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Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v United States

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: March 10, 2014
Case #: 12-1173
ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, GINSBURG, BREYER, ALITO, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. SOTOMAYOR, J., filed a dissenting opinion.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1173_nlio.pdf

Property Law: The right of way granted under the Right-of-Way Act of 1875 is an easement and thus, when abandoned by the Railroad, the easement is terminated.

Petitioners own an area of land, and they claim the property interest granted to railroad companies over their land is an easement, under the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, that has since been abandoned. Petitioner claims that he would thus now own the land in fee simple. The Government, the Respondent, claims that the United States has retained an "implied reversionary interest" in the land, and therefore the Petitioner does not own the land in fee simple.

The Supreme Court held that the land interest given under the Right-of-Way Act of 1875 is an easement, and therefore the land at issue in this case has been abandoned and now owned in fee simple by the Petitioners. The court relied on previous positions of the Government in other cases under the Right-of-Way Act of 1875 in which the Government argued that the land interest given under the act was simply an easement.