Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. Commences Class Action Suit on Behalf of Private Land Owners in North Dakota
MINNEAPOLIS, March 9, 2012 - Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. commenced yesterday a class action suit on behalf of certain landowners in North Dakota, claiming actions by the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands, the State of North Dakota, and the Commissioner of the Trust Lands Department have deprived them of their mineral interests without just compensation in North Dakota, a violation of both the U.S. Constitution and the North Dakota Constitution, as well as North Dakota eminent domain statutes.
Under North Dakota property law dating back to territorial times, private owners of land along rivers and lakes throughout the state take rights in that land to the low water mark. Individuals have purchased mineral interests in land above the low water mark of rivers, lakes, and other waters in North Dakota with the understanding that they own those mineral interests.
According to the suit, as it has become evident in recent years that minerals, such as oil, exist in some of those lands, and as techniques like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have made access to those minerals more cost-effective, the State of North Dakota and the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands have wrongfully asserted absolute title to those privately owned mineral interests in land along rivers and lakes in North Dakota between the low water mark and the high water mark.
The Board of University and School Lands has commissioned studies to delineate the ordinary high water mark, and have issued leases to private companies for extraction of oil below its delineation, regardless of the private ownership of mineral interests in those same lands. The suit claims that in doing so, the North Dakota Board of University and School Lands has received millions of dollars from leasing mineral interests it does not own.
Jan Conlin, partner at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P. and former resident of Williston, is representing the plaintiffs along with co-counsels Charles L. Neff of Neff Eiken & Neff, P.C. in Williston, ND.; Thomas J. Conlin of the Conlin Law Firm, LLC in Minneapolis, MN; and David Bossart of the Bossart Law Firm, P.C. in Fargo, ND.