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Atlantis Dev. Corp. v. United States - 379 F.2d 818 (5th Cir. 1967)

Rule:

A party who claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest may intervene in the action.

Facts:

Intervenor Atlantis Development Corporation, Ltd. ("Atlantis") obtained uncertain ownership rights to certain coral reefs off the Florida coast from the person who discovered the reefs in 1962. That same year Atlantis sought permission from both state and federal agencies to develop the coral reefs; all agencies denied having any jurisdiction over the reefs. Later, after development began, the United States Corps of Engineers ("Corps") asserted that Atlantis needed permits for two structures. While Atlantis was trying to convince the Corps that it had no jurisdiction over the reefs, defendant developers sought permits from the Corps to commence development. Atlantis asserted its right to ownership, which ultimately caused plaintiff United States to file a lawsuit against the developers in federal district court in which it asserted jurisdiction over the reefs and sought to enjoin the developers' activities. Atlantis filed a motion to intervene in the action, which the district court denied. Atlantic appealed.

Issue:

Did Atlantis have a sufficient interest to intervene in the suit against the developers?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court reversed the district court's judgment. The court found that, while the prior version of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure did not allow intervention as of right, the 1966 amendments to those Rules, which were to be applied retroactively, did allow intervention as of right by Atlantis. Viewed together with the amended rule governing joinder, the rule governing intervention indicated a more liberal approach to joinder of parties claiming interest in the subject of an action. Here, Atlantis claimed an interest relating to the property or transaction that was the subject of the action filed by the United States, and in the absence of Atlantis, a disposition of the United States' action against the developers would, as a practical matter, impair or impede its ability to protect that interest. Thus, intervention was warranted.

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