Real Estate News

Newly decided title case could change use of 'in rem' for tribal title cases

Published: 05 Apr 2017

A Washington state legal dispute involving tribal land rites could be significant for similar future cases. According to the National Law Review, the Upper Skagit Tribe tried to contest that a family's boundary fence fell on their land.

This family, the Lundgrens, argued that they weren't infringing property boundaries because they had gained the rights to the contested land over the years, even though it wasn't under their original ownership. Though the family purchased the land on the area in 1981, the family reportedly has ties going back to 1947, including the border fence that started the issue in the first place.

The source said that this case in particular shows an interesting and atypical tactic for "in rem" disputes, referring to a case focused on property outside of tribal jurisdiction. The court argued that the tribe did not have the right to challenge the Lundgrens' quiet title claim through the concept of sovereign immunity, at least as it applies for situations involving tribal law.

As far as the court's decision goes, it specifically connects to the in rem nature of the case, because that's how the court had superiority over the tribe in this case, since it argued that a quiet title process is still considered in rem for the purposes of the government. 

This is all detailed in the supreme court filing posted on the Justia website. It also cited similar cases, such as the 2009 dispute Smale v. Noretep. In that case, the court previously affirmed that the courts "exercise in rem jurisdiction over property subject to quiet title actions" even if tribal sovereignity takes control. With the more recent case, though, the National Law Review claimed that the decision actually goes against previous ones and that the overall matter "remains unresolved."