Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The issue presented for the Supreme Court's review giving rise to this case was a collateral of the underlying judgment. Specifically, the issue was whether it was apparent on the face of a 1948 quiet title judgment that the district court affirmatively lacked jurisdiction over certain parties because they were notified by publication. It was alleged that in the 1948 lawsuit, such notice violated the Due Process Clause, depriving the district court of jurisdiction. Only when a party’s whereabouts are not reasonably ascertainable following diligent search and inquiry can constructive notice substitute for personal notice of suit. The Supreme Court found that constructive service of process by publication satisfied due process and established the 1948 district court’s personal jurisdiction. Therefore, the district court’s 1948 quiet title judgment was not void, and, accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals which held to the contrary. View "T.H. McElvain Oil & Gas Ltd. P'ship v. Benson-Montin-Greer Drilling Corp." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the New Mexico Supreme Court's review centered on the scope of the New Mexico State Engineer’s regulatory authority over use of surface water in New Mexico when it has been diverted from the Animas River into an acequia in Colorado and accessed from that ditch by Petitioners and others in New Mexico. After review, the Court rejected petitioners’ arguments that the State Engineer lacked statutory authority over waters initially diverted outside of New Mexico and had no jurisdiction to enjoin petitioners from irrigating an area of farmland not subject to an existing adjudicated water right or a permit from the State Engineer. The Court held that the State Engineer was authorized by New Mexico law to require a permit for new, expanded, or modified use of this water and to enjoin any unlawful diversion. View "State Engineer v. Diamond K Bar Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Pueblo of San Felipe (Pueblo) appealed a Court of Appeals decision declining to extend the Pueblo immunity from suit. Hamaatsa, Inc. (Hamaatsa) owned land in Sandoval County. Adjacent to Hamaatsa’s property was land owned in fee by the Pueblo. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conveyed to the Pueblo, in fee simple, the land at issue on December 13, 2001. The property, adjacent and contiguous with reservation land, was not then held in trust by the federal government as part of the Pueblo’s reservation. In its 2001 conveyance to the Pueblo, the BLM reserved an easement and right-of-way over, across the parcel at issue here ( “932 Roads” or “R.S. 2477 Roads,”). The BLM purported to quitclaim its interest in one particular R.S. 2477 to the Pueblo. Hamaatsa used Northern R.S. 2477 on the Pueblo’s property to access its land. In August 2009, Hamaatsa received a letter from the then Governor of the Pueblo stating that Hamaatsa had no legal right of access across the Pueblo’s property and that Hamaatsa’s use of Northern R.S. 2477 was a trespass. Hamaatsa continued to use the road and filed suit requesting that the district court declare that the Pueblo cannot restrict use of the road. The Pueblo moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing its immunity deprived the district court of jurisdiction to hear Hamaatsa's case. The Supreme Court agreed the district court lacked jurisdiction and remanded the case for dismissal. View "Hamaatsa, Inc. v. Pueblo of San Felipe" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Deutsche Bank National Trust Company, acting as trustee for Morgan Stanley ABS Capital 1 Inc. Trust 2006-NC4 (Deutsche Bank), filed a complaint seeking foreclosure on Respondent Johnny Johnston's home (Homeowner), and attached to its complaint an unindorsed note, mortgage, and land recording, both naming a third party as the mortgagee. Deutsche Bank later provided documentation and testimony showing that :(1) a document assigning the mortgage to Deutsche Bank was dated prior to the filing of the complaint but recorded after the complaint was filed; (2) Deutsche Bank possessed a version of the note indorsed in blank at the time of trial; and (3) a servicing company began servicing the loan to Homeowner on behalf of Deutsche Bank prior to the filing of the complaint. After receiving this evidence, the district court found that Deutsche Bank had standing to foreclose on Homeowner’s property. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that “standing is a jurisdictional prerequisite for a cause of action,” and concluded that the evidence provided by Deutsche Bank did not establish its standing as of the time it filed its complaint. The Supreme Court held that standing was not a jurisdictional prerequisite in this case. Nonetheless the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ ultimate conclusion that the evidence provided by Deutsche Bank did not establish standing. View "Deutsche Bank Nat'l Trust Co. v. Johnston" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, homeowners Pinghua Zhao, and Gregg and Janet Fallick appealed the valuation of their residences for property tax purposes as a result of what they alleged was "tax lightning," also known as acquisition-value taxation. Under acquisition-value taxation, a real estate owner's property tax liability is determined by the value of the property when acquired, not by the traditional practice of taxing real property on its current fair market value. Consequently, there could be disparities in the tax liabilities of taxpayers owning similar properties. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that Section 7-36-21.2 (2003) created an authorized class based on the nature of the property and not the taxpayer. The Court also held that the New Mexico tax system did not violate the equal and uniform clause of the New Mexico Constitution because it furthered a legitimate state interest. Furthermore, the Court held that the Court of Appeals erred in its interpretation of "owner-occupant." Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the Court of Appeals. View "Zhao v. Montoya" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between two adjoining landowners over an easement. In 2003, Respondent Amethyst Land Company acquired a quitclaim deed to an undeveloped twenty-two acre parcel (the 22-acre parcel) in the Santa Fe foothills. Amethyst searched the county property record and incorporated all of the documents concerning the property into corrected deeds. One of the documents it found and incorporated in the corrected deeds was an Extinguishment Agreement purporting to terminate an easement on "Tract 3" of adjoining property that benefitted the 22-acre parcel. Amethyst’s neighbors, Petitioners James and Elizabeth Terhune recorded the Extinguishment Agreement two years earlier, but five days after Amethyst’s predecessor-in-interest recorded its deed to the 22-acre parcel. The Terhunes denied Amethyst use of the easement, and Amethyst sued to quiet title. The district court found for the Terhunes. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Extinguishment Agreement was invalid because it was filed late and the corrected deeds did not revive the agreement. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the Extinguishment Agreement was valid and that by correcting its deeds, Amethyst incorporated the Extinguishment Agreement in full. View "Amethyst Land Co., Inc. v. Terhune" on Justia Law

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In 2006, Joseph and Mary Romero signed a mortgage contract with the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) as nominee for Equity One, Inc. They pledged their home as collateral for the loan. The Romeros alleged that Equity One urged them to refinance their home for access to the home's equity. The terms of the new loan were not an improvement over their then-current loan: the interest rate was higher and the loan amount due was higher. Despite that, the Romeros would receive a net cash payout they planned to use to pay other debts. The Romeros later became delinquent on their increased loan payments. A third party, Bank of New York (BONY), identified itself as a trustee for Popular Financial Services Mortgage, filed suit to foreclose on the Romeros' home. BONY claimed to hold the Romeros' note and mortgage with the right of enforcement. The Romeros defended by arguing that BONY lacked standing to foreclose because nothing in the complaint established how BONY held their note and mortgage, and that the contracts they signed were with Equity One. The district court found that BONY had established itself as holder of the Romeros' mortgage, and that the bank had standing to foreclose. That decision was appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in finding BONY's evidence demonstrated that it had standing to foreclose. Accordingly, the Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Bank of New York v. Romero" on Justia Law

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The New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee recognized approximately 400,000 acres of public land on Mount Taylor as a registered cultural property under the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act. One month after the Committee issued its final order, Rayellen Resources, Inc., and numerous other parties including the Cebolleta Land Grant (the Rayellen parties) appealed that decision. The Pueblo of Acoma, which joined the Committee in defending the listing, challenged whether the Rayellen parties who are private landowners had standing to appeal because they were explicitly excluded from the listing. In reaching the merits of the case, the district court found that the listing did not violate constitutional protections against the establishment of religion and that the Committee did not violate due process guarantees by following federal guidelines for the listing. The district court reversed the listing nevertheless on the grounds that personal notice of the permanent listing’s public comment period was not provided to all affected property owners, including mineral rights holders, in violation of due process guarantees, and that both the mountain’s sheer size and the private property exclusions made it impracticable to comply with provisions in the Cultural Properties Act relating to integrity of place, required inspections, and required maintenance. The district court also reversed the inclusion of the 19,000 acres of Cebolleta Land Grant common lands in the listing because land grant common lands are not subject to regulation as state land under the Cultural Properties Act. Acoma Pueblo petitioned for certiorari in the Court of Appeals on the three listing issues which the district court reversed, and the Rayellen parties cross-petitioned on other issues as to which they had not prevailed in the district court. The Court of Appeals granted those petitions as well as motions to intervene from Laguna Pueblo and the Committee. Without deciding any of the issues, the Court of Appeals then certified the entire case to the Supreme Court. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part the Committee’s decision and held that the Mount Taylor listing was lawful under the Cultural Properties Act and that the proceedings before the Committee did not violate the constitutional guarantee of due process of law. The Court reversed the Committee’s inclusion of 19,000 acres of Cebolleta Land Grant property and held that land grant property is not state land as defined in the Cultural Properties Act. View "Rayellen Resources, Inc. v. Lyons" on Justia Law

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Horace Bounds farmed in the Mimbres basin. Along with the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, Petitioners brought a facial constitutional challenge against the New Mexico Domestic Well Statute (DWS). Petitioners contended that the DWS violated the New Mexico constitutional doctrine of prior appropriation as well as due process of law. Petitioners' won at the district court level, but not at the Court of Appeals. Agreeing with the substance of the appellate court's opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed, holding the DWS does not violate either the doctrine of prior appropriation set forth in the New Mexico Constitution or the guarantees of due process of law. View "Bounds v. State ex rel. D'Antonio" on Justia Law

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Leonard and Kay Nettles purchased property and built a home in a remote subdivision in Rio Arriba County known as Ticonderoga. At the time of the Nettles purchase, the lots in Ticonderoga were subject to various covenants, and the subdivision was governed by a Homeowners’ Association. The Homeowners’ Association amended some of the covenants and its articles of incorporation. One of the amendments changed the definition of “common easements.” The new definition no longer included all roads in Ticonderoga, but specific roads that led to common recreation areas. The new definition now excluded the road that served specifically Nettles’ home as well as some other roads, but still included those roads that led to the majority of homesites in Ticonderoga. As a result of the changed definition, Nettles was still required to pay common assessments to fund the maintenance costs of these other roads, but was now required to maintain the their road privately, along with a few other owners of undeveloped lots on that road, at Nettles’ own expense. A second amendment allegedly diluted Nettles’ voting rights in the Homeowners’ Association. Nettles filed suit against the Homeowners’ Association. The Association filed for summary judgment, claiming that all the actions taken were explicitly authorized by the governing documents of the Association. Nettles countered, claiming that the amendments violated New Mexico law because the amendments were not uniform. The district court granted summary judgment for the Association. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that while Nettles failed to create a triable question on uniformity, the reasonableness of the amendment in this case should have been tried and not disposed of through summary judgment. View "Nettles v. Ticonderoga Owners' Assn., Inc." on Justia Law