News Archive
May 3, 2016


In July 2013, the directors of the Juan Tafoya Land Corporation filed a Petition in New Mexico’s Second Judicial District Court under the caption Juan Tafoya Land Corporation v. The Actual and Putative Shareholders of the Juan Tafoya Land Corporation, Cause No. D-202-CV-2013-06084. The Petition included a proposed shareholder list, which added individuals to the list of shareholders who had never been recognized in the Corporation’s history, removed shareholders whose interests had been secured for nearly 40 years, and modified the share allocations of nearly every other legitimate shareholder. The apparent goal of the proposed shareholder list was to undo over one hundred years of litigation concerning ownership and control of the lands held by the Juan Tafoya Land Corporation. However, on November 19, 2015, the Second Judicial District Court granted the shareholders’ Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed the Petition on the ground that the Corporation may not relitigate issues that had already been decided in 1905, 1969, 1975, 1979 and 2007. The proposed shareholder list would be thrown out and the Corporation would be required to conduct its business in compliance with the Courts’ previous rulings.


The Juan Tafoya Land Corporation was formed in May 1976 to hold and manage a 3,840-acre tract of land near the town of Marquez, New Mexico. Shares of the Juan Tafoya Land Corporation are exclusively held by the descendants of the original owners of the lands, whose ownership interests were guaranteed by the Second Judicial District Court following a lawsuit in 1905 (the “1905 Lawsuit”).

Although the 1905 Lawsuit established that the lands belonged to the residents of Marquez, confusion arose nearly 70 years later about who the descendants of those original owners were. As a result, three lawsuits were filed between 1971 and 1973 to determine the identities of the original owners’ descendants (the “1971 Lawsuit”).

On March 7, 1972, the Thirteenth Judicial District Court appointed Raymond Sanchez special master to investigate the identities of the original owners’ descendants. The Special Master’s investigation resulted in two lists: a list of the original owners, known as “trunk heirs,” and a list of their living descendants. Upon the Special Master’s recommendation, the living heirs voted to form the Juan Tafoya Land Corporation and, in May 1978, the lands were conveyed to the newly formed corporation.

Soon after the Corporation was formed, nine shareholders filed a lawsuit in the Thirteenth Judicial District Court challenging the Corporation’s method of distributing shares (the “1979 Lawsuit”). The dispute made its way to the New Mexico Supreme Court and, in 1981, the Court held that the Corporation’s methodology for the distribution of shares was lawful and in accordance with the recommendations of the Special Master.

No new disputes arose for nearly 30 years. However, in December 2007, five shareholders sued the Corporation alleging that the shareholder rolls were inaccurate and incomplete (the “2007 Lawsuit”). The Court disagreed and held that the Board of Directors had not breached its duty of care in maintaining shareholder rolls.


Shortly after the Court approved the Corporation’s shareholder list in the 2007 Lawsuit, the Corporation underwent a radical shift in control. Three of the plaintiffs against the Corporation in the 2007 Lawsuit organized to form a majority on the Corporation’s five-member Board of Directors. Among their first acts was to hire a team of genealogists to reinvestigate the findings of the Special Master. The new Board instructed the genealogists to honor some of the Special Master’s findings while disregarding others. It also altered the methodology for the distribution of corporate shares in defiance of the Supreme Court’s holding in 1981. The result was a shareholder list that would virtually guarantee that the current Board could not be voted out. Meanwhile, shareholders whose ownership interests had been secured for 40 years were suddenly divested of some or all of their shares, while individuals who had never held shares of the Corporation had suddenly been added. The cost to the Corporation of this ultimately pointless research project totaled more than $250,000.

Armed with a proposed shareholder list that was founded on irrelevant genealogies and an unauthorized share distribution methodology, the Corporation filed its Petition in the Second Judicial District Court on July 24, 2013. On May 2, 2014, RMC Lawyers entered its appearance for twelve shareholders whose ownership had either been reduced or eliminated under the proposed list. Following a limited amount of discovery, RMC Lawyers filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on behalf of the shareholders on June 22, 2015. A hearing on RMC’s Motion was held on November 13, 2015 and, just one week later, Judge Malott entered judgment in the shareholders’ favor. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order 20 pages in length, Judge Malott held that the Corporation’s proposed shareholder list conflicted with the Supreme Court’s decision in 1981 and that the present effort to relitigate the accuracy and completeness of the shareholder list was barred under the judicial doctrine of res judicata.

It has taken six lawsuits and over one hundred years to establish who has the right to own and control the lands held by the Juan Tafoya Land Corporation. The Court’s holding reaffirms the rule of law, which, as Judge Malott wrote, “is designed to relieve parties of the cost and vexation of multiple lawsuits, conserve judicial resources, prevent inconsistent decisions, and encourage reliance on adjudication.” Although these goals were all met here, the Corporation elected to appeal the District Court’s judgment. RMC Lawyers is continuing its representation of the shareholders through the appeal and anticipates a favorable outcome consistent with Judge Malott’s thorough and well-reasoned Memorandum Opinion.