On October 1, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in a relatively obscure case,Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States. On its face, the case involves an interpretation of the property rights created by the General Railroad Right of Way Act of 1875, which gave to any railroad, chartered by a state or territory, "[t]he right of way [200 feet wide] through the public lands of the United States." The 1875 Act was passed after a brief hiatus in congressional support for railroads following the era of lavish land grants between 1862 and 1871, in which over 94 million acres of public lands were given over to the transcontinental and other state-chartered railroads for sale to assist in financing the road's construction. Besides being an obscure case based on an equally obscure law, the procedural posture of the case is even more unusual, as the government prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, and yet it supported the grant of certiorari.
Danaya C. Wright, Reliance Interests and Takings Liability for Rail-Trail Conversions: Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, 44 Envtl. L. Rep’r. 10173 (2014), available at http://scholarship.law.ufl.edu/facultypub/607