Foust v. Lujan

942 F.2d 712 (1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 984 (1992)

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Foust v. Lujan

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
942 F.2d 712 (1991), cert. denied, 503 U.S. 984 (1992)

Facts

The Homestead Act and corresponding laws regarding homestead claims provided a method by which individuals could legally enter and acquire title to public lands by occupying and making improvements to the land. In 1929, Byron Smith filed homestead-entry applications for land in Wyoming that was referred to as NE 1/4 SE 1/4. Smith had built a house, a garage, and other buildings on the land believed to be NE 1/4 SE 1/4. In 1936, the United States issued Smith a land patent for the land. In 1942, the United States granted all public lands that had not been granted to private parties to certain Indian tribes. In 1963, Oliver Foust (plaintiff) acquired NE 1/4 SE 1/4 from Smith’s widow. After the area was resurveyed in 1979, Foust learned that the property on which the buildings were situated, which was referred to as NE 1/4 SE 1/4 in the land patent, was actually SW 1/4 NE 1/4. In 1982, Foust applied for a correction to the land patent. In reality, the local Indian tribes had legal title to SW 1/4 NE 1/4 and opposed the correction. The land that was referred to in the land patent, NE 1/4 SE 1/4, was not suitable for building because of its topography. The Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved Foust’s application. The Indian tribes appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (board), which reversed BLM’s decision. The district court upheld the board’s decision, finding that corrections of a land patent based on a mistake were permissible only for land that was legally available for entry by homesteaders, which did not include Indian land. Foust appealed, arguing that the requirement that land be legally available for entry no longer applied because the United States Congress had removed such a requirement when it amended the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (land-management act).

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Logan, J.)

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