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Leo Sheep Co. v. United States

United States Supreme Court
440 U.S. 668 (1979)


Facts

The Union Pacific Railroad (the railroad) was granted land by the United States (defendant) in exchange for completing sections of a transcontinental railroad. Pursuant to the Union Pacific Act of 1862, the railroad was granted alternating sections of land within 10 miles of either side of the railroad tracks in Carbon County, Wyoming. The Leo Sheep Company (Leo) (plaintiff) and the Palm Livestock Company (Palm) (plaintiff) became successors in fee to specific sections of land that lay to the east and south of the Seminoe Reservoir. The reservoir was open to the public for fishing and hunting but could only be accessed from the south and east by traveling over these privately owned parcels of land. The federal government attempted to negotiate access through these parcels of land but could not reach an agreement. Subsequently, the federal government cleared a dirt road through the land and erected signs inviting the public to use the road to access the reservoir. Leo and Palm sued the federal government to quiet title as to those parcels of land. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Leo and Palm. The federal government appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which reversed. Leo and Palm petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Rehnquist, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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