The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has determined that a district court prematurely dismissed a lawsuit that was brought by the City of Santa Monica to determine whether the city is obligated to continue operating Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO) in Southern California.
The May 16 decision sends the case back to the federal district court, and reopens the question of whether the property on which the airport is located could revert to the federal government if it ceases to be used as an airport.
“The decision to reverse the dismissal is based on the appeals court’s finding that the record does not definitively establish when the city was aware of the federal government’s disagreement over whether the city remained obligated under a 1948 deed to operate the airport in perpetuity, rather than the merits of the obligations that the city agreed to when the government’s interest in the airport land was deeded back to them,” said Ken Mead, general counsel for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA). “The district court’s decision was predominantly based on a procedural argument, and the Court of Appeals believes that the district court’s assessment was based on an incomplete record.
“We are confident that, once the procedural history and the merits of the deed’s language are fully examined, the court will find that Santa Monica is obligated to keep the airport open,” he continued. “The process could be a long one, but AOPA will be there every step of the way.”