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Voss v. Goodman

March 18, 2009

MARK AND LAURA VOSS, APPELLANTS (DEFENDANTS),
v.
BEVERLY B. GOODMAN, APPELLEE (PLAINTIFF).



Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Chief Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, and BURKE, JJ, and YOUNG, DJ.

[¶1] Appellants, Mark and Laura Voss, request relief from a district court decision in a declaratory judgment action finding that the Albany County Board of County Commissioners (Board) did not have authority to grant Appellants temporary access across Appellee‟s, Beverly Goodman‟s, land during a private road condemnation case.

ISSUES

[¶2] 1. Did the district court have jurisdiction to issue declaratory judgment as to whether the Board had authority under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 24-9-101 (LexisNexis 1999) to grant temporary access to Appellants during a private road condemnation action in which Appellants sought permanent access across Appellee‟s land?

2. Did the district court err when it determined that the Board did not have authority under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 24-9-101 (LexisNexis 1999) to grant temporary access to Appellants during a private road condemnation action in which Appellants sought permanent access across Appellee‟s land?

3. Did the district court abuse its discretion when it denied Appellants leave to amend their Answer?

FACTS*fn1

[¶3] Appellants filed a petition to establish a private road across Appellee‟s land in 1999. In 2007, Appellants filed a Motion for Grant of Temporary Access Pending the Final Establishment of a Private Road for [Appellants‟] Property. The Board granted that request. Appellee filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief requesting that the district court interpret the statute and find that the Board had acted without authority in granting Appellants temporary access during the private road action. Appellee filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. Appellants filed a motion for leave to amend their Answer and a cross motion for summary judgment. The district court issued a decision letter dated October 29, 2007, in which it denied Appellants‟ request for leave to amend the Answer, granted Appellee summary judgment on the issues of declaratory and injunctive relief,*fn2 and denied summary judgment on the issue of damages. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Jurisdiction

[¶4] We review the threshold question of jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgments Act de novo. Heilig v. Wyo. Game & Fish Comm'n, 2003 WY 27, ¶ 8, 64 P.3d 734, 737 (Wyo. 2003). The district court properly determined that it had jurisdiction to entertain this declaratory judgment action. The Declaratory Judgments Act sets forth the scope of declaratory judgment actions as follows:

Courts of record within their respective jurisdictions may declare rights, status and other legal relations whether or not further relief is or could be claimed. No proceeding is open to objection on the ground that a declaratory judgment or decree is prayed for. The declaration may be either affirmative or negative in ...


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