(CN) – The 9th Circuit rejected the federal takings claim of farmers who want Santa Barbara County to pay them for falsely designating part of their leased property as wetland. The court said the claim is barred by a previous judgment in California court.
Adam Bros. Farming said the county temporarily blocked it from farming a 95-acre swath of a 268-acre lot known as Rancho Meadows in Santa Maria, Calif.
Farmers said the county had incorrectly declared the tract a wetland and then tried to back up its designation with false reports.
Adam Bros. sued in state court, alleging due process and equal protection violations, and won a $5.5 million damages award. An appeals court upheld the order invalidating the county’s wetland label, but reversed the damages award.
When the California high court turned down the farmers’ appeal, they filed a takings claim in federal court, claiming the county’s wetland designation violated their Fifth Amendment rights.
The district court dismissed the case as barred by the principle of res judicata, which prevents a party from filing the same claim against the same party after a final judgment — in this case, the jury’s verdict.
“The substance of Adam Bros.’ state and federal complaints is nearly identical,” Judge Robert Beezer wrote for the three-judge panel in Pasadena.
Adam Bros. insisted that its federal takings claim is not precluded by the state-court verdict, because it did not exist until the state court invalidated the county’s false wetland designation.
“Yet its present claim is still based on the underlying factual circumstances as the claims it raised in state court,” Beezer noted. “Adam Bros.’ claim is barred by res judicata.”