of the Quiet Title Act. The authority to levy grazing fees depends upon ownership of the land. In order to decide who is entitled to assess and collect grazing fees, this Court would be required to decide who owns the unappropriated public lands in Otero County. Otero County's complaint must therefore stand or fall under the Quiet Title Act.
It falls. The Quiet Title Act provides a limited waiver of the sovereign immunity of the United States. It permits the United States to be named as a party defendant in a civil action "to adjudicate a disputed title to real property in which the United States claims an interest, other than a security interest or water rights." 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(a). Such an action, however, "shall be barred unless it is commenced within twelve years after the date upon which it accrued." 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(g). As this limitations period is a condition on the waiver of sovereign immunity, the Court's jurisdiction depends upon timely filing. Block, 461 U.S. at 282-83. Quiet title actions under the statute are deemed to accrue on "the date the plaintiff or his predecessor in interest knew or should have known of the claim of the United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(g).
Otero County does not deny that it has known of the federal government's claim to the lands for longer than twelve years before it filed the instant suit.
Otero County has thus failed to bring its claim against the United States within the Quiet Title Act's limitations period, and its cross-complaint must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
An order dismissing Otero's cross-complaint does not resolve the question of which party is entitled to the monies that are on deposit in the registry of the Court. The rancher plaintiffs do not press their suit, but Otero County argues that the interpleader action survives the dismissal of its counterclaim. The United States disagrees and, at oral argument, moved to dismiss the interpleader action.
An action in interpleader allows a party exposed to multiple claims on a single obligation or property to settle the controversy and satisfy his obligation in one proceeding. Commercial Union Ins. v. United States, 303 U.S. App. D.C. 33, 999 F.2d 581, 583 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Rule 22 interpleader does not enlarge the jurisdiction of the federal courts to entertain suits against the United States, however. United States v. Dry Dock Savings Institution, 149 F.2d 917 (2nd Cir. 1945).
The only function of Rule 22 in this suit is to force the defendants to litigate their competing claims to plaintiffs' grazing fees. As set forth above, however, Otero County's dispute with the United States is beyond this Court's subject matter jurisdiction. plaintiff's prayer for interpleader relief therefore cannot be granted, and plaintiff's complaint makes no claim directly against either defendant. The interpleader action accordingly fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and must be dismissed. F.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
The fees deposited in the registry of the Court will be returned to plaintiffs. An order accompanies this memorandum.
December 5, 1995
United States District Judge
For the reasons stated in the accompanying memorandum, it is this 5th day of December, 1995, ordered that
1. The United States' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment [#13] is granted.
2. Otero County's motion for summary judgment [#18] is denied.
3. The United States' oral motion to dismiss the complaint for interpleader is granted.
4. The Clerk is directed to return the funds paid into the registry of the Court.
United States District Judge