Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Backus has voided a deed filed in 2010 that lays claim to 20,000 acres north of Taos — a decision that will likely allow real estate transactions in the Arroyo Hondo Land Grant to go forward unimpeded for the first time in more than two years.

The ruling came at a hearing Tuesday morning (Feb. 26) attended by area realtors as well as members of the Arroyo Hondo Land Grant Board.

In 2010, the board filed the warranty deed, purportedly signed by Manuel Ortíz, Sr., who appeared to pass ownership of the entire grant to the heirs of the grant's original settlers and to the members of board. The deed was accompanied by a copy of a federal land patent issued for the grant in 1908.

Since becoming part of the public record, the deed has clouded title to the more than 3,000 properties that lie within the historic grant. The cloud has prevented real estate sales and refinances on the grant because title companies have been unwilling to issue policies without adding an exception.

Tuesday's hearing was part of a civil case brought by three national title insurers and property owners in the grant. An attorney for the title companies argued that the court should invalidate the deed by explicitly declaring that the represents no real transfer of property.

The attorney for the Hondo board countered that the filings were merely ceremonial and were meant to notify landowners in the grant that they may own property on historically communal grant land.

A federal case between the board and the same title insurers was dismissed last year after a judge ruled that the title companies did not have standing to bring litigation.

For more on this story, see the Feb. 28 edition of The Taos News.

(5) comments

NativeTaosenaMama
NativeTaosenaMama

Finally!

country preacher
country preacher

Thank God for a JUDGE! People in my village have lost fortunes in homes and properties over this ridiculous boondoggle! Now it's time for some folks to serve some REAL jail time for all the havoc they have caused! If the law fails, for any reason; be sure God will NOT let this pass unpunished! Thanks again Judge Backus!

Part Timer
Part Timer

"...the filings were merely ceremonial..." What a pile of ... !

trailrider
trailrider

It's about time! What a scar on Taos County this has been. What a travesty for those who have lost their homes and livelihoods. God will have justice.

Concerned Taoseno
Concerned Taoseno

Yes, the deed was properly voided by Judge Backus. The person who signed and filed it did incalculable economic harm to property owners, realtors, people in the construction trades and building supply folks. I understand that the criminal case against him would not have been easy, but his plea deal let him walk with a light slap on the wrist. Well, done is done, eh?

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