Under the Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, the United States government (plaintiff) granted railroad companies rights of way to help spur a transcontinental railroad. In 1976, the United States granted a parcel of land to the Brandt family (defendant), subject to a right-of-way the government had granted to Laramie, Hahn’s Peak & Pacific Railroad Company in 1908. The grant to the Brandts did not specify what would happen if the railroad abandoned the right-of-way. In 2004, the railroad company’s successor abandoned the right-of-way. The government sued the Brandt family, seeking a declaratory judgment that it owned the abandoned right-of-way. The government claimed that it owned a reversionary interest in the right-of-way and that upon abandonment, the right-of-way reverted to the government. The district court granted the government summary judgment. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.