Attorney Eliu Romero has filed a brief on behalf of a group of property owners asking a district court judge in Taos to nullify a deed filed by a board purporting to represent the Arroyo Hondo Land Grant.
The five-member board filed a warranty deed and quitclaim deed in October 2011 laying claim to the historic 20,000-acre land grant located a few miles north of Taos.
The deeds put a cloud over all properties within the grant, preventing sales and refinances.
The brief, filed Sept. 17, alleges that the deeds are “invalid, spurious, null and void and of no legal effect whatsoever.”
The filing goes on to ask that a judge “invalidate the two deeds and decree that neither of the deeds can be the foundation upon which to base any claim of right, title or interest” to his clients’ property.
Romero is representing Thomas Gutiérrez, Harry James Oakley and Louella E. Oakley, and Miguel E. Romero, all of whom own land in the grant, according to the filing.
A federal judge recently dismissed a case brought by three national title insurers asking that the Hondo deed be nullified. The judge in that case ruled that the title companies did not have standing to bring a complaint, suggesting that the issue was between the board and private landowners.
Attorney Santiago Juárez, who is representing the Hondo board, told the judge in that case that the filing was “ceremonial.”
Members of the board have asserted that heirs of the grant’s original settlers have an immutable right to all land within the grant.
Attorneys representing private property owners argue the land could legally be bought and sold at will and the recently formed board has no authority over private property.
The recent filing from Romero against the Hondo board is similar to a brief he prepared for the town of Taos last year. In that filing, Romero asked a judge to invalidate similar deeds filed by a board claiming to represent the Cristóbal de la Serna Land Grant south of town.
In July 2011, Judge Sarah Backus declared the Serna deed to be invalid. Backus is also overseeing the recent case filed against the Hondo board.
A hearing in a separate case brought by a sister of three Hondo board members is scheduled for Friday (Oct. 5). The sister, Palmela Reed-Ortíz, is also asking the judge to invalidate the deeds.
In addition, the district attorney has brought fraud and forgery charges against Hondo board member Lawrence Ortíz. A jury trial in that case is scheduled for Nov. 26.