Liberals unite with Trump Supreme Court nominees in decision against federal land grab

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The Supreme Court is seen on Election Day in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib)

Liberals unite with Trump Supreme Court nominees in decision against federal land grab

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Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the court’s three liberal members, was joined in her majority opinion by three appointees of former President Donald Trump in siding with Montana property owners who sought to cut away attempts at federal land grabs.

The 6-3 ruling allows a pair of Montana landowners to resume their battle against the Forest Service after it supposedly altered the terms of access to a road that intersects their property near the Bitterroot National Forest. The majority held that landowners Larry “Wil” Wilkins and Jane Stanton did not surpass the statutory deadline for the challenge.


The justices were tasked to examine the nature of the Quiet Title Act’s statute of limitations in a case involving the remote roads in Montana. The government moved to dismiss the petitioners’ QTA claims on the basis that it was barred by the act’s 12-year statute of limitations.

The decision effectively reverses the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s decision to affirm a district court’s dismissal of the landowners’ claims, stating that QTA’s 12-year statute of limitations is a “nonjurisdictional claims-processing rule.” The case was remanded to the 9th Circuit for further proceedings.

The case, Wilkins v. United States, specifically pertains to a road the Forest Service had an easement for allowing public access. But the plaintiffs argued it was rarely used for that purpose until the agency erected a sign in 2006 stating “public access thru private lands.” The sign led to more visitors to the road, and property owners said there were trespassers who stole their property and claimed that one of them shot Wilkins’s cat.

With the help of Trump-appointed Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Neil Gorsuch, the Tuesday decision marks a continuation of a string of opinions released so far this year with liberal Justices Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ketanji Brown Jackson in the majority.


Justice Clarence Thomas, an appointee of former President George H. W. Bush, led a lengthy dissent against the majority decision that was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two appointees of former President George W. Bush.

“The Quiet Title Act’s statute of limitations functions as a condition on a waiver of sovereign immunity, and is therefore jurisdictional,” Thomas wrote in his summary.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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