2016 Federal Courts of Appeal Cases

Last updated: December 19, 2016

Next update should be ready by: January 2017

Recently added cases:

Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation v. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau
2016 WL 7210129
No. 14-35165
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
December 13, 2016

Legal Topics: Tobacco - Federal Excise Tax

Related News Stories: Appeals court rules Yakama Nation can't sue over tobacco tax (610 KONA) 12/13/16


Older Cases:

November

Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc. v. United States
2016 WL 6608942
Docket Nos. 15-1688, 15-1726
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
November 9, 2016

*Synopsis: Towns, civic organization, and local residents commenced action to challenge record of decision (ROD) issued by Department of the Interior (DOI) taking over 13,000 acres of land in central New York into trust for benefit of Oneida Indian Nation. The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Lawrence E. Kahn, J., granted government's motion for partial dismissal, 2009 WL 3165556, and its motion for summary judgment on remaining claims, 2015 WL 1399366. Plaintiffs appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Susan L. Carney, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) organization had standing to bring action;
2) Congress's authority to legislate with respect to Indian tribes was not limited to regulation of trading activities that crossed state borders;
3) federal government's acquisition of land for Indian use pursuant to Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) was "regulation of commerce" within meaning of Indian Commerce Clause;
4) principles of state sovereignty did not impair federal government's power to acquire land on tribe's behalf;
5) Enclave Clause did not require Congress to obtain state legislature's express consent before it could take state land into trust;
6) IRA permitted United States to take land into trust for benefit of Oneida Indian Nation; and
7) Oneida Indian Nation was "tribe" within meaning of Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA).
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: 2nd Circuit affirms Oneida fee into trust judgment (Turtle Talk) 11/10/16

October

Williams v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians
839 F.3d 1312
No. 15-13552
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
Filed October 18, 2016

*Synopsis: Former employee of federally-recognized Native-American tribe's health department brought action against tribe, alleging discrimination under Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, No. 1:14–cv–00594–CG–M, Callie V.S. Granade, J., 2015 WL 4104611, adopting report and recommendation of Bert W. Milling, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge, granted tribe's motion to dismiss. Employee appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, C. Lynwood Smith, Jr., District Judge, sitting by designation, held that:
1) Congress's failure to include phrase "an Indian tribe" in list of entities excluded from ADEA's definition of "employers" did not demonstrate intent to abrogate tribal sovereign immunity as bar to suit under ADEA, and
2) even though ADEA was statute of general applicability, and tribe was generally subject to its terms, doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity protected tribe from ADEA suits.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Indian tribe has sovereign immunity from employee's ADEA claim (CCH's Employment Law Daily) 10/21/16, Tribe immune from age-discrimination suit (Courthouse News) 10/20/16, Poarch Band of Creek Indians can't be sued for firing employee (Indianz) 10/20/16, Eleventh Circuit holds ADEA does not abrogate tribal immunity (Turtle Talk) 10/19/16

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. United States Army Corps of Engineers
No. 16-5259
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
October 9, 2016

Legal Topics: Sacred Places; Dakota Access Pipeline - Injunctions

Related News Stories: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sees setback as court lifts injunction in #NoDAPL case (Indianz) 10/10/16

September

Meyers v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
2016 WL 4698949
No. 15-3127
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
Decided September 8, 2016
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Consumer brought putative class action against Indian tribe, alleging violation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA). Tribe moved to dismiss. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge, granted motion. Consumer appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Rovner, Circuit Judge, held that tribe was immune from consumer's suit alleging violation of FACTA.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Seventh Circuit affirms denial of class certification on Spokeo grounds in FACTA class action (JD Supra) 12/14/16, Seventh Circuit holds Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act does not abrogate tribal immunity (Turtle Talk) 9/9/16

August

Alvarez v. Lopez
835 F.3d 1024
No. 12-15788
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed August 30, 2016

*Synopsis: Member of Indian tribe filed petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging that his convictions and sentences by tribal court violated Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The United States District Court for the District of Arizona, David G. Campbell, J., 2012 WL 1038746, denied petition, and petitioner appealed. After affirmance, 773 F.3d 1011, petition for panel rehearing was granted

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Kozinski, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) tribe deliberately waived any non-exhaustion defense, and
2) tribe violated petitioner's right to jury trial under Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA).
Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Ninth Circuit reverses tribal conviction on failure to guarantee a jury trial (Turtle Talk) 8/30/16 , Feds reverse conviction, citing ‘rat’s nest’ of tribal court problems (Cronkite News) 8/30/16

Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah v. Myton
835 F.3d 1255
No. 15-4080
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
August 29, 2016
See Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation v. Myton 8/9/16 for original posting

*Synopsis: Ute Indian Tribe filed suit against cities, counties, and state officials, seeking injunctive relief halting criminal prosecution of tribal member for alleged traffic offenses on land judicially recognized as Indian country. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, Bruce S. Jenkins, Senior Judge, granted city's motion to dismiss, and tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Gorsuch, Circuit Judge, held that:
1 issue preclusion barred relitigation of whether parcel of land within city was Indian country;
2 equitable principles did not warrant eliminating checkerboard jurisdiction; and
3 doctrine of laches did not apply.
Reversed.

Keli'i Akina, et al. v. State of Hawaii, et al.
2016 WL 4501686
No. 15-17453, No. 15-17134
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed August 29, 2016

Legal Topics: Elections; Native Hawaiians

Related News Stories: Court denies appeal in election case (The Maui News) 8/30/16

Jamul Action Committee v. Chaudhuri
2016 WL 4414683
No. 15-16021
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Amended August 19, 2016

Legal Topics: Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - NEPA Review

United States v. Lasley
2016 WL 4254387
No. 15-1738
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
August 12, 2016

Legal Topics: Sentencing - Guidelines to Major Crimes Act

Related News Stories: Court decision highlights sentencing disparities in Indian Country (Indianz) 8/15/16

Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation v. Myton
832 F.3d 1220
No. 15-4080
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
August 9, 2016
Altered August 29, 2016. See Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah v. Myton

*Synopsis: Ute Indian Tribe filed suit against cities, counties, and state officials, seeking injunctive relief halting criminal prosecution of tribal member for alleged traffic offenses on land judicially recognized as Indian country. The United States District Court for the District of Utah granted city's motion to dismiss for failure to state claim. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Gorsuch, Circuit Judge, held that:
1 issue preclusion barred relitigation of whether parcel of land within city was Indian country;
2 equitable principles did not warrant eliminating checkerboard jurisdiction; and
3 doctrine of laches did not apply.
Reversed.

Bodi v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians
832 F.3d 1011
No. 14-16121
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
August 8, 2016

*Synopsis: Member of federally recognized Indian tribe brought California state-court action against tribe and tribal health board, alleging, inter alia, that she was wrongfully terminated from her position as executive director of clinic due to her illness in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and state law. Following removal, tribe moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Lawrence K. Karlton, Senior District Judge, 19 F.Supp.3d 978, denied motion, and defendants appealed.

*Holdings:The Court of Appeals, Friedland, Circuit Judge, held that as a matter of first impression for the court, a federally recognized Indian tribe does not waive its sovereign immunity from suit by exercising its right to remove to federal court a case filed against it in state court, abrogating State Engineer of State of Nevada v. South Fork Band of Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada, 66 F.Supp.2d 1163.
Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Indian tribe did not waive sovereign immunity by removing lawsuit to federal court (National Law Review) 9/13/16, Ninth Circuit addresses effect of removal on tribal sovereign immunity (JD Dsupra) 8/17/16, Tribe didn't waive sovereign immunity in FMLA lawsuit (Bloomberg) 8/9/16

United States v. Lamott
2016 WL 4088752
No. 15-30012
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
August 2, 2016

Legal Topics: Violence Against Women Act

United States v. Alvirez
831 F.3d 1115
No. 11-10244
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
August 1, 2016

*Synopsis: Defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, David G. Campbell, J., of assault resulting in serious bodily injury on an Indian reservation, and was sentenced to 37 months in prison. Defendant appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Rawlinson, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) defendant did not waive right to challenge on appeal district court's admission of certificate of Indian blood;
2) admission of certificate of Indian blood was an abuse of discretion;
3) error in admitting certificate of Indian blood was not harmless;
4) denial of defendant's motion to exclude references to his polygraph examination did not deprive him of his right to a fair trial; and
5) enhancement of sentence based on infliction of permanent injury was warranted.

Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Appeals court reverses conviction due to tribal certificate dispute (Indianz) 8/3/16

July

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon v. Jewell
2016 WL 4056092
No. 14-5326
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
July 29, 2016
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Operator of tribal casino, along with county, city, and local businesses, brought consolidated actions against Secretary of the Interior, bringing challenge under Administrative Procedure Act (APA), Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with respect to her decision to take into trust 152 acres of land for Cowlitz Indian Tribe and to allow gaming there, and tribe intervened as defendant. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Barbara J. Rothstein, J., 75 F.Supp.3d 387, granted defendants' summary judgment motion. Plaintiffs appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wilkins, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) term "recognized," as used in larger phrase "recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction" in IRA's definition of "Indian," was ambiguous under Chevron analysis;
2) Secretary reasonably interpreted term "recognized," as used in IRA section defining "Indian," so that there was no temporal limitation on when recognition occurred;
3) term "under federal jurisdiction," as used in larger phrase "recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction" in IRA's definition of "Indian," was ambiguous under Chevron analysis;
4) Secretary reasonably interpreted term "under federal jurisdiction," as used in IRA"s definition of "Indian," so as to require two-part inquiry;
5) Secretary reasonably applied its two-part inquiry as to whether tribe was "under federal jurisdiction"; and
6) Secretary reasonably found that land parcel was within broader area of historical significance to tribe, and thus met initial-reservation exception under IGRA.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Mashpee, Cowlitz rulings could have national impact on casino law (Taunton Gazette) 8/3/16, Two tribes see conflicting rulings in long-running quests for casinos (Indianz) 8/2/16, Federal court upholds Cowlitz Tribe's right to reservation (The Daily News) 7/29/16, Cowlitz Tribe wins major court ruling on land-into-trust application (Indianz) 7/29/16

Pakootas v. Teck Cominco Metals, LTD.
2016 WL 4011196
No. 15-35228
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
July 27, 2016

*Synopsis: Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) action was brought against the operator of a smelter located in Canada, and plaintiffs amended their complaints to add claims for cost recovery and natural resource damages resulting from the smelter's aerial emissions. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, Lonny R. Suko, Senior District Judge, 2014 WL 7408399, denied the operator's motion to strike or dismiss the added claims and denied its motion for reconsideration. Operator was granted permission to bring interlocutory appeal.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Hawkins, Circuit Judge, held that operator did not arrange for "disposal" of hazardous substances within meaning of CERCLA by allowing smelter's airborne emissions to contaminate land and water downwind.

Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: State, tribes to challenge ruling on emissions (Register-Guard) 8/14/16, Decision reversed: Teck Metals no longer liable for air pollution, ruling states (Tribal Tribune) 8/8/16, Ninth Circuit holds air emissions not covered by CERCLA (Morgan Lewis) 7/29/16

Mackinac Tribe v. Jewell
829 F.3d 754
No. 15-5118
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
July 19, 2016
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action to compel Secretary of the Interior to declare it a federally recognized Indian tribe and to convene an election allowing the tribe to organize under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). Secretary moved to dismiss. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Ketanji Brown Jackson, J., 87 F.Supp.3d 127, converted motion into motion for summary judgment and granted motion. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that tribe was required to exhaust administrative remedies by first seeking acknowledgment through Part 83 Process.

Affirmed.

Patchak v. Jewell
2016 WL 3854056
No. 15–5200
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
July 15, 2016
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Resident of rural community brought action challenging Secretary of the Interior's decision to take a parcel of land into trust on behalf of the Gun Lake Indian Tribe for casino use pursuant to Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). Tribe intervened as defendant. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Richard J. Leon, J., 646 F.Supp.2d 72, dismissed action. Resident appealed. The Court of Appeals, Randolph, Senior Circuit Judge, 632 F.3d 702, reversed and remanded. On remand, resident and tribe cross-moved for summary judgment. The District Court, 109 F.Supp.3d 152, granted intervenor defendant's motion and denied resident's motion based on Congress's enactment of the Gun Lake Act, which reaffirmed the Department of the Interior's decision to take the land into trust for the tribe and removed jurisdiction from the federal courts over any actions relating to such property. Appeal was taken.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wilkins, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) the Gun Lake Act did not encroach upon Article III judicial power of the courts to decide cases and controversies in violation of separation of powers doctrine;
2) the Act did not violate resident's First Amendment right to petition;
3) the Act did not violate resident's right to due process, even if he had a protected property right in his cause of action; and
4) the Act was not an unconstitutional bill of attainder.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Federal appeals court backs Gun Lake Tribe land-into-trust law (Indianz) 7/15/16

Poarch Band of Creek Indians v. James Hildreth, Jr.
2016 WL 3668021
No. 15-13400
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.
July 11, 2016

Legal Topics: Indian Lands - Taxation

Related News Stories: Poarch Creeks win ruling in dispute over taxation of trust lands (Indianz) 7/12/16

United States v. Barnett
2016 WL 3670022
No. 15–5055
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
July 11, 2016

*Synopsis: Defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, upon guilty plea, of embezzling funds from Indian tribe by appropriating to his own use money withdrawn from automated teller machines (ATM). Defendant appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Hartz, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) district court could properly rely on presentence report (PSR) and an addendum to that report in calculating defendant's offense level, as well as the amount he owed the tribe in restitution, and
2) district court did not clearly err in finding that defendant embezzled all, not just some, of the money that he withdrew from ATMs, for purposes of determining amount of loss in calculating offense level and the amount he owed the tribe in restitution.

Affirmed.

Aguayo v. Jewell
2016 WL 3648465
No. 14-56909
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
July 8, 2016

Legal Topics: Tribal Membership Dispute

United States v. Drapeau
827 F.3d 100
No. 14-3890
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
July 1, 2016

*Synopsis: After denial of defendant's motion in limine to exclude testimony regarding his prior tribal-court convictions for domestic abuse, defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Roberto A. Lange, J., 73 F.Supp.3d 1086, of assault and domestic assault by a habitual offender, and he appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wollman, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) testimony was relevant, and thus admissible;
2) probative value of testimony was not substantially outweighed by its prejudicial effect; and
3) use of defendant's uncounseled prior tribal-court convictions as predicate offenses did not violate Constitution.

Affirmed.

Akiachak Native Community v. United States Department of Interior
2016 WL 3568092
No. 13-5360
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.
Decided July 1, 2016

*Synopsis: Alaska Native tribes brought action challenging Secretary of Interior's decision to leave in place regulation precluding Alaskan tribes from acquiring land in trust pursuant to Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). State of Alaska intervened, and cross-motions for summary judgment were filed. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Rudolph Contreras, J., 935 F.Supp.2d 195, granted plaintiffs' summary judgment motions, denied Secretary's and Alaska's cross-motions for summary judgment, but withheld ruling on appropriate remedy. Parties briefed appropriate remedy issue and Secretary and Alaska moved for reconsideration of earlier opinion. The District Court, 995 F.Supp.2d 1, severed and vacated the portion of regulation, and, 995 F.Supp.2d 7, granted Alaska's motion to enjoin Interior from taking any land into trust pending appeal. Alaska appealed, and tribes and Secretary moved to dismiss appeal.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Tatel, Circuit Judge, held that federal court lacked jurisdiction to review appeal by State of Alaska seeking to prohibit Interior from acquiring trust land in Alaska.
Appeal dismissed.
Brown, Circuit Judge, filed dissenting opinion.

Related News Stories: Akiachak prepares to inventory land for trust status (KYUK) 7/8/16, Controversy over Interior's trust authority in Alaska remains unresolved (JD Supra) 7/8/16, Tribes in Alaska celebrate long-awaited victory in trust land case (Indianz) 7/4/16

June

United States v. Washington
827 F.3d 836
No. 13-35474
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed June 27, 2016

*Synopsis: United States, on behalf of numerous Native-American tribes, brought action against State of Washington, alleging that State violated fishing clause of Stevens Treaties by building and maintaining barrier culverts that prevented mature salmon from returning from sea to their spawning grounds, prevented smolt from moving downstream and out to sea, and prevented very young salmon from moving freely to seek food and escape predators. The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Ricardo S. Martinez, Chief District Judge, 2013 WL 1334391, issued injunction ordering state to correct offending culverts. State appealed.

*Holding:The Court of Appeals, W. Fletcher, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) fishing clause guaranteed Native-Americans' right to engage in off-reservation fishing, and included promise that there would be fish to harvest;
2) State violated fishing clause by building and maintaining barrier culverts under roadways within relevant area;
3) State's cross-request for injunction to require United States to fix its culverts was barred by sovereign immunity;
4) breadth of injunction requiring state to redesign or replace numerous culverts was appropriate;
5) injunction imposed appropriate obligation, even though injunction focused only on culverts and did not order other remedies; and
6) in imposing injunction, district court appropriately assessed equitable principles.

Affirmed.

Jamul Action Committee v. Chaudhuri
2016 WL 3201335
No. 15-16021
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed June 9, 2016

Legal Topics: Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - NEPA Review

Cayuga Nation v. Tanner
2016 WL 3093259
Docket No. 15–1667–cv; 15–1937–cv
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
June 2, 2016

*Synopsis: Indian tribe, and individual officers, employees, and representatives of tribe brought action against village, village board, and individual village officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, and alleging that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) preempted village's efforts to enforce a local anti-gambling ordinance against a gaming facility located on land owned by tribe. Village moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, David N. Hurd, J., granted motion. Tribe and representatives appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Gerard E. Lynch, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) decision of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) recognizing individual as tribe's federal representative on an interim basis was sufficient to provide individual authority to initiate lawsuit on behalf of tribe, and
2) individual officers of tribe had standing to challenge application of a village anti-gambling ordinance.

Vacated and remanded.

Wolfchild v. Redwood County
824 F.3d 761
No. 15–1580, No. 15–2375, No. 15–3225, No. 15–3277
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
June 1, 2016
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Lineal descendants of Mdewakanton Sioux tribe who were loyal to United States during 1862 Sioux uprising in Minnesota brought putative class action against property owners and municipalities, seeking declaration that they owned exclusive title to certain land in Minnesota and alleging claims of ejectment and trespass. The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, Michael J. Davis, J., dismissed complaint, 91 F.Supp.3d 1093, imposed sanctions, 112 F.Supp.3d 866, denied municipalities' motion for costs, and denied plaintiffs' motion to stay requirement for appellate cost bond, 2015 WL 5672718. Plaintiffs appealed, and municipalities cross-appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Bright, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) plaintiffs did not have cause of action under federal common law for violation of possessory rights to aboriginal land;
2) federal statute that authorized Interior Secretary to set apart land for loyal Mdewakanton did not create private remedy; and
3) district court abused its discretion in awarding sanctions.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

May

Timbisha Shoshone Tribe v. U.S. Department of Interior
2016 WL 3034671
No. 13-16182
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed May 27, 2016

*Synopsis: Members of Indian tribe brought action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against Department of the Interior (DOI) and others, alleging injuries suffered as result of two decisions of the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs with regard to ongoing tribal leadership dispute. Following dismissal, 282 F.R.D. 588, plaintiffs filed second amended complaint, realleging their five previous claims and adding sixth claim alleging an Administrative Procedure Act (APA) violation. Defendants moved to dismiss. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Morrison C. England, Jr., Chief Judge, 290 F.R.D. 589, granted defendants' motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wallace, Senior Circuit Judge, held that no actual controversy remained following tribe's adoption of new constitution, and thus appeal was moot.

Appeal dismissed.

Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria v. Jewell
650 Fed.Appx. 497
No. 14–15541
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed May 24, 2016
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Indian tribe and its individual members brought action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against Secretary of the Interior, seeking review of removal of lands from trust status and distribution of lands to individual tribe members. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Jeremy D. Fogel, J., 2014 WL 1006576, dismissed the complaint as time-barred. Plaintiffs appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that:
1) District Court had jurisdiction to grant plaintiffs' motion to correct clerical error in stipulation for entry of judgment in earlier action nunc pro tunc, and
2) government did not waive statute of limitations as affirmative defense.

Affirmed.

April

Ramona Two Shields v. U.S.
820 F.3d 1324
No. 2015–5069
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
April 27, 2016

*Synopsis: Native Americans, who held interests in allotment land located on reservation which was also located on part of one of the country's largest contiguous deposits of oil and natural gas, brought putative class action against United States for allegedly violating its obligations relating to approval of oil-and-gas leases on allotment lands, and asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duties and legislative taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment. The United States Court of Federal Claims, Lawrence J. Block, J., 119 Fed.Cl. 762, granted the government's motion for summary judgment and to dismiss. Plaintiffs appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Prost, Chief Judge, held that:
1) settlement agreement resolving prior class action against Secretary of Interior released plaintiff's claim that government breached fiduciary duty by approving oil and gas leases that were below market value;
2) government did not have fiduciary duty to disclose all information related to the administration of Indian trusts in connection with the settlement; and
3) Act passed by Congress that ratified the settlement was not a legislative taking.
Affirmed.

Oklevueha Native American Church Of Hawaii, Inc. v. Lynch
2016 WL 1359239
No. 14–15143
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
April 6, 2016.

*Synopsis: Native American Oklevueha Church and its spiritual leader brought action against government officials, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), American Indian Religious Freedom Act (AIRFA), the Free Exercise Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause, in order to prevent the government from prosecuting them under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), for possessing, obtaining, and cultivating or distributing cannabis. The Court of Appeals, Murguia, Circuit Judge, 676 F.3d 829, reversed the district court's dismissal of church's claims. On remand, and following dismissal of all other claims, the United States District Court for the District of Hawaii, Susan Oki Mollway, Chief District Judge, 2013 WL 6892914, granted summary judgment in favor of government on RFRA claim. Church appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, O'Scannlain, Circuit Judge, held that prohibition of cannabis use did not substantially burden church members' free exercise of their religion, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Native American Church resists pot enthusiasts (Courthouse News) 4/19/16, Self-proclaimed 'Native' church loses decision on marijuana use (Indianz) 4/7/16, Court: Native American church not excused from cannabis laws (KSWO) 4/6/16

Navajo Nation v. U.S. Dept. of Interior
2016 WL 1359869
Nos. 13–16517, 13–16519, 13–16520.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
April 6, 2016.

*Synopsis:  Tribe filed suit against United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, and government officials, seeking immediate return of human remains and associated funerary objects taken from its reservation during inventory of remains and objects pursuant to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Paul G. Rosenblatt, Senior District Judge, 2013 WL 530302, dismissed action as barred by sovereign immunity. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Christen, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) decision to apply NAGPRA to inventory remains from sacred site on reservation constituted final agency action, and
2) tribe's claims were ripe for review.

Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Navajo Nation wins ruling for remains removed from reservation (Indianz) 4/7/16

March

Arizona v. Tohono O'odham Nation
2016 WL 1211834
Nos. 13–16517, 13–16519, 13–16520.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
March 29, 2016.

*Synopsis:  State of Arizona and two Indian communities brought action, seeking to enjoin Indian tribe from constructing and operating major casino on unincorporated land within outer boundaries of city on grounds that proposed casino violated Gaming Compact between state and tribe. Following dismissal of claims in part, 2011 WL 2357833, parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona, David G. Campbell, J., 944 F.Supp.2d 748, granted tribe's motion. State appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Bea, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) did not bar tribe from gaming on parcel;
2) it was within district court's discretion to determine that tribe was not judicially estopped from asserting that it had a right to conduct gaming on parcel under IGRA;
3) tribe was authorized under Gaming Compact with State of Arizona to conduct gaming on parcel; and
4) tribal sovereign immunity barred State of Arizona's claims against tribe for promissory estoppel, fraudulent inducement, and material misrepresentation.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Tohono O'Odham prevails in gaming compact dispute before Ninth Circuit (Turtle Talk) 3/29/16

Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources v. U.S.
2016 WL 946917
No. 14–35051.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed March 14, 2016.

*Synopsis: State of Alaska brought action against landowners, who were Alaska natives, to quiet title to rights-of-way for four public trails that crossed their land, and seeking a declaratory judgment and a claim seeking to condemn for public use whatever portions of the rights-of-way the State did not already own. The United States District Court for the District of Alaska, Ralph R. Beistline, Senior Judge, dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. State appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Watford, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over action to quiet title to rights-of-way, and
[2] federal court had jurisdiction over state's condemnation action.

Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

U.S. v. Reza-Ramos
2016 WL 890777
No. 11–10029.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
March 9, 2016.

Legal Topics: Major Crimes Act; Jurisdiction Over Non-Indian

February

Alaska Oil and Gas Ass'n v. Jewell
2016 WL 766855
Nos. 13–35619, 13–35666, 13–35662, 13–35667, 13–35669
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
Feb. 29, 2016.

*Synopsis: State of Alaska, oil and gas trade associations, and Alaska Native corporations and villages brought actions against Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), seeking invalidation of final rule in which FWS designated critical habitat for polar bears under Endangered Species Act (ESA). Environmental groups intervened. The United States District Court for the District of Alaska, Ralph R. Beistline, Chief Judge, 916 F.Supp.2d 974, granted summary judgment to plaintiffs on some of their claims, and vacated the final rule. FWS and environmental groups appealed, and plaintiffs cross-appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Schroeder, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] FWS was not required to identify where each component part of each primary constituent element (PCE) was located within each habitat by using scientific data establishing current use by existing polar bears;
[2] five–mile increment measurement inland from the coast, to define the area of designation, was not arbitrary and capricious;
[3] inclusion of area that was primarily an industrial staging area for oil and gas operations was not arbitrary and capricious;
[4] as a matter of first impression for the circuit, compliance with procedural requirements for providing written justification to State was judicially reviewable; and
[5] FWS complied with procedural requirements for written justification.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Longo v. Seminole Indian Casino-Immokalee
2016 WL 722526
No. 15–12460
United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit
Feb. 24, 2016.

*Synopsis: Former employee of tribe-owned casino brought action against casino, alleging claims under Title VII and Florida Civil Rights Act. Casino moved to dismiss. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Docket No. 2:14–cv–00334–SPC–CM, Sheri Polster Chappell, J., 110 F.Supp.3d 1252, granted motion. Former employee appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that:
[1] in a matter of first impression, Seminole Tribe of Florida, which owned and operated casino, was federally recognized Indian tribe, and thus it was entitled to sovereign immunity, and
[2] sanctions and double costs were not warranted against former employee for frivolous appeal.

Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Federal list is final word on Indian tribe's immunity from suit - 11th Circuit (Reuters) 2/25/16

U.S. v. Rainbow
813 F.3d 1097
Nos. 15–1936, 15–1937.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Feb. 19, 2016.

*Synopsis:  Following jury trial, defendants were convicted in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, Daniel L. Hovland, J., of assault with a dangerous weapon and assault resulting in serious bodily injury within Indian country. Defendants appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wollman, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) admission of certificates of degree of Indian blood did not violate Confrontation Clause;
2) instruction on lesser-included offense of simple assault was unwarranted;
3) instruction on lesser-included offense of assault by beating, striking, or wounding was unwarranted;
4) jury could not rationally find that defendant assaulted victim, but that he did not aid or abet co-defendant in committing more serious crimes, as would warrant lesser-included offense instruction;
5) testimony of emergency room doctor was admissible; and
6) conviction was supported by sufficient evidence.

Affirmed.

New Mexico v. Trujillo
2016 WL 683831
No. 15–2047
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
Feb. 19, 2016.

*Synopsis: New Mexico filed suit regarding water rights. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico entered order that adjudicated individual's water rights based on special master's summary judgment order. Individual property owner appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Matheson, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] district court's certification of order as final appealable judgment did not clearly articulate "finality" or "no just reason for delay," and therefore order fell short of proper certification;
[2] order addressing individual's water rights could not be considered final, as required to be certified as final appealable order;
[3]danger of injustice did not outweigh inconvenience and costs of piecemeal review, and thus order could not be reviewed under pragmatic finality doctrine;
[4] order describing individual's water rights expressly granted States's request for injunction, and thus Court of Appeals could exercise jurisdiction to review it; and
[5] individual inadequately presented argument on appeal that she was entitled to irrigate her land, and thus Court of Appeals declined to address it.
Affirmed.

U.S. v. Harlan
815 F.3d 1100
No. 15–1552.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Feb. 16, 2016.

*Synopsis:  Defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, Lyle E. Strom, J., of domestic assault in Indian country by habitual offender. Defendant appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Riley, Chief Judge, held that:
1) defendant's prior tribal court simple-assault conviction could be used as predicate offense in subsequent federal prosecution for domestic assault in Indian country by habitual offender;
2) sufficient evidence supported conviction; and
3) defendant's sentence, which was at the bottom of the advisory Guidelines range, was substantively reasonable.

Affirmed.

In re Tam
808 F.3d 1321
No. 2014–1203.
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
Feb. 11, 2016.
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis:  Trademark applicant sought review of the decision of the United States Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, 2013 WL 5498164, which affirmed an examining attorney's refusal to register the trademark "THE SLANTS" for a musical band, on grounds that the mark was disparaging to people of Asian descent. The Court of Appeals, Moore, Circuit Judge, 785 F.3d 567, affirmed. The Court of Appeals sua sponte ordered rehearing en banc.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, en banc, Moore, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) the prohibition on the registration of disparaging trademarks was subject to strict scrutiny under the First Amendment, abrogating In re McGinley, 660 F.2d 481;
2) the prohibition on the registration of disparaging trademarks was not a regulation of commercial speech;
3) the prohibition on the registration of disparaging trademarks significantly chilled private speech;
4) the registration of trademarks did not constitute government speech;
5) the registration of trademarks was not part of a government subsidy program; and
6) even assuming that the prohibition on the registration of disparaging trademarks was a regulation of commercial speech, the government lacked a substantial government interest for prohibiting disparaging marks.

Vacated and remanded.

Hayes v. Delbert Services Corp.
2016 WL 386016
Nos. 15–1170, 15–1217
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Feb. 2, 2016.

*Synopsis: Borrower, who received payday loan from lender owned by member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, brought putative class action against loan servicing agent, alleging that agent's debt collection practices violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, John A. Gibney, Jr., J., 2015 WL 269483, granted agent's motion to compel arbitration. Borrowers appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Wilkinson, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] arbitration agreement between lender, loan servicer, and borrowers, which purported to renounce any application of federal law to borrowers' claims, was unenforceable, and
[2] district court abused its discretion when it instructed jury that victim was federal officer; and
Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Fourth Circuit rejects motion to compel arbitration in FDCPA putative class action (JD Supra) 4/22/16

January

Bettor Racing, Inc. v. National Indian Gaming Com'n
812 F.3d 648
No. 15–1335.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Filed Jan. 29, 2016.

*Synopsis: A parimutuel betting business and its president brought action against the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), claiming that the NIGC's imposition of a $5 million fine for violations of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Eighth Amendment, and procedural due process protections. An Indian Tribe intervened. The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Karen E. Schreier, J., 47 F.Supp.3d 912, granted summary judgment in favor of NIGC and tribe. Business appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Benton, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] scienter was not required to establish violation of Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or to impose fines for such violations;
[2] the NIGC did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in finding that parimutuel betting business violated the IGRA;
[3] fine imposed did not violate Eighth Amendment; and
[4] business was not deprived of due process.

Affirmed.

U.S. v. Janis
2016 WL 191934
No. 14–3888
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
Jan. 15, 2016.

*Synopsis: Following denial of his motion to dismiss indictment, 40 F.Supp.3d 1133, and of his motion for reconsideration, 2014 WL 4384373, defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Jeffrey L. Viken, Chief Judge, of assault of federal officer, and he appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Gruender, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] tribal public safety officer was "federal officer";
[2] district court abused its discretion when it instructed jury that victim was federal officer; and
[3] erroneous instruction was harmless.
Affirmed.

Kelsey v. Pope
809 F.3d 849
Briefs and other materials from Turtle Talk
No. 14–1537
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
Jan. 5, 2016.
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Member of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians petitioned for writ of habeas corpus after he had been convicted in tribal court of misdemeanor sexual assault for inappropriately touching tribal employee at Band's community center, 2008 WL 6928233, and his sentence was affirmed on appeal. The United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Gordon J. Quist, J., 2014 WL 1338170, granted the petition. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, McKeague, Circuit Judge, held that:
[1] tribe had inherent authority to prosecute tribal member for offense substantially affecting tribal self-governance interests, even when such offenses took place outside of Indian country;
[2] Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) extended due process protections to member;
[3] federal constitutional standards applied; and
[4] decision of tribal Court of Appeals to recognize jurisdiction over conduct of member of Indian tribe in touching victim's breasts through her clothing at tribe's off-reservation community center did not violate due process as extended through ICRA.
Reversed and vacated.

Search the Indian Law Bulletins:

Loading

Basic Search Help
Operators and More Search Help

Cases are organized by month :

January  | February  |  March  |  April  |  May  |  June  |  July  |  August  |  September  |  October  |  November  |  December


Find past years' cases from the bulletins archive.

Indian Law Bulletins are a current awareness service of the National Indian Law Library. The purpose of the Indian Law Bulletins is to provide succinct and timely information about new developments in Indian Law. See the "about" page for each bulletin for specific information on monitoring, content selection criteria, and timeliness of publication.

Learn more about the Federal Courts of Appeals bulletin.


A note about links used in this document:

Blue links are to information available free on the Internet. Green links are to information available on Westlaw, for the convenience of those who have a Westlaw account. The library is not affiliated with Westlaw.

* Synopsis and holding provided under an agreement with Westlaw.