government attorneys tried to move the case to Washington. They claimed only the U.S. Federal Claims Court – a special Court for disputes with the government- could hear the farmer’s inverse condemnation suit.

Domina Law Group argued otherwise. Domina Law Group contends jurisdiction is properly in Arizona because the farmer was forced into U.S. Bankruptcy Court there. This, DLGpc argued, entitles the farmer to have his case decided at home in Arizona, and by a jury.

The farmer prevailed in the Bankruptcy Court. Now, the U.S. District Judge has agreed, holding that bankruptcy jurisdiction trumps court of claims jurisdiction despite the fact that both courts have statutory provisions declaring that their jurisdiction over certain disputes is “original and exclusive.”

For the farmer, this means trial at home, and a playing field he perceives as more level, and fairer, than he would have confronted in Washington, D.C.

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