United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division
L. Christensen, Chief District Judge.
States Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch entered his
Findings and Recommendations in this case on April 6, 2018,
recommending that Defendant Mineral County's Motion for
Summary Judgment be granted and Plaintiff Joan Aarestad's
("Aarestad") claim for attorney's fees be
denied. Aarestad timely filed objections to the findings and
recommendations. Consequently, Aarestad is entitled to de
novo review of those findings and recommendations to which he
specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). This
Court reviews for clear error those findings and
recommendations to which no party objects. See McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Commodore Bus. Mach., Inc., 656 F.2d
1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1981); Thomas v. Am, 474 U.S.
140, 149 (1985). Clear error exists if the Court is left with
a "definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been
committed." United States v. Syrax, 235 F.3d
422, 427 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations omitted).
case is about the ownership of a road strip, which is a
separate tract of land not included in Lots 1 or 2 of the
plat of Two River's Acreage being a sub-division in
Gov't Lots 8, 9 12 Sec. 19, T18N, R27W, P.MM, Mineral
County Montana (hereafter "Two Rivers Road").
The remaining claims in the Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 86)
against Mineral County are: Claim 1, Quiet Title Against
Mineral County; Claim 2, Quiet Title Against Mineral County;
and Claim 7, Declaration of Portion of Two Rivers Road North
Running over Lots 1 and 2 as Private.
County moved for summary judgment on all counts. (Doc. 105.)
In November 2017, Aarestad petitioned Mineral County to
abandon the subject road and to vacate its public use. (Doc.
106-3.) Mineral County granted Aarestad's petition by
county resolution entered January 12, 2018. (Id.)
Thus, Mineral County argues all of Aarestad's claims are
subject to dismissal as moot. Aarestad opposes the Motion and
argues that summary judgment should be denied.
Lynch found that because Mineral County's Resolution
granting Aarestad's petition will abandon and vacate the
public use of the subject road, and transfer title to Two
Rivers Road to Aarestad, there is no further live case or
controversy and all claims related to Mineral County are
moot. Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County, 863 F.3d
1144, 1155 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). Judge Lynch
further found that, despite the mootness, Aarestad's
argument related to there still being a live controversy due
to the uncertainty of Mineral County's legal authority
over the road is without merit. Judge Lynch recommends that
the Court take judicial notice that Mineral County never
held, and does not presently hold, fee title to the subject
road. (Doc. 109 at 6-7 (citing Doc. 106 at 8, 12 and 17, Doc.
108 at 2).) The Court has discretion to treat a party's
statements made in a brief as judicial admissions binding
upon the party. Gospel Missions of America v. City of Los
Angeles, 328 F.3d 548, 557 (9th Cir. 2003); American
Title Ins. Co. v. Lacelaw Corp., 861 F.2d 224, 226-27
(9th Cir. 1988). Finally, Judge Lynch recommends that
Aarestad's claims for an award of her attorney's fees
should be denied for lack of jurisdiction because there no
longer exists an actual case or controversy relative to the
claims asserted in the Third Amended Complaint.
objects to three findings: (1) Mineral County has no fee
interest in Two Rivers Road (Doc 106 at 8, 12, and 17); (2)
Two Rivers Road is not a County Road (Doc. 106-3); and (3)
Mineral County's resolution transferred title to
Plaintiff. (Doc. 109 at 1-4). Aarestad further objects to two
recommendations: (1) Mineral County's motion for summary
judgment be granted and Aarestad's claims in counts 1, 2,
and 7 against Mineral County should be dismissed as moot; (2)
Aarestad's claim for her attorney's fees should be
denied for lack of jurisdiction.
Court adopts Judge Lynch's Findings in full. Aarestad has
offered no evidence to dispute the facts alleged and
judicially noticed by Judge Lynch pursuant to Local Rule
72.3. The only evidence offered is legal authority to support
her claim that Mineral County owns fee simple title to Two
Rivers Road and that it is a county road. For support, she
relies on Mineral Cty. v. Hyde, 111 P.2d 284, 285
(Mont. 1941), and Mont. Code Ann § 60-1-201. However,
Hyde does not support her position because it
involves the intent behind the dedication for public use,
which is not at issue here. Further, Mont. Code Ann §
60-1-201(2) merely sets forth the classification of highways
and roads. Subsection (3) states that "county roads are
those that are opened, established, constructed, maintained,
changed, abandoned, or discontinued by a county.. . ."
Aarestad has offered no evidence in her objection to suggest
that Mineral County indeed managed and maintained the road at
issue, nor any evidence that would contradict the admissions
of Mineral County that they do not own the road. Finally, the
Court has read the Resolution (Doc. 106-3) and it is clear
that the transfer of the road "shall become effective
when [Aarestad] submits a survey or amended plat adequate for
recording together with all the fees and cost, to the Mineral
County Planning Office for review by the Mineral County
Surveyor and then to the Mineral County Clerk and
Recorder." (Doc. 106-3 at 3-4.) Aarestad has not
provided the Court with any indication that she has taken the
necessary steps to acquire ownership of Two Rivers Road.
Thus, transfer has occurred and it is now Aarestad's
burden to fulfil the final obligations of the Resolution.
Court also adopts Judge Lynch's Recommendations. Aarestad
claims that because the transfer of ownership of Two Rivers
Road has yet to be completed pursuant to the Resolution, that
a live controversy still exists. Aarestad seems to be
particularly cautious that Mineral County may back out of its
Resolution. (Doc. 111 at 5.) Yet again, the plain reading of
the last paragraph of the Resolution indicates that it is
Aarestad's burden to ensure the Resolution is effective,
and she has not offered any evidence that she has assumed
that responsibility or that Mineral County is acting contrary
to the terms of the Resolution.
also relies on Bishop, arguing that since she is not
giving up her right to question Mineral County's
ownership of Two Rivers Road, a live controversy still
exists, (Doc. 111 at 7-8 (citing Bishop, 863 F.3d at
1155)), and contends that the Court should revise its
previous ruling that denied Plaintiffs Motion for Partial
Summary Judgment (Doc. 110.) Aarestad continues to fail to
acknowledge the Resolution. Mineral County transferred the
portions of Two Rivers Road North that bisect Lots 1 and 2,
to the ownerships of Lots 1 and 2. Thus, Aarestad is now the
rightful owner of Two Rivers Road and it is no longer
dedicated to public use. The Resolution resolves all issues
related to Mineral County's ownership in the road strip
at issue here. The Court agrees with Judge Lynch that no case
or controversy exists, and that the Court now lacks
jurisdiction for the claim for attorney's fees.
IT IS ORDERED that Judge Lynch's Findings and
Recommendations (Doc. 109) are ADOPTED IN FULL. Defendant
Mineral County's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 105)
FURTHER ORDERED that no claims remain and this case is
CLOSED. All further deadlines and the trial date set for July
30, 2018 are VACATED.
FURTHER ORDERED that Plaintiffs Motion to Vacate Pretrial
Conference and Trial Date (Doc. 113) is ...