United States District Court, D. New Mexico
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF DISMISSAL
VAZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Civil
Rights Complaint Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Doc. 1,
filed July 31, 2018 ("Complaint"), and on
Plaintiffs Application to Proceed in District Court Without
Prepaying Fees or Costs, Doc. 2, filed July 31, 2018
("Application"). For the reasons stated below, the
Court will DISMISS this case without
prejudice and DENY the Application as moot.
claims underground water rights to land owned and farmed by
his great grandfather beginning in the early 1900s.
See Complaint at 2. Plaintiff submitted declarations
of his claimed water rights to the State. The State responded
The Declarations ... that you submitted with this office on
September 26, 2015 are rejected and not accepted for filing
with the Office of the State Engineer because your
declarations describe lands that are within the boundaries of
the Santa Fe stream system adjudication. The Santa Fe Basin
adjudication is ongoing. Therefore, any claims to water
rights within this area must be asserted in the Santa Fe
adjudication, and not before the State Engineer. Our
Litigation and Adjudication Program staff met with you on
October 30th, 2015 and advised you that you could
file your claims with the adjudication court.
at 8. Plaintiff later began a lawsuit in state court
"requesting validation of [his] water rights
claim," but that case was "dismissed because motion
response was two weeks late." Complaint at 4. Plaintiff
now asks this Court to "simply recognize the validity of
this patent and small holding claim to my great grandfather
(Simon Vigil) and further recognize [Plaintiffs] claim to
water rights based on these deeds, which will act as a
federal court adjudication." Complaint at 5.
Court does not have jurisdiction over this matter. See
Evitt v. Durland, 243 F.3d 388 *2 (10th Cir. 2000)
("even if the parties do not raise the question
themselves, it is our duty to address the apparent lack of
jurisdiction sua sponte") (quoting Tuck v. United
Servs. Auto. Ass'n, 859 F.2d 842, 843 (10th
"Younger abstention dictates that federal
courts not interfere with state court proceedings by granting
equitable relief-such as injunctions of important state
proceedings or declaratory judgments regarding constitutional
issues in those proceedings-when such relief could adequately
be sought before the state court." A federal court must
abstain from exercising jurisdiction when: (1) there is an
ongoing state criminal, civil, or administrative proceeding,
(2) the state court provides an adequate forum to hear the
claims raised in the federal complaint, and (3) the state
proceedings "involve important state interests, matters
which traditionally look to state law for their resolution or
implicate separately articulated state policies."
Younger abstention is non-discretionary; it must be
invoked once the three conditions are met, absent
Amanatullah v. Colo. Bd. Med. Exam 'rs, 187 F.3d
1160, 1163 (10th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). All three
conditions are met in this case. First, there is an ongoing
adjudication of water rights in state court for water rights
claims in the Santa Fe basin which is the location of
Plaintiff s claimed water rights. Second, the state court
provides an adequate forum to hear Plaintiffs water rights
claims. New Mexico state law requires that the adjudication
court determine the right to use water for all claimants in a
stream system and enter a decree declaring those rights.
See N.M.S.A. § 72- 4-19. Furthermore, the final
judgment and decree of the state court adjudication is
subject to review by the New Mexico Court of Appeals. Third,
there is no question that the determination of water rights
involves important state interests, matters which
traditionally look to state law for their resolution or
implicate separately articulated state policies. The natural
waters within the arid State of New Mexico "belong to
the public and [are] subject to appropriation for beneficial
use, in accordance with the laws of the state." N.M.
Const, art. XVI, § 2.
Court will dismiss the Complaint without prejudice for lack
of jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3)
("If the court determines at any time that it lacks
subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the
action"); Brereton v. Bountiful City Corp., 434
F.3d 1213, 1218 (10th Cir. 2006) ("[Dismissals for lack
of jurisdiction should be without prejudice because the
court, having determined that it lacks jurisdiction over the
action, is incapable of reaching a disposition on
the merits of the underlying claims.").
it is dismissing this case, the Court will deny Plaintiffs
Application to proceed in forma pauperis as moot.
IS ORDERED that:
This case is DISMISSED ...