United States District Court, D. North Dakota
North Dakota, ex rel. Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General for the State of North Dakota, Plaintiff,
United States of America, Defendant. Billings County, North Dakota; Golden Valley County, North Dakota; McKenzie County, North Dakota; and Slope County, North Dakota, municipal entities, Plaintiffs,
United States of America, Defendant.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' JOINT MOTION FOR ENTRY
OF FINAL JUDGMENT PURSUANT TO RULE 54(B)
L. Hovland, Chief Judge.
the Court is a “Joint Motion for Entry of Final
Judgment Pursuant to Rule 54(b) by Plaintiffs State of North
Dakota and Billings County, et al.” filed on July 19,
2017. See Docket No. 191. For the reasons set forth
below, the motion is denied.
30, 2012, Billings County, McKenzie County, Slope County, and
Golden Valley County (collectively “the
Counties”) initiated an action against the United
States of America (“United States”) to quiet
title to their claims of section line rights-of-way in the
Little Missouri National Grassland as well as six individual
roads claimed by McKenzie County. See Docket No. 1
(Case No. 1:12-cv-102). The State of North Dakota then filed
a complaint on September 14, 2012, against the United States
to quiet title to its claim of section line rights-of-way
within the Little Missouri National Grassland, the Sheyenne
National Grassland, and the portion of the Cedar River
National Grassland located in North Dakota, all which are a
part of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. See Docket
No. 1 (Case No. 1:12-cv-125). On April 16, 2013, the Court
consolidated the two actions, with North Dakota's action
designated as the lead case (Case No. 1:12-cv-125) and the
action by the Counties as the consolidated case (Case No.
1:12-cv-102). See Docket No. 24.
September 26, 2014, the United States filed a motion to
dismiss the State of North Dakota's amended complaint.
See Docket No. 88. The United States subsequently
filed a motion to dismiss the first cause of action as to
section line rights-of-way in the Counties' third amended
complaint on December 9, 2015. See Docket No. 169.
In its motions, the United States sought to dismiss the
complaints of North Dakota and the Counties for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction because the claims were untimely
under the Quiet Title Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2409a. On June
26, 2017, the Court granted the United States' motions,
concluding 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(i) bars North Dakota's
claim as well as the Counties' first cause of action and
divests the Court of jurisdiction over the matter.
See Docket No. 190. After dismissal by the Court of
North Dakota's amended complaint and the Counties'
first cause of action, McKenzie County's claims to quiet
title to six individual roads remain unadjudicated.
See Docket No. 163.
19, 2017, North Dakota and the Counties jointly filed the
motion now before the Court, seeking entry of final judgment
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) as to those
claims which the Court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction
(i.e. claims as to section line rights-of-way). See
Docket No. 191. Specifically, North Dakota and the Counties
contend entry of final judgment is appropriate because
“the section line rights-of-way claims are separate and
factually distinct from the remaining individual road
claims.” See Docket No. 191, p. 3. On August
2, 2017, the United States filed a response in opposition to
the motion. See Docket No. 193. North Dakota and the
Counties then filed a joint reply brief on August 9, 2017.
See Docket No. 194.
well-established that orders disposing of fewer than all
claims are not immediately appealable. Review must generally
await a final judgment disposing of all claims. However, a
district court may, pursuant to Rule 54(b) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, direct entry of final judgment as
to one or more but fewer than all of the claims before
resolution of all claims. Interstate Power Co. v. Kansas
City Power & Light Co., 992 F.2d 804, 807 (8th Cir.
1993). Rule 54(b) provides as follows:
Upon Multiple Claims or Involving Multiple Parties.
When an action presents more than one claim for relief -
whether as a claim, counterclaim, crossclaim, or third-party
claim - or when multiple parties are involved, the court may
direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer
than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly
determines that there is no just reason for delay. Otherwise,
any order or other decision, however designated, that
adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and
liabilities of fewer than all the parties does not end the
action as to any of the claims or parties and may be revised
at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all
the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities.
Civ. P. 54(b).
policy of all courts is to avoid piecemeal and interlocutory
appeals. See Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General
Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 8 (1980); Interstate Power
Co., 992 F.2d at 807; Burlington Northern
R.R. Co. v. Bair, 754 F.2d 799, 800 (8th Cir. 1985). As
result, Rule 54(b) certification is not granted routinely,
but is reserved only for those rare cases that warrant an
immediate appeal from a partial resolution of a lawsuit.
See Bullock v. Baptist Memorial Hospital, 817 F.2d
58, 59 n.2 (8th Cir.1987). The decision regarding
certification under Rule 54(b) rests in the discretion of the
district court. Downing v. Riceland Foods, Inc., 810
F.3d 580, 585 (8th Cir. 2016).
Eighth Circuit has established a two-step analysis to
determine whether certification of an order as final under
Rule 54(b) is appropriate:
The court must first determine that it is dealing with a
final judgment . . . in the sense that it is an ultimate
disposition of an individual claim. Second, the district
court must determine whether a just reason for delay exists.
In making such determination, the district court must
consider both the equities of the situation and judicial