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Camp Easton forever, Inc. v. Inland Northwest Council BSA

Supreme Court of Idaho

August 15, 2014

CAMP EASTON FOREVER, INC., an Idaho non-profit corporation; DANIEL EDWARDS, a minor, by and through, DANIEL EDWARDS' PARENT, as Guardian ad Litem; MATTHEW EDWARDS, a minor, by and through, MATTHEW EDWARDS' PARENT, as Guardian ad Litem, Plaintiffs-Appellants, and SHIKAR SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION; EARL C. LUNCEFORE, JR., in his capacity of Director of SHIKAR SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION; DOES 1 thru 20, whose true names are unknown, Plaintiffs,
v.
INLAND NORTHWEST COUNCIL BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA, a Washington non-profit corporation; INLAND NORTHWEST COUNCIL ENDOWMENT PROPERTIES, LLC, a Washington limited liability company, Defendant-Respondents

Page 806

2014 No. 83

Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. John P. Luster, District Judge.

District court order granting summary judgment, affirmed.

Scott W. Reed and Dean & Kolts, Coeur d'Alene, for appellants. Kathlene L. Kolts argued.

Ramsden & Lyons, Coeur d'Alene, for respondents. Michael E. Ramsden argued.

BURDICK, Chief Justice. Justices EISMANN, J. JONES and HORTON, CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 807

[156 Idaho 895] BURDICK, Chief Justice

Camp Easton Forever, Inc., (" CEF" ) and Daniel and Matthew Edwards (collectively " the Edwardses" ) appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment to Inland Northwest Council Endowment Properties, LLC, and Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America (collectively " INWC" ). CEF and the Edwardses filed an action to declare the parties' rights to property INWC owns on Lake Coeur d'Alene that has been used as a Boy Scout camp since 1929. The district court held CEF and the Edwardses lacked standing because CEF lacked a legally recognizable interest and the Edwardses were not certified as class representatives. The district court also held no trust existed because all prior agreements merged into an unambiguous deed. We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment to INWC on the grounds that the deed was an unambiguous fee simple transfer.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This appeal involves 132 acres of property on Lake Coeur d'Alene in Kootenai County that is part of a Boy Scout camp called Camp Easton. This property is currently owned by Inland Northwest Council Endowment Properties, LLC, which is a holding company for Inland Northwest Council of the Boy Scouts of America (" Inland Northwest Council" ). The Inland Northwest Council is a Washington non-profit organization.

In 1929, F.W. Fitze owned the property. On May 18, 1929, Fitze attended a meeting of the Coeur d'Alene district committee to the Idaho Panhandle Council, Boy Scouts of America (" IPC" ). The IPC was the Inland Northwest Council's predecessor. The meeting's minutes state:

It was announced that the purpose of the meeting was to consult with Mr. Fitze regarding the purchase of the camp site owned by him. After a short discussion as to the desirability of this site, and after it was chosen as the best available site on Lake Coeur d'Alene, Mr. Fitze announced that it was his desire to present the site to the Idaho Panhandle Council as its summer camp site and that we accept it from him as his gift to the Council and the boys of our area. His only wish was that it should be accepted with the understanding that it was his desire to have it used perpetually as a camp for boys.

The minutes also stated that the chairman would appoint a committee to draft a resolution of thanks and formally accept the site.

On August 5, 1929, Fitze and his wife deeded the 132 acres to IPC. The Fitzes deeded the land for " the sum of one dollar

Page 808

[156 Idaho 896]and other valuable consideration." The deed states:

And the above bargained premises in the quiet and peaceable possession of said party of the second part, his successors and assigns, against all and every person or persons lawfully claiming the whole or any part thereof, the said parties of the first part shall and will warrant and defend.
This property is donated and given to the [IPC] by F.W. Fitze and Lumira Fitze, his wife, for use of the Boy Scouts of America.

The camp was constructed and various improvements to the camp were made through the years.

Camp Easton now totals 421.65 acres through additional land acquisitions. Both IPC and the Inland Northwest Council have used Camp Easton as a camp for Boy Scouts of America (" Boy Scouts" ) members and also have accepted donations for Camp Easton. These donations include money and additional land, which have expanded and improved Camp Easton. In 1992, IPC merged with the Inland Northwest Council, who accepted ownership of the property as Camp Easton. An October 6, 1992 Memorandum of Understanding stated that " Camp Easton will continue to operate as a long term Boy Scout resident summer camp so long as it remains financially feasible."

In May of 2011, Discovery Land Company contacted Inland Northwest Council about purchasing Camp Easton. Discovery proposed acquiring another large lakefront parcel on Lake Coeur d'Alene, constructing a Boy Scout camp on it, and then trading that new camp for Camp Easton. Discovery also proposed funding an endowment for the new camp. Inland Northwest Council approved a non-binding letter of intent for this transaction in August 2011. In February 2012, the Board for the Inland Northwest Council and the Board of Inland Northwest Council Endowment Properties, LLC, each voted in favor of pursuing whether they could reach a successful transaction with Discovery.

Believing INWC would sell Camp Easton imminently, in September 2011 a group of plaintiffs filed a complaint in the district court. In November 2011, those plaintiffs filed an amended complaint and class action, which alleged INWC held Camp Easton in a constructive trust and asked the court to impose that trust to prevent irreparable wrongdoing. The amended complaint also alleged equitable estoppel, declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction, and a creation of a charitable trust as a matter of law. The INWC answered and raised defenses, including merger and statute of frauds.

The plaintiffs included CEF and the Edwardses. CEF is an Idaho non-profit corporation created to oppose the proposed sale of Camp Easton. The group's members include people who have participated in the Boy Scouts and attended Camp Easton. The Edwardses are Boy Scout members who attended Camp Easton.

The plaintiffs moved for partial summary judgment on March 12, 2012, asking that the district court determine the charitable and constructive trust claims only. The INWC moved for summary judgment on all claims eight days later. The INWC argued the transaction was a fee simple conveyance of real property. In addition, INWC contended CEF and the Edwardses lacked ...


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