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United States v. 1.647 Acres (0.826 Acres - E Street Corridor And 0.821 Acres - F Street Corridor) of Land

United States District Court, S.D. California

March 22, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
1.647 ACRES 0.826 ACRES - E STREET CORRIDOR AND 0.821ACRES - F STREET CORRIDOR OF LAND, MORE OR LESS, LOCATED IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY, STATE OF CALIFORNIA; SAN DIEGO UNIFIED PORT DISTRICT; STATE OF CALIFORNIA; AND UNKNOWN OWNERS, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE INSUFFICIENT DEFENSES, AND DENYING MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          Hon. M. James Lorenz United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court in this condemnation action is the Government's motion to strike defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), or in the alternative for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c). The motion is fully briefed and decided on the briefs without oral argument. See Civ. Loc. R. 7.1.d.1. For the reasons which follow, the Government's motion for judgment on the pleadings is DENIED. Its motion to strike is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Government filed this eminent domain action on behalf of the United States Navy as a part of the Navy Broadway Complex redevelopment project in order to acquire a fee interest in one-block segments of E and F streets in San Diego, California. (Compl. at 2, ¶ 1, 3; Decl. of Taking, Schedule B). The action is based on 10 U.S.C. § 2663(c)(1), which provides in relevant part,

The Secretary of a military department may acquire any interest in land that--[¶] (A) the Secretary determines is needed in the interest of national defense; and [¶] (B) does not cost more than $750, 000, exclusive of administrative costs and the amounts of any deficiency judgments.

         The street segments the Navy wants to condemn will be used to

ensure the security of Naval personnel and property located on abutting lands of the United States; to provide public and Naval access, including but not limited to subterranean, surface, and aerial vehicular, pedestrian, and utility access, to abutting lands of the United States; for use as public streets; and for such other uses as may be authorized by Congress or by Executive Order.

(Decl. of Taking, Schedule B).

         The land in question, along with the Navy's adjoining property, was the subject of a similar eminent domain dispute between the same parties in 1990. In United States v. 15.320 Acres of Land, More or Less, in San Diego County, No. 90-1562 (S.D. Cal. 1990) ("15.320 Acres"), the Government filed a complaint-only condemnation action. In July 1991, Judge William B. Enright granted the Government's first motion for partial summary judgment to quiet title to the land abutting the street segments. (Gov't Ex. 1 at 14:9-18).[1] In September 1991, Judge Enright denied the second motion for partial summary judgement and rejected the contention that the Government already owned the street segments, and could condemn a fee interest in the street segments solely to incorporate the land into the Navy Broadway Complex. (Gov't Ex. 2 at 7:5-8, 11:24-12:4). The Court noted, “[T]he United States dictated the framework within which its motion was viewed by asserting that it had the authority to take the property at issue regardless of whether it was reopened as a public street or integrated in the complex itself.” (Id. at 11:5-9).

         Following the September 1991 ruling, the Government amended its complaint to take a perpetual assignable easement of the street segments, and updated its proposed public uses so that the street segments would “provide public access, including but not limited to subterranean and surface vehicular, pedestrian and utility access, to abutting lands of the United States.” (Gov't Ex. 4 at 2:16-20). The Government's third motion for partial summary judgment was granted in December 1991, because the Government committed to keeping the streets open to the public. (Gov't Ex. 3 at 6).

         Subsequently, the parties entered into a Stipulation for Judgment in which the Government waived its claim to the fee interest in the street segments, recognized fee ownership in the San Diego Unified Port District, and in which, upon payment of $1.00 to the Port District, an easement covering the street segments would be condemned to the Government for use in perpetuity for public street purposes. (Gov't Ex. 5 at 2:4-27). Judge Enright incorporated the stipulation into the final judgement issued in December 1992. (Gov't Ex. 6 at 6:9-28).

         In the pending action, Defendants object that the taking is: (1) not statutorily authorized (Cal. Answer at 3, ¶5; Port Answer at 2, Third Separate Defense); (2) not for a valid public use and that the United States is precluded from relitigating that it is (Cal. Answer at 2, ¶¶ 1, 2; Port Answer at 2, First and Second Separate Defenses); and (3) barred by waiver and res judicata principles which Defendants assert are supported by judicial estoppel (Cal. Answer at 2, ¶ 1; Port Answer at 3, Fourth Separate Defense). The Government moves to strike these defenses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), or in the alternative, seeks a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Defendants' objections regarding valuation (Cal. Answer at 2, ¶¶ 3, 4; Port Answer at 3, Fifth Separate Defense), are not challenged in the pending motion.

         II. DISCUSSION

         The Government filed a motion to strike under Rule 12(c), seeking judgment on the pleadings as to certain defenses asserted in Defendants' answers, or in the alternative to strike certain defenses.

Judgment on the pleadings is proper when there are no issues of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. All allegations of fact by the party opposing the motion are accepted as true, and are construed in the light most favorable to that party. As a result, a plaintiff is not entitled to judgment on the pleadings when the answer raises issues of fact that, if proved, would defeat recovery.

Gen. Conf. Corp. of Seventh-Day Adventists v. Seventh Day Adventist Congregational Church, 887 F.2d 228, 230 (9th Cir. 1989) (citations omitted).

         The Government at most requests a partial judgment as to some, but not all defenses. Even if the Government prevailed on all defenses, it would still have to prove its case. Accordingly, by completely prevailing on its motion, the Government would at best obtain a partial judgment. Partial judgments are disfavored. See Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 54(b); Reiter v. Cooper, 507 U.S. 258, 265 (1993) (In light of the "historic federal policy against piecemeal appeals, " partial judgments are disfavored.); Wood v. GCC Bend, LLC, 422 ...


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