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CFJ Wins Summary Judgment for Guam Airport in Native Lands Dispute

On August 30, 2017, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood of the District Court of Guam dismissed a lawsuit that had been filed against the government of Guam, including the Guam International Airport Agency (GIAA), in 2015 by Vicente Crawford who sought compensation for the Airport's continued use of his ancestral lands. CFJ's Genevieve Rapadas successfully argued the summary judgment motion in federal court on behalf of GIAA. The CFJ team on the case also included Jay Trickett and Kathy Fisher.

Judge Tydingoco-Gatewood dismissed the case before it was necessary to consider whether it should have class action status and include other landowners with similar complaints. According to the Court, Mr. Crawford "has not, and cannot, establish a constitutionally protected property interest for purposes of his due process claim."  With respect to the equal protection claim, the Court found that “[r]etention of the airport property requires that Guam maintain the property for airport use, and requires that any revenues derived therefrom be used for capital or operating expenses. The Guam Legislature, and Defendants, may have various plausible economic and social reasons for desiring to retain the airport property and thus various economic and social reasons justifying a practice of working to establish an alternative form of compensation for those original owners with claims to the land on which the airport now sits.”  Her ruling went on to note, ""Parties displeased with political delay in any given case or class of cases will often achieve more success in expediting a resolution through application of political persuasion than they might through application of judicial compulsion,  It may well be that Guam law offers him an avenue for relief that federal law, at this point, does not."

"While we recognize the plight of Mr. Crawford and the other landowners involved, we are very pleased to have this case against GIAA resolved especially in light of GIAA’s lack of involvement or obligation in the process of potential compensation for the landowners," said CFJ's Rapadas.  "The Court's ruling puts an end to a potential class action against GIAA that could have had serious implications for the airport and would have come at great expense to the traveling public of Guam."

Selected news coverage:

Ancestral land landowners dealt setback in federal court, Pacific Daily News, August 31, 2017

Court rules Tiyan landowner's motion moot, Guam Daily Post, August 31, 2017