North Dakota asked a state court judge to dismiss a lawsuit by landowners claiming they’re being cheated out of millions of dollars in proceeds from leases to lands containing valuable minerals.
State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem asked Judge David W. Nelson in Williston to dismiss the case in an April 9 filing, arguing that some of the claims, pressed by owners of property abutting the state’s navigable waterways, are stale while others aren’t yet ripe for adjudication.
“This claim is premature,” Stenehjem said in court papers. “Plaintiffs first need to show they own the shore zone,” the land between the ordinary high watermark and low watermark. The case should also be dismissed because there are already two pending cases over who holds that title, he said.
The owners filed their initial complaint on March 12. In a revised version filed March 28, they said they seek group status on behalf of all people who own mineral interests in land below the “ordinary high watermark” of the state’s navigable waters, including the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers.
In two sub-classes, they said they sought damages for people who own lands for which defendants have issued leases for extraction and production of minerals and oil, and for those who have leased their lands without being paid because the state has claimed absolute title.
Charles Neff, an attorney for the landowners, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment yesterday on the state’s filing.
The case is Reep v. State of North Dakota (STOND1:US), 53-2012- CV-00213, District Court of North Dakota, Northwest Judicial Circuit (Williston).
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