The opinion of the court was delivered by: McCURN, Chief Judge.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and
plaintiff-intervenor Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma
(collectively referred to as the "plaintiffs" or the "Cayugas")
both seek a declaration from this court concerning their current
ownership of, and right to possess, a tract of land in central
New York State containing slightly more than 64,000 acres ("the
subject land"), an award of fair rental value for the almost two
hundred years during which they have been out of possession of
the subject land, and other monetary and protective relief.*fn1
This court has previously held that the plaintiffs can present
evidence in support of the above claims. Cayuga I, 565 F. Supp.
at 1330. In Cayuga II, this court denied both parties' motions
for summary judgment on plaintiffs' claims. Id., 667 F. Supp. at
949. In Cayuga III, this court granted the plaintiffs' motion
for partial summary judgment, and held that agreements entered
into in the years 1795 and 1807 between the plaintiffs and New
York State, wherein the plaintiffs purportedly conveyed to the
State of New York the plaintiffs' interest in the subject land,
were invalid. Id., 730 F. Supp. at 493. In its most recent
decision to date concerning this case, this court held that the
Cayugas obtained recognized title in the subject land by way of
the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, and that therefore the
defendants' defense of abandonment was legally insufficient to
defeat plaintiffs' claim to this land. Cayuga IV, 758 F. Supp.
By the present motion, defendant Consolidated Rail Corporation
("Conrail") has moved for summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs'
complaint as against Conrail. The basis for this motion is
Conrail's contention that the Regional Rail Reorganization Act,
45 U.S.C. § 701-797m (the "RRR Act" or "Rail Act"), which
created Conrail, also established a Special Court which has
original, exclusive and sole jurisdiction to hear and determine
claims challenging Conrail's legal title to rail lines
transferred to it pursuant to the Rail Act.
Initially, this court notes the lateness of the hour at which
it is being asked to determine whether it has subject matter
jurisdiction over plaintiffs' claims asserted against Conrail. It
is clear that the review of a court's jurisdiction over the
subject matter of an action can be raised by any party at any
time during the pendency of a claim. See E.E.O.C. v. Local 580
Int'l Ass'n of Bridge, Structural & Ornamental Ironworkers et
al., 925 F.2d 588, 592 (2d Cir. 1991). Nonetheless, the
amendment to the RRR Act upon which Conrail's motion is based was
enacted approximately fifteen years ago, and this action was
commenced over ten years ago. The court is hopeful that
challenges to its jurisdiction regarding claims brought before it
in the future will be raised by the parties in such actions in a
more timely fashion, thereby preventing the court from
unnecessarily wasting its scarce resources resolving disputes
concerning claims over which it has no jurisdiction.
Defendant Conrail contends that jurisdiction over plaintiffs'
claims against it lies exclusively in the Special Railroad
Reorganization Court ("Special Court"), established by Congress
through the Rail Act.*fn2 Conrail alleges that
45 U.S.C. § 719(e)(1) of this Act precludes this court from exercising
subject matter jurisdiction over the Cayugas' claims against
Conrail. This section of the Act states, in pertinent part:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any civil action —
(E) brought after a conveyance, pursuant to section
743(b) of this title, to set aside or annul such
conveyance or to secure in any way the reconveyance
of any rail properties so conveyed; . . .
shall be within the original and exclusive
jurisdiction of the special court.
Thus, in resolving the issue before it, this court must
determine whether (i) the property at issue involves land which
was conveyed to Conrail pursuant to section 743(b) of Title 45,
(ii) plaintiffs' claims seek to set aside or annul such
conveyance and (iii) the Special Court has exclusive jurisdiction
to hear plaintiffs' claims against Conrail. In addressing this
question, a brief review of the parties' positions relative to
the same is warranted.
Conrail notes that the Conrail properties at issue in the
present litigation were designated by the United States Rail
Association ("U.S.R.A.") to be included in the Final System Plan
developed by the U.S.R.A. pursuant to 45 U.S.C. § 716-717.*fn3
In July, 1975, this Final System Plan was submitted to, and
thereafter approved, by Congress. The Special Court subsequently
conveyed these properties to Conrail "free and clear of liens and
encumbrances" by order of the Special Court dated March 25, 1976;
with title passing to Conrail at 12:01 a.m., April 1, 1976.*fn4
The deeds Conrail received for these properties were executed and
duly recorded by Conrail ...