Public easement refers to a legal relationship pertaining to private lands with public property characteristics and is recognized in the legal regime of this nation. The Supreme Administrative Court rendered the 103-Pan-423 Decision of July 31, 2014 (hereinafter, the "Decision"), holding that if an existing road whose public easement has been established is no longer accessible to the nonspecific public due to changes in geographic environment or human or cultural conditions, the criteria for public easement will not be satisfied and the public easement shall be extinguished to fulfill the objective of protecting the property rights of the people under the Constitution.
According to the facts underlying the Decision, a certain parcel of land (hereinafter, the "Land at Issue") owned by the Republic of China and managed by National Chung Hsing University was paved with a cement road by Individual A with car park sheds created for parking and access. The Urban Development Department of Taichung City Government visited the Land at Issue for inspection and determined that it was an existing road with public easement. Dissatisfied, Chung Hsing University filed declaratory suit, and the original trial court confirmed in its decision that the legal relationship of public easement for existing roads did not exist with respect to the Land at Issue. Dissatisfied, Taichung City Government filed this appeal.
It was first indicated in the Decision that public easement is not always established with the creation of existing roads and requires certain conditions to be fulfilled. When public easement of a private land is established, the owner's usage benefits from the land are constrained, resulting in special sacrifices for public interest. However, if an existing road whose public easement has been established becomes inaccessible for the nonspecific public due to changes in geographic environment or human or cultural conditions, the criteria for public easement will not be satisfied and public easement should be extinguished immediately to fulfill the objective of protecting the people's property rights of the Constitution. When a lawsuit is filed to confirm the existence of public easement on a certain land, it was stressed in the Decision that evidence should be provided to determine if the land is subject to the preconditions and facts required for the establishment of public easement. In the original trial court decision, it was held that since the existing road in the Land at Issue was only accessible to Individual A's family and was not required for public access, the criteria for public easement are not satisfied. In this Decision, it was held that since the fact finding and application of laws by the original trial court were not erroneous, the appeal of Taichung City Government was rejected.