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KLK Inc. v. United States Department of Interior

filed: September 13, 1994.

KLK, INC., PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska. D.C. No. CV-92-00006-JKS. James K. Singleton, District Judge, Presiding.

Before: Harry Pregerson, William C. Canby, Jr., and Robert Boochever, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Boochever.

Author: Boochever

BOOCHEVER, Circuit Judge:

The Department of the Interior appeals interlocutorily from the district court's order that a plaintiff in an inverse condemnation action under the Mining in the Parks Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1901-12 (1988), is entitled to a jury determination of just compensation. We review the question of entitlement to a jury trial in a federal court de novo. SEC v. Rind, 991 F.2d 1486, 1493 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 372, 114 S. Ct. 439 (1993). We reverse.

BACKGROUND

KLK owned several unpatented mining claims in the Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The Department of the Interior ("DOI") effected a "taking" of five of KLK's claims in January 1992, when it did not approve KLK's mining plans of operation. Without approval of the plans, no mining operations can be conducted in the National Park System.

Pursuant to Section 11 of the Mining in the Parks Act ("MPA"), 16 U.S.C. § 1910, KLK brought an inverse condemnation*fn1 action against the DOI in the United States district court seeking just compensation for the five mining claims. The only issues in dispute were the dates on which the claims were taken and their fair market values. KLK sought a jury determination of "just compensation," and despite the DOI's attempts to strike KLK's jury demand, the district court ordered the issue of just compensation submitted to a jury. The DOI moved for certification of an interlocutory appeal of this order, and the district court certified the appeal. We permitted the appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) (1988).

Discussion

I

The MPA contains a congressional waiver of sovereign immunity. It entitles a party "who believes he has suffered a loss" by operation of the MPA, or regulations or orders issued pursuant to the MPA, to bring an inverse condemnation action in the United States district court to recover just compensation.*fn2 Before the enactment of § 1910, such an inverse condemnation action for any amount over $10,000 could be brought only in the Court of Federal Claims, pursuant to the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346, 1491 (1988). Thus, in enacting § 1910, the United States not only reaffirmed that it might properly be sued, it also further waived the condition that inverse condemnation suits for more than $10,000 could be brought only in the Court of Federal Claims. All claims arising under § 1910 may be brought in the district court, even if the suit involves an amount exceeding $10,000.

KLK contends that Congress's waiver of sovereign immunity in the MPA contained a grant of a right to a jury determination of just compensation. There is no general right to a trial by jury in actions against the federal government, however. Lehman v. Nakshian, 453 U.S. 156, 160, 69 L. Ed. 2d 548, 101 S. Ct. 2698 (1981). And when Congress waives sovereign immunity, that waiver "does not, by itself, grant a right to trial by jury." In re Young, 869 F.2d 158, 159 (2d Cir. 1989) (per curiam). Instead, a "plaintiff has a right to trial by jury only where that right is one of 'the terms of [the Government's] consent to be sued.'" Lehman, 453 U.S. at 160 (quoting United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 399, 47 L. Ed. 2d 114, 96 S. Ct. 948 (1976)). Congress typically has conditioned any waiver of sovereign immunity on the plaintiff's relinquishing any claim to a jury trial, and exceptions to such a condition may not be implied. Lehman, 453 U.S. at 161. See also Doe v. Attorney Gen. of the United States, 941 F.2d 780, 789 (9th Cir. 1991) ("the courts have consistently refused . . . to ignore a condition on a sovereign immunity waiver when the statute and legislative history either were silent or indicated congressional intent not to grant the right requested").

Thus, the Supreme Court has held that "since there is no generally applicable jury trial right that attaches when the United States consents to suit, the accepted principles of sovereign immunity require that a jury trial right be clearly provided in the legislation creating the cause of action." Lehman, 453 U.S. at 162 n.9. Accordingly, KLK has a right to a jury determination of just compensation only if Congress "clearly and unequivocally departed from its usual practice" and granted a right to a jury determination of just compensation. Id. at 162.*fn3

II

In determining whether Congress has made an exception to its traditional denial of jury trials in actions against the United States, we consider, as we do with any waiver of sovereign immunity, congressional intent "as manifested in the statute's language and legislative history." Doe, 941 F.2d at 788. Here, nowhere in the language of ยง 1910 or, indeed, anywhere in the MPA, is there any indication that Congress intended to provide a jury determination of just compensation. Section 1910 simply allows a plaintiff to bring an inverse condemnation action in the district court and states that just compensation "shall be awarded" if the court finds that a compensable taking occurred. Furthermore, the legislative history suggests that Congress intended the court, not a jury, to make ...


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