Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re SRBA Case No. 39576

Supreme Court of Idaho

March 2, 2018

In Re: SRBA CASE NO. 39576 SUBASE NO. 37-00864
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, Defendant-Respondent. GARY AND GLENNA EDEN, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

         2018 Opinion No. 17

         Appeal from the Snake River Basin Adjudication, State of Idaho. Hon. Eric J. Wildman, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed. Costs on appeal are awarded to Respondent.

          Hawley, Troxell, Ennis & Hawley, LLP, attorneys for Appellant. Merlyn W. Clark argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, attorney for Respondent. Shantel Chapple Knowlton argued.

          BEVAN, Justice

         This is an appeal from the Snake River Basin Adjudication ("SRBA"). Gary and Glenna Eden (the "Edens") sought to file a late notice of claim for their Water Right No. 37-864 which was not claimed during the pendency of the SRBA and therefore was decreed disallowed. In the SRBA, the Edens alleged that the SRBA's Final Unified Decree and the Closure Order should be set aside as void because they did not receive sufficient notice of the SRBA proceedings to satisfy due process. Further, the Edens argued they were not personally served with the required notice of default pursuant to Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b)(2). Finally, the Edens claimed that unique and compelling circumstances justify relief from the final judgment under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). The SRBA court disagreed and denied the Edens' relief on any of these grounds. The court entered judgment reflecting its conclusions. Edens timely appealed and we affirm the district court for the reasons below.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. SRBA Case History and Procedures.

         On June 17, 1987, pursuant to authority from Idaho's legislature in 1985 and 1986, the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources ("IDWR") filed a petition in the name of the State to begin the SRBA, and on November 19, 1987, the adjudication was commenced. Its purpose was to ultimately fashion a unified decree determining all water rights from the Snake River Basin water system. The decree would allow for the creation of an accurate schedule of water rights to assure the proper delivery of water in times of shortage.

         At its commencement, the SRBA maintained "no reasonable method of initiating the proceeding; . . . notice to potential claimants . . . was provided by the existing Rules of Civil Procedure." In re SRBA Case No. 39576, 128 Idaho 246, 251, 912 P.2d 614, 619 (1995) (hereinafter Basin-Wide Issue 3). One of the primary difficulties in a general stream adjudication like the SRBA, where thousands of claims and potential parties are involved, is that "a requirement of personal service would be too onerous, impractical and confusing in its employment, defeating any purpose for meaningful notice." Lu Ranching Co. v. United States, 138 Idaho 606, 610, 67 P.3d 85, 89 (2003) (citing In re Rights to the Use of Gila River, 171 Ariz. 230, 241, 830 P.2d 442, 453 (1992)).

         In light of these realities, "it was necessary for the Legislature to provide special procedural rules for the initiation of the SRBA." Basin-Wide Issue 3, 128 Idaho at 251, 912 P.2d at 619. These rules are generally set forth in chapter 14, Title 42, Idaho Code, and include what are known as "first and second round" service procedures codified in Idaho Code section 42-1408. Additionally, this Court granted expanded powers to the district judge managing the SRBA:

[This Court] issued a Supplemental Order Granting Additional Powers to the District Judge. In that order, this Court granted the district court "the authority and power to modify the procedure for making service of pleadings, motions, notices of hearing and other documents and the procedure of giving notice of hearings and trials before the court or any masters appointed by the court." In response to this order, the district court issued SRBA Administrative Order 1, [A.O.1], supplementing the applicable Rules of Civil Procedure with specialized procedures "to the extent necessary to allow for the fair and expeditious resolution of all claims or issues in the SRBA."

Id.

         Pursuant to the authority granted in A.O.1 the district court adopted a procedure to provide notice which it called the Docket Sheet procedure. A.O.1 ¶ 6. The SRBA utilized this procedure by issuing monthly Docket Sheets which included a list of all orders, pleadings (except responses, pleadings or orders filed in subcases), and other documents filed with or issued by the SRBA court since the last Docket Sheet. The Docket Sheet is posted in the District Court of each county within the SRBA boundaries and made available at IDWR's central and regional offices. The Docket Sheet is also posted on the SRBA website. Interested persons also have the option of paying a nominal fee to subscribe to the Docket Sheet. Id. § 6(c) "Compliance with the Docket Sheet Procedure constitutes notice to all parties to an adjudication." Id. § 6(f)(3)(b).

         As the SRBA began working toward a final, unified decree, the district court determined that it was appropriate to begin the basin closure process. Accordingly, it began informing water users that it would start closing claims in specific water basins. The court issued an Order which it called Order Establishing Deadline For Late Claim Filings in Basins 01 . . . 37 . . . ("Deadline Order") to inform individuals of the process. The Deadline Order was not mandated by chapter 14, Title 42, Idaho Code, but it was provided as an additional courtesy to water users.

         The Deadline Order was issued in October 2012 and provided that the last date to file a Motion to File Late Claim was January 31, 2013. Pursuant to the Order, "[n]o late claims would be accepted for filing." The Deadline Order admonished potential claimants to "examine Exhibit 1 [a list of non-de minimis water rights from IDWR's water rights database, which included Water Right No. 37-864] to determine whether the listed water right numbers [were] active water rights." Id.

         On August 26, 2014 the SRBA court culminated its 27-year effort and issued the Final Unified Decree for the SRBA. The Final Unified Decree decreed more than 158, 600 water rights. Ann Y. Vonde et al., Understanding the Snake River Basin Adjudication, 52 Idaho L. Rev. 53, 56 (2016). With very limited exceptions, this decree is "conclusive as to the nature and extent of all water rights within the Snake River Basin within the State of Idaho with a priority date prior to November 19, 1987" and is "binding against all persons." Final Unified Decree (August 26, 2014); Idaho Code § 42-1420(1). The Final Unified Decree incorporated Attachment 6 which sets forth "water rights of record with the Idaho Department of Water Resources that were required to be claimed but were not claimed in this proceeding and therefore were decreed disallowed." The Edens' Water Right No. 37-864 is included in Attachment 6 as an unclaimed water right which was expressly disallowed.

         B. Statement of Facts

         The SRBA court found that the Edens were mailed first round service notice on September 19, 1988 regarding a water right that is not at issue in this case. That notice included the following warning in all capital letters: "PLEASE REMEMBER!!! FAILURE TO FILE A REQUIRED NOTICE OF CLAIM WILL RESULT IN A DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT THE WATER RIGHT NO LONGER EXISTS." In addition to this notice being mailed to the Edens, it was circulated throughout the Snake River Basin, including in Lincoln County by being published in a newspaper of general circulation (The Lincoln County Journal).

         In 1992, the Edens purchased 40 acres of real property and its appurtenant water rights from Richard and Carolyn Bateman, which included two water rights. First, Water Right No. 37-864 decreed in 1918 with a priority date of 1896. Water Right No. 37-864 allows diversion of 1.00 cfs from the Big Wood River for the irrigation of the 40 acres in Lincoln County, Idaho. Second, a supplemental storage right from American Falls Reservoir District No. 2. Typically, Water Right No. 37-864 is delivered during the first part of the irrigation season through July, at which time the supplemental storage water is delivered from American Falls Reservoir District No. 2.

         On or about April 28, 2005, IDWR sent the Edens a letter requesting they verify that their address had changed. The letter made reference to "SRBA Notices of Claim to a Water Right #37-365, 37-366 and 37-367B and Decrees #37-10322 and 37-10953."[1] The letter requested that the Edens verify that their address had changed. Glenna Eden signed the letter and returned it in May 2005, identifying the Edens' Shoshone address.

         It is undisputed that IDWR did not receive a claim on Water Right No. 37-864 after the first notice. IDWR therefore conducted second round service notice in conformity with Idaho Code section 42-1408(4) as to Water Right No. 37-864. This notice was sent to the Edens on or about May 5, 2005. Glenna Eden signed a certified mail receipt for the second round notice on May 6, 2005. It was further undisputed during the SRBA court hearing that the Edens received the second round notice.

         The notice specified:

IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE . . . . Records of the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) indicate that you may own or have an interest in a water right in the Snake River Basin, but have NOT filed a Notice of Claim with IDWR for this water right. This notice serves as your second and FINAL notice of your responsibility to file a notice of claim. FAILURE TO FILE A REQUIRED NOTICE OF CLAIM WILL RESULT IN A DETERMINATION BY THE COURT THAT THE WATER RIGHT NO LONGER EXISTS.

         YOUR FILING DEADLINE IS AUGUST 5, 2005

         As required by Idaho Code section 42-1408(4), the second round service notice also provided the Edens with instructions for filing a notice of claim in the SRBA, including that "Notices of Claims must be filed on forms prepared by IDWR or a reasonable facsimile" and that failure to include the required filing fee would "result in a rejection of the Notice of Claim." These requirements are also specified in chapter 14, Title 42, Idaho Code. See I.C. §§ 42-1409, 42-1414.

         The Edens claim that they responded to this notice by including certain unknown[2] and unnamed documents in the letter they returned to IDWR with their confirmation of change of address. IDWR did receive some documents from the Edens, because on May 19, 2005, IDWR staff drafted a response letter to the Edens confirming receipt of some enclosures related to Water Right No. 37-864. IDWR's letter is unsigned; the documents the Edens enclosed are not named; and there is no evidence that the letter was ever delivered to the Edens' Shoshone address. When the Edens did not receive a reply from IDWR confirming their address change, they assumed IDWR had accepted their submission and a claim for Water Right No. 37-864 had been filed, even though no claim was made on an IDWR form, or a reasonable facsimile, nor was any filing fee paid.

          Nearly ten years later, on March 20, 2015, the Edens received a letter from the Treasurer/Secretary for Water District 37 indicating that Water Right No. 37-864 would no longer be delivered because it was disallowed in the State's adjudication process on February 2, 2013. The letter also indicated that as of that date IDWR records "show the water right in the name of Anthony M. Gomez [sic]. Water Right 37-864 had not been transferred to [Edens'] ownership." In 2016, during a Board of Directors meeting of the Big Wood Canal Company, the Edens' storage water in American Falls Reservoir District No. 2, supplemental to Water Right No. 37-864, was also deemed undeliverable because it was no longer valid.

         On September 30, 2016, over two years after the entry of the Final Unified Decree, the Edens filed a Motion to File a Late Claim and a Motion to Set Aside the Final Unified Decree and Closure Order. In their Memorandum in Support of the Motion to Set Aside, the Edens claimed that the Final Unified Decree and Closure Order was void with regard to its effect on Water Right No. 37-864 under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) because they did not receive sufficient notice and an opportunity to be heard. Additionally, the Edens argued unique and compelling circumstances existed to justify relief under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(6). Namely, the Edens maintained that despite confirming their current mailing address with IDWR they were never informed that Water Right No. 37-864 remained unclaimed. Therefore, the Edens asserted that they should be allowed to file a late claim for Water Right No. 37-864 because ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.