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Text highlighted in blue are links to information available on the Internet free of charge. Text highlighted in green are links to information available on Westlaw, for the convenience of those who have a Westlaw account. Please contact the National Indian Law Library if you need help obtaining legal documents.

The National Indian Law Library and Native American Rights Fund are not affiliated with Westlaw. See www.westlaw.com for more information about the Westlaw legal databases.

* Synopsis and holding provided under an agreement with Westlaw.com www.westlaw.com

Last updated: July 31, 2014

Next update should be ready by: August 15, 2014

Please alert us to any cases we may have missed from the U.S. Federal Trial Court

Newest Cases:

United States v. Hemme
987 F.Supp.2d 940
Criminal No. 13-070 (4) (JRT/LIB).
United States District Court, D. Minnesota, November 25, 2013

*Synopsis: Defendant was indicted for violating Lacey Act by knowingly engaging in conduct that involved sale and purchase of fish in violation of Leech Lake Band's Conservation Code. Defendant moved to dismiss indictment.

* Holding: The District Court, John R. Tunheim, J., adopting Report and Recommendation of Leo I. Brisbois, United States Magistrate Judge, held that
(1) even if indictment could be dismissed based on sufficiency of evidence argument, indictment was based upon sufficient evidence such that case had to be presented to jury, and
(2) Magistrate Judge did not err in declining to consider facts outside indictment to conclude that defendant's indictment could be dismissed before trial.
Motion denied.


Older Cases:

July

Massachusetts v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head
2014 WL 2998989
Civil No. 13-13286-FDS.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts, July 1, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) " This lawsuit involves a dispute between the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and a federally recognized Indian tribe as to who has regulatory jurisdiction over civil gaming on Indian lands on Martha's Vineyard. The Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe and related entities have taken steps to commence commercial gaming operations on tribal lands without a license from the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts contends that by doing so, the Tribe violated a 1983 settlement agreement that subject the lands in question to state civil and criminal jurisdiction. Count 1 of the complaint alleges breach of contract, and Count 2 seeks a declaratory judgment."

* Holding: (not yet available)

June

Akiachak Native Community v. Jewell
2014 WL 2885910
No. 06-0969 (RC).
United States District Court, D. Columbia, June 26, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "This case involved a challenge by certain Alaskan Native Tribes ("Tribes") to a regulation promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior ("Secretary") regarding taking land into trust on behalf of all Indian Tribes, 25 C.F.R. § 151.1, pursuant to section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. § 465. See Akiachak Native Cmty. v. Salazar, 935 F.Supp.2d 195, 197 (D.D.C.2013)."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Wisconsin v. Ho-Chunk Nation
2014 WL 2615422
No. 13-cv-334-bbc.
United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin, June 12, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) The state of Wisconsin has brought this case to enjoin defendant Ho-Chunk Nation from offering electronic poker at Ho-Chunk Gaming Madison (formerly DeJope), the Ho-Chunk Nation's gaming facility in Madison, Wisconsin. The question raised in the parties' cross motions for summary judgment is whether Ho-Chunk Nation's poker game violates a compact with the state. The answer to that question turns on whether electronic poker qualifies as a "class II" or "class III" game under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Class III games are prohibited by the compact except under certain conditions not present in this case, but class II games are permitted. Because I conclude that Ho-Chunk Nation's electronic poker game is a class III game, I am granting the state's motion for summary judgment and denying Ho-Chunk Nation's motion.

*Holding: (not yet available)

May

Bodi v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians
2014 WL 1922783
No. S-13-1044 LKK/CKD.
United States District Court, E.D. California, May 14, 2014

*Synopsis: Tribe member brought California state court action against tribe and tribal health program and board, alleging, inter alia, that tribe member was wrongfully terminated due to her illness in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Following removal, tribe moved to dismiss.

*Holding: The District Court, Lawrence K. Karlton, Senior District Judge, held that tribe waived sovereign immunity by removing action to federal court.
Motion granted in part and denied in part.

April

Alabama v. PCI Gaming Authority
2014 WL 1400232
No. 2:13–CV–178–WKW.
United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division, April 10, 2014

*Synopsis: State of Alabama brought state court equity action, under state nuisance law and Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), against gaming authority, a commercial entity through which Native American tribe operated three casinos, and members of authority and tribal council in their official capacities, to prevent allegedly unlawful gaming at casinos. Action was removed. Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.

* Holding: The District Court, W. Keith Watkins, Chief Judge, held that:
(1) Alabama's state-law nuisance claim was completely preempted by IGRA;
(2) gaming authority was entitled to tribal sovereign immunity from state's claims;
(3) Ex parte Young exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity provided basis for jurisdiction for claims against officials;
(4) Alabama failed to state state-law nuisance claims; and
(5) in matter of first impression, IGRA's penal provision did not provide federal right of action.
Motion granted.

Wyandot Nation of Kansas v. United States
115 Fed.Cl. 595
No. 06-919L
United States Court of Federal Claims, April 8, 2014

*Synopsis: Native-American tribe brought action against federal government, seeking money damages to compensate it for various breaches of fiduciary duty that it claimed government committed as trustee of trust holding assets for its benefit. Government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

*Holding: The Court of Federal Claims, Wolski, J., held that tribe's claims were barred under statute precluding court's jurisdiction if plaintiff had suit in respect to same claim pending in another court.
Motion granted.

March

Kelsey v. Pope
2014 WL 1338170
No. 1:09–CV–1015.
United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division, March 31, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "The issue in this case is whether a tribal court has jurisdiction over a misdemeanor crime between an accused Indian perpetrator, the Petitioner Norbert J. Kelsey, that allegedly occurred during a tribal meeting in a building owned by the tribe but located off the tribe's reservation and wherein the alleged victim was also a tribal member. The Magistrate Judge opined in a Report and Recommendation (R & R) that tribal courts do not have jurisdiction to prosecute crimes outside of Indian country, and also found that Kelsey's due process rights were violated when the tribal court expanded its jurisdiction in the criminal ordinance."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Great Elk Dancer for his Elk Nation v. Miller
Material from Turtle Talk
Case No. 2:13-cv-565
United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division, March 28, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "Plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brings this civil rights action under 43 U.S.C. § 1983. In a nutshell, Plaintiff asserts Defendants arbitrarily and capriciously interfered with his business operations and targeted him for harassment because he is a Native American, thereby violating his federal constitutional rights. On August 19, 2013, the Magistrate Judge issued a Second Initial Screening Report and Recommendation ("R & R") in which he recommended that the Court allow this lawsuit to proceed against Defendants Mayor J. Martin Irvine, Fire Chief Brian Robertson, Officer Josh Mowery, and City Services Director Steve Shaw (collectively, "City Defendants"). R & R 11, ECF No. 17. He also recommended that the Court dismiss the remaining Defendants. Id. In addition, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny Defendants' motions to strike Plaintiffs first amended complaint. Id. at 11 (denying ECF Nos. 9 & 13). The City Defendants filed timely objections to the R & R. ECF No. 19. The Court now considers those objections."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Ramos v. Bureau of Indian Affairs
2014 WL 1334172
Civil Action No. 13–10065–DJC.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts, March 28, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "The Plaintiffs, enrolled members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe ("Tribe"), have sued the Defendants, the Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA"); Michael Black, Director of the BIA; Mike Smith, Deputy Director; Franklin Keel, Regional Director; and Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary (collectively, the "Defendants") seeking an injunction requiring the Defendants to conduct an investigation into the Tribe's 2009 election and to take action to ensure that the Tribe's elections are properly conducted."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Las Vegas Tribe of Paiute Indians v. Phebus
2014 WL 1199593
No. 2:13–CV–02000–RCJ–CWH.
United States District Court, D. Nevada, March 24, 2014

*Synopsis: After Tribal Court of Appeals ruled that Indian Tribe lacked criminal jurisdiction over defendant, who had been a member of the Tribe before being disenrolled, Tribe brought action seeking declaratory judgment that it could assert criminal jurisdiction over any person satisfying the definition of "Indian" under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), including defendant. Defendant failed to appear, and Tribe moved for summary judgment.

* Holding: The District Court, Robert C. Jones, J., held that:
(1) Indian Tribe had authority to assert criminal jurisdiction over any person qualifying as an Indian under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), so long as it proved the defendant's Indian status beyond a reasonable doubt, but
(2) Tribal Court erred in declaring defendant to be an Indian for purposes of tribal criminal jurisdiction without submitting the question to a jury for a finding beyond a reasonable doubt.
Motion granted in part and denied in part.

Stymiest v. Rosebud Sioux Tribe
2014 WL 1165925
No. CIV. 14–3001.
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division, March 21, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "Stymiest has filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 1303, the enforcement provision of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("ICRA"), Pub.L. 90–284, 25 U.S.C. §§ 1301 et seq. He challenges the three tribal court convictions on the basis that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe did not have jurisdiction to prosecute him because he was not an Indian. He also seeks a ruling that the Rosebud Sioux Tribe does not have jurisdiction to prosecute him in the future for the conduct comprising his federal assault conviction even though his federal crime took place on the Rosebud Indian Reservation."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Tavares v. Whitehouse
2014 WL 1155798
No. 2:13–cv–02101–TLN–CKD.
United States District Court, E.D. California, March 21, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "This matter is before the Court on Respondents' Motion to Dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. (ECF No. 12.) Petitioners are members of the Auburn Indian Community. Through this action, Petitioners challenge their punishment imposed by the Tribal Council of the United Auburn Indian Community. Respondents, members of the Tribal Council, seek dismissal, arguing essentially this case concerns internal tribal matters, and therefore this Court lacks jurisdiction. Petitioners oppose dismissal arguing their petition is within the Court's jurisdiction under the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 ("ICRA"), 25 U.S.C. § 1303, because their exclusion from tribal lands and suspension of per capita gaming benefits-although temporary-constitute "detention" within the meaning of the statute."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Eaglesun Systems Products, Inc. v. Association of Village Council Presidents
2014 WL 1119726
No. 13–CV–0438–CVE–PJC.
United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma, March 20, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "Defendant Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) argues that it has sovereign immunity from suit because all of its members are federally-recognized Indian tribes and AVCP was created to provide governmental services for its members. Plaintiff Eaglesun Systems Products, Inc. responds that AVCP is a non-profit corporation organized under state law, and it is not entitled to sovereign immunity as an Indian tribe or as a tribal organization."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Skokomish Indian Tribe v. United States
115 Fed.Cl. 116
No. 11–658L.
United States Court of Federal Claims, March 11, 2014

*Synopsis: Native-American tribe and its individual members brought putative class action against federal government, alleging that government failed to protect their interests with respect to licensing and operation of hydroelectric project upstream from tribe's reservation, as well as taking under Fifth Amendment. Government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.

* Holding: The Court of Federal Claims, Allegra, J., held that:
(1) plaintiffs' claims decided in district court and those transferred here were, as matter of law, pending with respect to each other;
(2) claims in district court and those before court here were largely same;
(3) hypothetical adverse merits decision on claims in district court would have res judicata on claims here;
(4) there was no temporal or categorical distinction between claims in district court and those before court here; and
(5) there were various nexuses between claims in district court and those before court here.
Motion granted.

February

Davis v. Pierce
2014 WL 798033
Civil Action No. 2:12–CV–166.
S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division, Feb. 27, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) " In this prisoner civil rights action, Plaintiffs Teddy Norris Davis and Robbie Dow Goodman allege that Defendants have violated, and continue to violate, their right to practice their Native American religion, in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUPIA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, and the First Amendment. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Criminal Institutions Division (TDCJ–CID), by and through the TDCJ–CID Director William Stephens, sued in his official capacity only, to: (1) allow Plaintiffs to smoke a communal pipe and/or a personal pipe during Native American ceremonies; (2) provide a minimum of two pipe ceremonies per month and/or otherwise increase the number of Native American services at the McConnell Unit; (3) allow Plaintiffs to grow their hair and/or grow a kouplock; and (4) allow Plaintiffs to wear their medicine bags at all times. (D.E.1, 16, 88). Plaintiffs have also sued Clint Morris, the TDCJ Program Analyst for Designated Units, claiming that he personally violated their First Amendment free exercise rights because he failed to advocate for the rights of Native American prisoners, including Plaintiffs, and as such, is liable in his individual capacity for monetary damages. (See Case No. 2:12–cv–166, Minutes Entry for 02/22/13, and D.E. 143 at pp. 1–2, Plaintiffs' SJM response)."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Picayune Rancharia of the Chukchansi Indians v. Tan
2014 WL 763170
No. 1:14–cv–0220–AWI–SAB.
United States District Court, E.D. California, Feb. 24, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "Plaintiffs purport to be acting on behalf of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, a federally recognized tribe, and the Chukchansi Economic Development Authority (“CEDA”), an entity owned by the Tribe. CEDA is owner of the Chukchansi Casino (“Casino”). Plaintiffs seek to enjoin the Managerial Staff of the Casino from making any disbursements of Casino revenue to any person or entity other than the Tribal Council recognized by the February 11, 2014, Decision by the Regional Director of the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Smith v. Parker
Material from Turtle Talk
2014 WL 558965
No. 4:07CV3101.
United States District Court, D. Nebraska, Feb. 13, 2014

*Synopsis: Owners of businesses and clubs that sold alcoholic beverages brought action against Omaha Tribal Council members in their official capacities for prospective injunctive and declaratory relief from tribe's attempt to enforce its liquor-license and tax scheme on owners. State of Nebraska and United States intervened. Parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

* Holding: The District Court, Richard G. Kopf, Senior District Judge, held that Omaha Reservation was not diminished by 1882 Act ratifying agreement for sale of tribal lands to non-Indian settlers.
Plaintiffs' motion denied; defendants' motion granted.

January

Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Van Hunnik
Order Granting Class Certification, 2014 WL 317693
Orders and Briefs from Turtle Talk
2014 WL 317657
Civ. 13-5020-JV.
United States District Court, District of South Dakota, Western Division, Jan. 28, 2014

*Synopsis: Native American tribes and several tribe members brought § 1983 action against state officials, alleging policies, practices, and procedures relating to the removal of Native American children from their homes during 48–hour hearings violated the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Defendants moved to dismiss.

* Holding: The District Court, Jeffrey L. Viken, Chief Judge, held that:
(1)Younger abstention did not apply;
(2)Rooker-Feldman abstention doctrine did not deprive district court of subject matter jurisdiction;
(3) tribes had parens patriae standing;
(4) allegations were sufficient to plead judge and officials were policymakers;
(5) ICWA provision provided substantive rights;
(6) allegations were sufficient to state a claim for ICWA violations; and
(7) allegations were sufficient to plead denial of their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights.
Motions denied.

Wilson v. Bull
2014 WL 183777
No. CIV. 12–5078–JLV.
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division, Jan. 16, 2013

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "Plaintiff Diane M. Wilson, appearing pro se, filed an amended complaint alleging she was wrongfully terminated from her employment as a Teacher Assistant for the Wanblee Head Start program operated by the Oglala Lakota College ("OLC"). (Docket 6). Defendants Thomas Shortbull and Michelle Yankton filed a motion to dismiss the action for lack of jurisdiction. (Docket 12). The court referred defendants' motion to United States Magistrate Veronica L. Duffy for a report and recommendation. (Docket 17)."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Skokomish Indian Tribe v. Goldmark
2014 WL 119022
No. C13–5071JLR.
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle, Jan. 13, 2013

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against government officials, seeking to protect the privilege of hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed lands, guaranteed by Treaty. Defendants moved to dismiss.

* Holding: Holdings: The District Court, James L. Robart, J., held that:
(1) Indian tribe established a cognizable injury for purposes of Article III standing;
(2) Eleventh Amendment did not bar Indian tribe's claims against county prosecutors;
(3) Eleventh Amendment did not bar Indian tribe's claims against Director of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and Chief of WDFW Enforcement;
(4) Eleventh Amendment did not bar Indian tribe's claims against Washington State Attorney General;
(5) Eleventh Amendment barred Indian tribe's claims against the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands and Administrator for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Supervisor for DNR;
(6) other signatory Indian tribes to Treaty were necessary parties; and
(7) prejudice to other signatory Indian tribes to Treaty, who were necessary parties and who could not be joined due to their sovereign immunity, warranted dismissal.
Motion granted.

KG Urban Enterprises, LLC v. Patrick
2014 WL 108307
Civil Action No. 11–12070–NMG.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts, Jan. 9, 2014

*Synopsis: (from the opinion) "In November, 2011, casino developer KG Urban Enterprises, LLC ("KG Urban") brought suit against Governor Deval Patrick ("Governor Patrick") and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission ("the Commission"), challenging the Act Establishing Expanded Gaming in the Commonwealth ("the Gaming Act") as unconstitutional. After this Court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the case, the First Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, directing this Court to provide defendants with a "limited grace period" for a federally recognized Indian tribe to meet the requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA"). . . . With ancillary matters resolved and the case substantially narrowed to its core equal protection issue, now pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment from both parties."

* Holding: (not yet available)

Related News Stories: New Bedford casino contender KG Urban looses lawsuit (Cape Cod Online) 1/10/14

 

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