United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
DEBORAH S. GROH, et al., Plaintiffs,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, et al., Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
INJUNCTION TO PROTECT THE COURT'S JUDGMENT
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE
is Defendants Jackson County, Missouri, and Jackson County,
Missouri d/b/a Rock Island Rail Corridor Authority's
Motion for Injunction to Protect the Court's Judgment.
Doc. #31. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion
Deborah Groh; DJJHS Enterprises, LLC; JHB & MEB
Enterprises, LLC; Dawn Wells; David Wells; Current Properties
Investments LLC; and Nephrite Fund 1, LLC filed a Petition in
the Circuit Court of Jackson County in July 2017 against
Defendants Jackson County, Missouri; Jackson County, Missouri
d/b/a Rock Island Corridor Authority (“RICA”);
and Union Pacific Railroad Company. Doc. #1-2, at 4-12
(hereinafter, Groh I). In the Petition, Plaintiffs,
who are landowners owning fee title in land adjacent to a
railroad right-of-way, challenged the legality of Jackson
County's use of the railroad line and corridor located
between Milepost 270.6 North of Greenwood, Missouri, and
Milepost 288.3 in Jackson County. Union Pacific previously
acquired an easement over and through Plaintiffs'
property for railroad purposes. The rail line is out of
service and has no customers.
December 2015, Jackson County filed a Verified Notice of
Exemption with the Surface and Transportation Board
(“STB”) to permit RICA to acquire from Union
Pacific and operate the rail line described above. The STB
granted Jackson County the exemption. Jackson County, Mo.
- Acquisition & Operation Exemption - Union Pac. R.R.
Co., Fin. Dkt. No. 35982, 2015 WL 9672626, at * 1 n.1
(S.T.B. Jan. 8, 2016). The exemption was served and published
in the Federal Register and scheduled to become effective on
January 22, 2016. Jackson County, Mo. - Acquisition &
Operation Exemption - Union Pac. R.R. Co., Fin. Dkt. No.
35982, 2016 WL 454035, at * 1 (S.T.B. Feb. 4, 2016). In April
2016, Union Pacific, through a quit claim deed, transferred
to Jackson County the 17.7 miles of rail line between
Milepost 270.6 North of Greenwood, Missouri, and Milepost
288.3 in Jackson County.
their Petition, Plaintiffs alleged Defendants
“improperly and illegally invaded and clouded
Plaintiffs' fee ownership in their land associated with
the right-of-way.” Plaintiffs also claimed Union
Pacific abandoned the easement, and as a result, Plaintiffs
regained the right to use and possess their property free of
any easement. Plaintiffs also alleged Union Pacific was not
authorized to transfer any interest to Jackson County. They
further asserted “Defendants failed to make a formal
request to the Surface and Transportation Board
(“STB”) for a Notice of Interim Trail Use
(“NITU”) which authorizes the interim trail use
and railbanks the railroad right-of-way under 16 U.S.C.
[§] 1247(d) (“Trails Act”).”
Plaintiffs also maintained claims of inverse condemnation,
trespass, and quiet title, and sought monetary damages.
September 2017, the matter was removed to this Court,
alleging this Court had original jurisdiction over
Plaintiffs' claims because the claims necessarily and
explicitly turned on substantial and disputed issues of
federal law. Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs'
claims arguing they were preempted, and Plaintiffs'
challenge to Union Pacific's transfer of the rail line
for recreational purposes failed because they failed to
challenge the STB's decision granting an exemption.
December 1, 2017, the Court granted Defendants' motion to
dismiss. Doc. #29. The Court found Plaintiffs' state law
claims were preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission
Termination Act of 1995 (“ICCTA”) because
Plaintiffs' claims related to whether the rail line was
abandoned, and the STB has exclusive authority over
determinations regarding, among other things, abandonment of
rail lines. Id. at 4-7. The Court also dismissed
Plaintiffs' collateral attack on the STB's decision
because they did not challenge the STB's decision, and
even if they had, only the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals
would have jurisdiction to review such a decision.
Id. at 7-8. Because the Court lacked jurisdiction,
it granted Defendants' motion to dismiss. No. one
appealed the Court's decision.
January 2018, the same Plaintiffs filed another lawsuit in
the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, against
Defendants Jackson County and RICA. Doc. #31-4 (hereinafter,
Groh II). In June 2019, after Groh II had
been pending for roughly eighteen months, Defendants filed a
motion in the matter pending before this Court, arguing
Plaintiffs are asserting the same claims in Groh II
that were previously litigated in Groh I, and asking
the Court to issue a preliminary and permanent injunction
preventing Plaintiffs from prosecuting any further actions
against Jackson County based on the same injury. Doc. #31.
Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion. Doc. #35. On
July 26, 2019, Defendants filed their reply. Doc. #36.
days after Defendants' motion became fully briefed,
Plaintiffs filed a notice of supplemental authority. Doc.
#37. Plaintiff provided the Court with a decision issued by
the STB on July 31, 2019, wherein the STB revoked Jackson
County's exemption to acquire and operate the former
railroad right-of-way at issue. Doc. #37-1.
The Board found in the February 2016 Decision that the
County's original plan to potentially build a trail in
the right-of-way of the Line and the County's statement
that it had no plans to remove track for the trail were
consistent with its stated intention also to acquire and
operate a line of railroad meant for freight rail service.
The County's recent activity, however, is incompatible
with that stated intention on which the February 2016
Decision was based. By removing the track and placing the
trail directly on the rail bed, where the track previously
was, the County has taken a step that is contrary to the
acquisition of a rail line. If the County intends to remove
the track and place a trail on the rail bed, then the County
should do so by using the Board's interim trail
use/railbanking procedures under the Trails Act. See
49 C.F.R. § 1152.29.
Doc. #37-1, at 1-2. The STB made “no findings on the
claims that the County…violated other state or local
law as part of the County's acquisition of the
right-of-way. Those matters…are better suited for a
state forum.” Doc. #37-1, at 7. The STB further noted,
“although the Landowners claim that the Line was
abandoned under Missouri state law, it is well settled that
the Board has exclusive and plenary authority over the
abandonment of rail lines.” Id. Since the
supplemental authority was filed, neither party requested
leave to supplement their briefing on the pending
Writs Act provides that this Court “may issue all writs
necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective
jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of
law.” 28 U.S.C. § 1651. The All Writs Act has also
been interpreted as allowing a court to “issue such
commands under the All Writs Act as may be necessary or
appropriate to effectuate and prevent the frustration of
orders it has previously issued in its exercise of
jurisdiction otherwise obtained.” United States v.
N.Y. Tel. Co.,434 U.S. 159, 172 (1977). The authority
imparted to this Court under the All Writs Act is limited by
the Anti-Injunction Act (“AIA”). See SFM
Holdings, Ltd. v. Banc of Am. Secs., LLC, 764 F.3d 1327,
1334-35 (11th Cir. 2014); In re Sprint Premium Data Plan
Mktg. & Sales Practices Litig., 563 Fed.Appx. 221,
224 (3d Cir. 2014); United States v. Schurkman, 728
F.3d 129, 135 (2d Cir. 2013); In re Life Inv'rs Ins.
Co. of Am., 589 F.3d 319, 330 ...