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SANTA FE PAC. R. CO. v. ICKES

DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


December 4, 1944

SANTA FE PAC. R. CO.
v.
ICKES, Secretary of the Interior, et al.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: PINE

PINE, Justice.

These are motions to dismiss, which were argued together. They raise similar questions of law and can be conveniently consolidated for decision.

Plaintiff prays in each case for a judgment enjoining defendants from rejecting selections of lands filed by it on the ground that they are barred by a release filed pursuant to Sec. 321(b) of the Transportation Act of 1940, 49 U.S.C.A. § 65, and directing defendants to determine the rights of plaintiff in said selections, without regard to the release.

 In Civil Action 23373 the facts alleged are briefly as follows: Plaintiff's predecessor in title acquired certain lands in New Mexico under the Act of July 27, 1866, 14 Stat. 292. *fn1"

 By deed dated December 18, 1911, plaintiff relinquished these lands to the United States under the Act of April 28, 1904, 33 Stat. 556. *fn2" On August 28, 1940, it exercised its rights of selection under the Statute last named, by selecting lands in lieu of the relinquished lands, and on December 18, 1940, while the selections were still pending, filed the release above mentioned.

 In Civil Action 23845 the facts alleged are briefly as follows: Plaintiff's predecessor in title acquired certain lands in Arizona under the Act of July 27, 1866, supra. By deeds dated November 27, 1916, and December 15, 1916, plaintiff relinquished these lands to the United States under the Act of June 22, 1874, 18 Stat. 194, 43 U.S.C.A. § 888. *fn3" On March 23, 1943, plaintiff exercised its rights of selection under the Statute last named, by selecting lands in lieu of the relinquished lands. On December 18, 1940, plaintiff filed the release above mentioned.

 The release filed by plaintiff pursuant to the Transportation Act of 1940 supra, stated that it "relinquishes, remises and quitclaims to the United States of America any and all claims of whatever description to lands, interests therein, compensation or reimbursement therefor on account of lands or interests granted, claimed to have been granted, or claimed should have been granted by any act of the Congress to Santa Fe Pacific Railroad Company or to any predecessor in interest in aid of the construction of any portion of its railroad."

 The Transportation Act of 1940, supra, in paragraph (a) of Section 321 thereof, makes certain concessions to carriers in the rates, fares, and charges applicable to the transportation of persons, property, and mail for the United States, and paragraph (b) thereof provides that:

 "If any carrier by railroad furnishing such transportation, or any predecessor in interest, shall have received a grant of lands from the United States to aid in the construction of any part of the railroad operated by it, the provisions of law with respect to compensation of such transportation shall continue to apply to such transportation as though subsection (a) of this section had not been enacted until such carrier shall file with the Secretary of the Interior, in the form and manner prescribed by him, a release of any claim it may have against the United States to lands, interests in lands, compensation, or reimbursement on account of lands or interests in lands which have been granted, claimed to have been granted, or which it is claimed should have been granted to such carrier or any such predecessor in interest under any grant to such carrier or such predecessor in interest as aforesaid."

 The issue therefore is whether the release embraces, and thereby extinguishes, the right to select lands in lieu of relinquished lands under the Acts of 1904 and 1874, supra, respectively.

 The release embraces any and all claims of whatever description to lands and interests therein granted by any Act of Congress to plaintiff or any predecessor in aid of the construction of any portion of its railroad. *fn4" Plaintiff's right to select lieu lands is a claim to lands, and this is not disputed. Plaintiff does contend, however, that it is not a claim to lands granted by any Act of Congress in aid of construction; that is, that the Acts of 1904 and 1874, supra, are not granting acts in aid of construction, and therefore that such claim is not included in the release.

 The Act of 1866, supra, under which plaintiff's predecessor acquired title to the lands relinquished, is concededly a granting act in aid of construction. *fn5" The Acts of 104 and 1874, supra, are supplemental to, and in legal effect amendatory of, the Act of 1866, supra. They made provision for the relief of settler who were found to be occupying the lands of the railroad company. They gave the railroad company the right to select equal quantities of lands in lieu of lands which they relinquished for the benefit of such settlers. They were measures found to be desirable by reason of unforeseen developments arising out of the operation of the railroad land grant acts. The plaintiff itself probably was not without selfish motive in the relinquishment of its lands, which tended to prevent an exodus of established settlers along its right of way who without conscious fault found themselves without title.

 As I perceive the intent of Congress, from the language of the statutes themselves, the lieu lands, when selected, were to be, so far as humanly possible, a counterpart of, and in substitution for, the original lands granted, and were to be lands granted by Congress in aid of construction, precisely as were the original lands. The Act of 1904, supra, gives the right to select public lands "of equal quality" and contemplates a substitution of section for section. The Act of 1874, supra, gives the right to select "an equal quantity of other lands in lieu thereof from any of the public lands not mineral and within the limits of the grant not otherwise appropriated at the date of selection, to which they [railroad grantees] shall receive title the same as though originally granted."

 The three Acts are each a part of the same legislative scheme and purpose to grant lands in aid of construction of railroads. The subsequent Acts are not independent granting Acts without relation to any other grant, but are clearly dependent upon, and supplemental to, the grant contained in the Act of 1866, supra, and provide for grants contingent upon the relinquishment of lands granted under such Act. In other words, the Acts of 1904 and 1874, supra, are, respectively, granting Acts in aid of construction when coupled, as they must be, with the Act of 1866, supra.

 The fact, as contended by plaintiff, that it gave a consideration, namely a deed to the lands relinquished, for the right to select others, does not make either of the Acts any less a grant. A railroad land grant is not a gift, but is a transfer of title to lands in return for the construction and operation of a railroad. *fn6" Nor, as urged by plaintiff, does the fact that plaintiff's rights are contractual *fn7" remove the applicable statutes from the category of granting statutes. *fn8"

 Under these circumstances, I am of the opinion that these unperfected rights of plaintiff to select lieu lands are claims to lands granted by Acts of Congress to plaintiff in aid of the construction of its railroad, and are therefore within the scope of, and extinguished by, the release, which was given in pursuance of an apparent Congressional purpose to wipe the slate clean of such claims by any railroad which enjoyed the benefits of the rate concessions made by the Transportation Act of 1940.

 The motion to dismiss will therefore be granted. Counsel will prepared and submit on notice order in accordance herewith.


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