Nicodemus v. Union Pacific Corp., Nos. 02-8016, 02-8017, 440 F.3d 1227 (10th Cir. 2006).

In our review of cases addressing the Class Action Fairness Act, we stumble onto opinions that do not directly address CAFA, but are notable, and thus blogable, for their discussion of issues affecting federal practice – this well-written opinion from the Tenth Circuit is one of those cases.

In Nicodemus, (we refrained from any Biblical references – some things are sacred – but it was tough) the Tenth Circuit addressed an action by Wyoming landowners (we also refrained from any Brokeback Mountain references – extremely tough) against Union Pacific railroad for misuse of its railroad right-of-way granted by numerous federal land-grant statutes. The quarrel began when Union Pacific licensed Sprint the right to install and maintain fiber-optic cables over the plaintiffs’ land. The landowners challenged Union Pacific’s actions, alleging it exceeded the scope of the access granted to the railroads by the federal statutes. Although the plaintiffs only alleged state law claims against Union Pacific, Judge Tacha clarified that “[a]ll of Plaintiffs’ claims hinge on whether Union Pacific’s use of the right-of-way has exceeded the purpose for which it was granted.” The Judge then embarked on a well reasoned and plain spoken analysis of whether the state action warranted consideration in a federal forum, incorporating the fresh Supreme Court dictates from Grable & Sons Metal Prod., Inc. v. Darue Eng’g & Mfg., 125 S.Ct. 2363 (2005). (Editors’ Note:  See the CAFA Law Blog summary of Grable posted on October 25, 2005.) 

So, if you’re in need of a review on Grable’s effect on federal question jurisdiction, or just want to read a refreshingly well-written opinion, read on – No need to thank us for the heads up.