from the United States Court of Federal Claims in Nos.
1:00-cv-00512-MBH, 1:11-cv-00775-MBH, Judge Marian Blank
Ralph White, White Andrews, LLC, Oxford, MS, argued for
plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by Sharon Andrews,
Bruce Alan Baker, Jr., White, Andrews & Shackelford, LLC,
New Orleans, LA; EDMUND Michael Amorosi, Smith, Pachter,
McWhorter, PLC, Tysons Corner, VA; D. Joe Smith, Jenner &
Block LLP, Washington, DC.
KATHERINE J. BARTON, Environment and Natural Resources
Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington,
DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Represented by John
Cruden, Brian C. Toth.
Prost, Chief Judge, Clevenger, and Reyna, Circuit Judges.
Clevenger, Circuit Judge.
L.L.C. appeals the decision of the United States Court of
Federal Claims to dismiss its claims for permanent takings,
temporary takings, judicial takings, and breach of contract
by the United States ("United States" or "the
Government"). The Court of Federal Claims dismissed
Petro-Hunt's permanent takings claims, contract claims,
and some temporary takings claims under the statute of
limitations. Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United States, 90
Fed. CI. 51 (2009) C Petro-Hunt F). The Court of
Federal Claims subsequently held that the remaining temporary
takings claims were barred by 28 U.S.C. § 1500.
Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United States, 105 Fed. CI. 37
(2012) ('Petro-Hunt IF). And, because
Petro-Hunt's judicial takings claim would require the
Court of Federal Claims to question the merits of the Fifth
Circuit's decision regarding the same servitudes asserted
in the instant case, the Court of Federal Claims held it also
lacked jurisdiction over those claims. Petro-Hunt, L.L.C.
v. United States, 126 Fed. CI. 367 (2016)
('Petro-Hunt III'). Because we agree with
the Court of Federal Claims' reasons for its dismissal of
Petro-Hunt's claims, we affirm.
facts of this case are generally undisputed and are set forth
in the Court of Federal Claims' multiple decisions.
See Petro-Hunt I, 90 Fed. CI. at 53-57. We recite
here the facts pertinent to the issues before us.
claims relate to ninety-six mineral servitudes underlying
roughly 180, 000 acres of the Kisatchie National Forest in
Louisiana ("Kisatchie"). Under Louisiana law, the
right to enter land and extract minerals can be held
separately from ownership of the land in the form of a
mineral servitude. Petro-Hunt I, 90 Fed. CI. at 53.
Such servitudes generally prescribe (i.e., revert back to the
landowner) if not used for a period of ten years.
Id. This ten-year rule of prescription cannot be
modified by contract. Id.
1932 and 1934, the original owners of the relevant
servitudes, Bodcaw Lumber Company and Grant Timber Company,
transferred six mineral conveyances, resulting in ninety-six
servitudes, to Good Pine Oil. Each of these six deeds
conveying mineral rights to Good Pine Oil contained a clause
contemplating that a ten-year prescriptive period would
apply. From 1934 to 1937, Bodcaw and Grant conveyed, through
eleven written instruments, 180, 000 acres of land, burdened
by ninety-six mineral servitudes in favor of Good Pine Oil,
to the United States. All but one of the eleven transfer
instruments explicitly stated that the conveyances were
subject to one or more of the mineral deeds granting rights
to Good Pine Oil.
1940, the Louisiana legislature enacted Act 315 of 1940, 1940
La. Acts 1250 ("Act 315"). Act 315 created an exception
to Louisiana's law of prescription and retroactively
confirmed that all outstanding, but not yet prescribed
mineral rights reserved in land sold to the United States,
were now imprescriptible, so long as the United States
remained the landowner.
1941, Good Pine Oil transferred its mineral rights to William
C. Brown. One year later, Brown transferred his mineral
rights to Nebo Oil Company. Based on Act 315, Nebo Oil
believed it had acquired imprescriptible mineral servitudes.
1948, the United States filed a declaratory judgment against
Nebo Oil, claiming that Nebo's mineral rights to an 800
acre tract of land had prescribed to the Government due to
non-use. The district court ruled that Act 315 was
retroactive and thus Nebo Oil owned the mineral property in
perpetuity. United States v. Nebo Oil Co., 90
F.Supp. 73, 89 (W.D. La. 1950). On appeal, the Fifth Circuit
agreed, holding that Nebo Oil's mineral rights to that
specific tract were imprescriptible. United States v.
Nebo Oil Co., 190 F.2d 1003, 1010 (5th Cir. 1951)
1973, the Supreme Court decided United States v. Little
Lake Misere Land Co., 412 U.S. 580 (1973). The Court
held that Act 315 could not be applied retroactively to
outstanding mineral interests in land acquired by the United
States under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, 45 Stat.
1222, 16 U.S.C. §§ 715-715s. Id. at 595.
It reasoned that retroactive application of Act 315 would
deprive the United States of "bargained-for contractual
interests" by abrogating the terms of the acquisition
instruments relating to prescription and thus was
"plainly hostile to the interests of the United
States." Id. at 597. Notably, the Court did not
overrule Nebo Oil and distinguished its facts.
Id. at 586.
1980s, relying on the Court's decision in Little Lake
Misere, the Government, through the Bureau of Land
Management ("BLM"), began to issue mineral leases
on Petro-Hunt's mineral property. While the parties
disagree as to the exact timing of these leases (and even as
to the number thereof), it appears that the majority of them
were granted beginning in 1991, with more than forty-five
leases made from that year up to the beginning of this
lawsuit. Each lease was for a period of ten years.
1990s, owners of the mineral servitudes disputed the
Government's issuance of leases on their mineral
property. In response, in 1991, the Forest Service informed
BLM, in a letter on which Hunt Petroleum (a co-owner of the
relevant servitudes) was copied, that all but two of the
mineral servitudes had prescribed and were now owned by the
United States. The letter cited a 1986 U.S. Department of
Agriculture legal opinion indicating that the United States
had ownership of the servitudes on all parcels acquired
before the enactment of Act 315 and on which no wells had
been drilled. In 1993, BLM responded to another protest by
Hunt Petroleum in a letter to Hunt and Placid Oil, its
co-owner at the relevant time, by citing a title report
indicating that the servitudes had prescribed to the United
States. In 1998, Petro-Hunt acquired Placid Oil's 64.3%
undivided interest in the servitudes and thus owns the
mineral servitudes at issue in this case as a successor in
1996, Central Pines Land Company and other holders of mineral
servitudes brought an action against the government and
lessees under mineral leases granted by the government,
seeking declaratory relief and to quiet title in the
servitudes. Central Pines Land Co. v. United States,
No. 2:96-cv-02000 (W.D. La. filed Aug. 22, 1996). Like those
at issue in this case and in Nebo Oil, the mineral
servitudes in Central Pines were on property
acquired by the United States for Kisatchie prior to Act
315's enactment. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit held that
Act 315 could not provide the federal rule of decision
because, as in Little Lake Misere, it was hostile to
the United States' interests in "obtaining the
mineral rights via the default rule of prescription in place
before Act 315." Central Pines Land Co. v. United
States, 274 F.3d 881, 891 (5th Cir. 2001). Instead, the
court held that the ten-year prescriptive period of residual
(pre-Act 315) Louisiana law should govern the case and
thereby concluded that the servitudes on Kisatchie lands had
prescribed for non-use. Id. at 892, 894. The Supreme
Court denied Central Pines's petition for a writ of
certiorari. Central Pines Land Co. v. United States,
537 U.S. 822 (2002). While summary judgment motions were
pending in the district court, Central Pines had filed a
complaint in the Court of Federal Claims, alleging a taking
in violation of the Fifth Amendment based on the same facts
alleged in its district court complaint. Central Pines
Land Co. v. United States, 99 Fed. CI. 394 (2011). This
court affirmed the Court of Federal Claims' dismissal of
Central Pines's taking claims for lack of jurisdiction
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1500. Central Pines Land Co.
v. United States, 697 F.3d 1360, 1367 (Fed. Cir. 2012).
February 18, 2000, Petro-Hunt and others not party to the
current action filed suit against the Government in the
United States District Court for the Western District of
Louisiana. Complaint, Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United
States, 179 F.Supp.2d 669 (W.D. La. 2001) (No.
OO-cv-0303), ECF No. 1 (the "Quiet Title Action").
Petro-Hunt alleged it was the owner of all aforementioned
ninety-six mineral servitudes under the theory that Act 315
and the Nebo Oil decision had rendered them
imprescriptible. It further alleged that starting in 1991,
the United States, claiming ownership over the mineral
rights, wrongfully granted a series of oil and gas leases
covering the property in interest. Based on these factual
allegations, Petro-Hunt filed for a declaratory judgment
under 28 U.S.C. § 2409a to quiet title to the property.
In the alternative, it alleged an unconstitutional taking
without just compensation in violation of the Fifth
2001, the district court granted summary judgment in
Petro-Hunt's favor and ruled that Nebo Oil
precluded the United States from litigating title to the
ninety-six mineral servitudes, which the court held
Petro-Hunt owned in perpetuity. Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v.
United States, 179 F.Supp.2d 669 (W.D. La. 2001).
However, in 2004, the Fifth Circuit reversed the district
court, holding that res judicata applied only to the mineral
rights in the 800-acre parcel described in Nebo Oil.
Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United States, 365 F.3d 385,
396-97 (5th Cir. 2004). It found that Petro-Hunt's
remaining mineral property was subject to the contractual
provisions permitting prescription after ten years of
non-use. Id. at 398-99. The Fifth Circuit remanded
the case to the district court for it to determine whether
any of the servitudes had prescribed. The Supreme Court
denied Petro-Hunt's petition for writ of certiorari.
Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United States, 543 U.S. 1034
2005, the parties stipulated that five servitudes,
representing approximately 109, 844 acres, still existed due
to use, but that the remainder had prescribed. So the
district court issued a judgment that Petro-Hunt was the
owner of those five servitudes, now subject to the law of
prescription, and 800 acres of the 1120 acre Nebo
Oil servitude, which remained imprescriptible. Quiet
Title Action, ECF No. 228. It additionally found that ninety
servitudes and the remaining 320 acres of the Nebo
Oil servitude had prescribed to the United States.
Id. at 2-3. In 2007, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the
district court's order. Petro-Hunt, L.L.C. v. United
States, No. ...