A lawsuit has been filed and is seeking class action certification against United States Federal Government for allegedly violating property owners' right to regain title to their land formerly under railroad easement. The lawsuit was filed in the Federal Court of Claims in Washington, DC on behalf of Cochise County residents. The suit seeks to regain land titles from San Pedro Railroad Operating Co. and asks for compensation to be paid for the time the land was taken from land owners while a trails program along the abandoned rail lines was negotiated.
The lawsuit claims land owners are due compensation under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution for the federal government's taking of their property which states, "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
The federal government took the plaintiff's property when the Rails-to-Trails Act precluded or prevented them from enjoying their revisionary right to the land they enjoyed under Arizona Law, and imposed two new easements upon their property. One easement allows for the creation of a public access recreational trail and a second easement allows the plaintiff's property to be used in the future for operation of a railroad.
The Rails-to-Trails Act put a hold on abandoned railroad line beds so the tracks could be replaced and service could resume if the railroad industry recovered. Railbanking allowed organizations and local governments to snap the rail beds up for use in the interim as public trails.