Almota Farmers Elevator & Warehouse Company v. United States

PETITIONER: Almota Farmers Elevator & Warehouse Company
RESPONDENT: United States
LOCATION: Allegheny County District Court

DOCKET NO.: 71-951
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 409 US 470 (1973)
ARGUED: Oct 18, 1972
DECIDED: Jan 16, 1973

ADVOCATES:
Kent Frizzell - for respondent
Lawrence Earl Hickman - for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Almota Farmers Elevator & Warehouse Company v. United States

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 18, 1972 in Almota Farmers Elevator & Warehouse Company v. United States

Warren E. Burger:

We’ll hear arguments next in number 71-951, Almota Farmers Elevator against the United States.

Mr. Hickman.

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a condemnation action to acquire the leasehold interest of the Almota Farmers Elevator and Warehouse Company in a track of land required for the Little Goose Lock and Dam Project, a Corps of Engineers project on the Snake River in Eastern Washington.

The fee owner, the railroad in this case was not joined.

For many years, the OWRNN Company had owned and operated a railroad on the north bank of the Snake River which ran through the little village of Almota.

The Almota Elevator Company in 1919 went to the railroad and they leased 7,500 of an acre, three quarters of an acre of bare unimproved land, absolutely nothing on it.

And under various consecutive leases from that date forward, the date of taking on May 26, 1967, the Almota Company continued to hold this lease.

At the time of the taking, they held under a 20-year lease which had a term to expire on October 12, 1974.

Potter Stewart:

And that how long did you say?

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

The date of taking was May 26, 1967.

It was to expire October 12, 1974.

Potter Stewart:

But how?

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

It had been a 20-year lease.

Potter Stewart:

And had there been lease prior to that?

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

Oh!

Yes, there had been various short-term leases since 1919.

Potter Stewart:

1919 that’s what --

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

Consecutive, continuous.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Were they all 20-year leases or varied?

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

No, it started out with 5-year leases.

In fact the 20-year lease is the longest lease the company ever had.

There was no renewal option in this lease.

Now that’s actually what’s involved in the taking in this case and if it was only, this bare unimproved land that was involved here, we wouldn’t have any problem because the Almota Company isn’t arguing on the point that the valuation of this very leasehold is its use value for the length of the term remaining on the lease less the agreed rent.

We have no argument over that.

But shortly after the company acquired this property, in 1919 they went out on the property and they built a warehouse on this property to handle grain and some years afterwards, they built three crib elevators on this property and at some time later, it put up a concrete tank on the property.

Now, it’s all of those improvements that are involved, it was before the Court.

Warren E. Burger:

What does the lease provide with respect to those improvements at the term if the lease is not renewed?

Lawrence Earl Hickman:

All through the period that these improvements were on there.

These improvements under the terms of the lease and the treatment of the parties were the personal property of the elevator company.