2016 Federal Trial Courts Cases

Last updated: December 19, 2016

Next Update Should be Ready by:
January 2017

Recently Added Cases:

Tribe v. Fleming
2016 WL 7324077
CIV. 13–5020–JLV
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division.
12/15/2016

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act - Due Process Clause

Related News Stories: S.D. officials again blow off Indian Child Welfare Act (Courthouse News) 12/16/16, Changes ordered in '48-hour hearings' involving Native children (Rapid City Journal) 12/16/16

Navajo Health Foundation v. Burwell
2016 WL 7257245
No. CIV 14-0958 JB/GBW
United States District Court, D. New Mexico
11/23/2016

Legal Topics: Indian Health Service Contracts


Older Cases:

December

Native American Arts, Inc. v. Peter Stone Co., U.S.A., Inc.
2016 WL 7034072
No. 08 C 3908
United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
12/2/2016

*Synopsis: Indian arts and crafts organization brought action against jewelry seller alleging violations of Indian Arts and Crafts Act (IACA). After entry of summary judgment in defendant's favor, 2015 WL 3561439, defendant moved for sanctions.

*Holdings: The District Court, Jeffrey Cole, United States Magistrate Judge, held that imposition of sanctions was not warranted.
Motion denied.

November

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida
2016 WL 6637706
CONSOLIDATED CASE NO. 4:15cv516-RH/CAS
United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division
11/09/2016

Legal Topics: Tribal-State Gaming Compacts - Good Faith Negotiations

Related News Stories: Seminole Tribe of Florida wins battle to keep blackjack (Gaming Today) 11/10/16

Schlemm v. Wall
2016 WL 6603269
11-cv-272-wmc
United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
11/08/2016

Legal Topics: Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act - Prisoner Rights

October

United States v. State of Washington
2016 WL 6267797
CASE NO. C 70-9213
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Tacoma
10/26/2016

Legal Topics: Treaty Right to Take Shellfish

California Valley Miwok Tribe v. Jewell
2016 WL 6217057
CIV. NO.: 2:16-01345 WBS CKD
United States District Court, E.D. California
10/24/2016

Legal Topics: Official Tribal Government

Sanchez v. Cegavske
2016 WL 5936918
Case No. 3:16-cv-00523-MMD-WGC
United States District Court, D. Nevada
10/07/2016

*Synopsis: Prospective voters who were members of one of two Native-American tribes brought action against Nevada's Secretary of State and other state and county officials, alleging an abridgement of the right to vote, and in particular to have equal access to early in-person voting and election day in-person polling, as protected by § 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Voters made emergency motion for preliminary injunction requiring defendants to open additional in-person registration sites, additional early polling locations, and additional election day polling location.

*Holdings: The District Court, Miranda M. Du, J., held that:
1) qualifying putative expert was not necessary at preliminary injunction stage;
2) considering surveys presented by voters was appropriate, though only in conjunction with other evidence;
3) voters failed to demonstrate injury-in-fact, and thus they lacked constitutional standing to assert claims for additional in-person registration sites;
4) voters showed likelihood of success on merits of their claims, as required to merit preliminary injunction with respect to additional in-person early voting polling locations and election day polling location;
5) balance of hardships was neutral in analysis of preliminary injunction motion; and
6) public interest was served by preliminary injunction with respect to additional in-person voter registration and early voting locations in two counties.
Motion granted in part and denied in part.

Related News Stories: County complies with federal ruling, adds tribal polling site (Reno-Gazette Journal) 10/12/16, Judge rules partially in favor of tribes in federal suit (Reno-Gazette Journal) 10/7/16, Ruling expected in tribal voter disenfranchisement lawsuit by Friday (Reno-Gazette Journal) 10/4/16, Court date set for Native American voter disenfranchisement suit (Reno-Gazette Journal) 9/21/16, Paiutes sue State over voting rights (The Nevada Sagebrush) 9/20/16, Nevada tribes: Polls access violates voting rights (Post Register) 9/8/16

September

Pueblo of Pojoaque v. State of New Mexico
2016 WL 6405927
No. CIV 15-0625 JB/GBW
United States District Court, D. New Mexico
9/30/2016

Legal Topics: Tribal-State Gaming Compact - Negotiations

In re: Greektown Holdings, LLC v. Papas
2016 WL 5724765
Case No. 08-53104
United States Bankruptcy Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
09/29/2016

Legal Topics: Bankruptcy; Tribal Sovereign Immunity

A.D. v. Washburn
2016 WL 5464582
No. CV-15-01259-PHX-NVW
United States District Court, D. Arizona
09/29/2016

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act

Sisseton-Washington Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation v. U.S. Corps of Engineers
2016 WL 5478428
No. CV-15-01259-PHX-NVW
United States District Court, S. Dakota
09/29/2016

Legal Topics: Sacred Places; National Historic Preservation Act; Clean Water Act

Littlefield v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior
2016 WL 5346940
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-10184-WGY
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
09/23/2016

Legal Topics: Land into Trust

Related News Stories: Federal judge declines to reconsider Massachusetts casino ruling (World Casino News) 10/17/16, Mashpee Tribe wins approval to join lawsuit threatening casino project (Cape Cod) 9/28/16

Navajo Nation v. Urban Outfitters, Inc.
2016 WL 5339684
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-10184-WGY
United States District Court, D. New Mexico
09/19/2016

Legal Topics: Trademarks

Related News Stories: Federal Court denies Navajo summary judgment on trademark infringement claim (Turtle Talk) 9/26/16

Efrain Hildalgo v. PA Department of Corrections
2016 WL 4803920
Civil Action No. 15-203ERIE
United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
09/14/2016

Legal Topics: Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act - Prisoner Rights

Poarch Band of Creek Indians v. Moore
2016 WL 4803920
CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-0277-CG-C
United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
9/12/2016
See Poarch Band of Creek Indians v. Moore 8/10/16 for original posting.

Legal Topics: Trust Lands - Real Property Taxation

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
2016 WL 4734356
Civil Action No. 16-1534 (JEB)
United States District Court, District of Columbia
9/9/2016

Legal Topics: Dakota Access Pipeline

Related News Stories: Feds deny approval of construction of the DAPL on lands that border Lake Oahe (Turtle Talk) 9/9/16, North Dakota tribe's request to stop work on pipeline denied (ABC News) 9/9/16 (Opinion PDF), Judge temporarily halts DAPL construction on select land but not on desecrated area (Indian Country Today) 9/6/16, Hearing ordered after Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reports destruction of sacred sites (Indianz) 9/5/16 Judge to rule on tribe's oil pipeline request by Sept. 9 (Des Moines Regsiter) 8/24/16, Backers challenge Sioux stand against Dakota Access oil pipeline (The Village Suntimes) 8/22/16, Corps approves river crossings for Dakota Access Pipeline (Young Herald) 7/29/16

Stand Up for California! v. U.S. Department of the Interior
2016 WL 4621065
Civil Action No. 12-2039 (BAH)
Consolidated with: Civil Action No. 12-2071 (BAH)
United States District Court, District of Columbia
9/6/2016

Legal Topics: Land into Trust; Gaming

August

Gingras v. Rosette
2016 WL 4442792
Case No. 5:15-cv-101
United States District Court, D. Vermont.
8/22/2016

Legal Topics: Payday Loans

United States v. Jim
2016 WL 6995455
CASE NO. 14-22441-CIV-ALTONAGA/O'Sullivan
United States District Court, S.D. Florida
8/19/2016

Legal Topics: Federal Taxation - Individual Tribal Gaming Payments

Enable Oklahoma Intrastate Transmission, LLC v. A 25 Foot Wide Easement
2016 WL 4402061
Case No. CIV-15-1250-M
United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
8/18/2016

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity; Easements

Dakota Access, LLC v. Archambault
2016 WL 4734334
Case No.: 1:16-cv-296
United States District Court, D. North Dakota
8/16/2016

Legal Topics: Temporary Restraining Order; Oil Pipeline Construction

Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission
2016 WL 4363276
CASE NO. C15-5828BHS
United States District Court, W.D. Washington
8/15/2016

Legal Topics: Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - Indian Tribes Eligible for Gaming

Poarch Band of Creek Indians v. Moore
2016 WL 4778788
CA 15-00277-CG-C
United States District Court, S.D. Alabama, Southern Division
Filed 8/10/2016
Altered 9/12/16. See Poarch Band of Creek Indians v. Moore

Legal Topics: Trust Lands - Real Property Taxation

North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California v. State of California
2016 WL 4208452
1:15-cv-00419-AWI-SAB
United States District Court, E.D. California
8/10/2016

Legal Topics: Gaming Compacts - Good Faith Negotiations

James Raymond Acres v. Blue Lake Rancheria Tribal Court
2016 WL 4208328
Case No. 16-cv-02622-WHO
United States District Court, N.D. California
8/10/2016

Legal Topics: Jurisdiction - Exhaustion of Tribal Court Remedies

Jamul Action Committee v. Jonodev Chaudhuri
2016 WL 4192407
No. 2:13-cv-01920-KJM-KJN
United States District Court, E.D. California
8/08/2016

Legal Topics: Indian Lands Eligible for Gaming

Brakebill v. Jaeger
Case No. 1:16-cv-008
United States District Court, District of North Dakota
8/01/2016

Legal Topics: Voting Rights - ID Requirements

Related News Stories: Huge victory for tribes: federal courts overturn voter ID laws (Indian Country Today) 8/4/16, Spirit Lake Nation celebrates voter ID ruling (Grand Forks Herald) 8/3/16

July

Littlefield v. Department of Interior
NO. 16-10184-WGY
United States District Court, District of Massachusetts
7/28/2016

Legal Topics: Land into Trust - Federal Acquisition

Related News Stories: Mashpee, Cowlitz rulings could have national impact on casino law (Taunton Gazette) 8/3/16, Our View: With Taunton casino in limbo, time for Congress to pass 'Carcieri fix' (Taunton Gazette) 8/3/16, Two tribes see conflicting rulings in long-running quests for casinos (Indianz) 8/2/16, Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe sees setback in land-into-trust dispute (Indianz) 7/29/16, Federal judge: Wampanoag land into trust designation flawed (Cape Cod) 7/29/16, Obama administration backs Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino bid (Indianz) 7/8/16

Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians v. Snyder
No. 1:15-cv-850
United States District Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division
7/06/2016

Legal Topics: Reservation Diminishment

Renteria v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians
2016 WL 4000984
No. 2:16-cv-1685-MCE-AC
United States District Court, E.D. California
7/26/2016

Legal Topics: Child Custory - Tribal Court Jurisdiction

United States of America vs. Tawnya Bearcomesout
2016 WL 3982455
CR 16-13-BLG-SPW
United States District Court, D. Montana
7/22/2016

Legal Topics: Double Jeapordy  

June

Wyoming, et al v. U.S. Department of Interior, et al
2016 WL 3509415
Case No. 2:15-CV-043-SWS, Case No. 2:15-CV-041-SWS
United States District Court, D. Wyoming.
06/21/2016

Legal Topics:  Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands

Tohono O'odham Nation v. Douglas A Ducey, et al
2016 WL 3402391
No. CV-15-01135-PHX-DGC
United States District Court, D. Arizona.
06/21/2016

Legal Topics: Motion to Compell - Closed Tribal Government Sessions

Green v. Director/Secretary, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation
2016 WL 3647182
Case No.: 14cv965-LAB-BGS
United States District Court, S.D. California
06/10/2016

Legal Topics: Prisoners - Religious Freedom

May

Caddo Nation of Oklahoma v. Wichita and Affiliated Tribes
2016 WL 3080971
NO. CIV-16-0559-HE
United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma.
Signed 05/31/2016

Legal Topics:  Trust Lands; National Historic Preservation Act

State of Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
2016 WL 3039991
EP-99-CV-320-KC
United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division.
Signed 05/27/2016

Legal Topics:  Restoration Act - Gaming Activities

Banks v. Cashcall, Inc.
2016 WL 3021749
Case No. 6:14-cv-488-Orl-37TBS
United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division.
Signed May 26, 2016

*Synopsis: Borrower filed state court action against lender's assignee and loan servicer challenging terms of high-interest loan agreement. After removal, defendants moved to dismiss or, alternatively, to compel arbitration.

*Holdings: The District Court, Roy B. Dalton Jr., J., held that:
1) Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) governed loan agreement, and
2) borrower's claims were subject to arbitration.
Motion granted in part and denied in part.

Greybuffalo v. Litscher
2016 WL 3024175
15-cv-8-bbc
United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin.
Filed: 05/25/2016

Legal Topics: Constitutional Rights of Prison Inmate - Religious Practices and Materials

Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsion v. Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Dept. of Justice
2016 WL 2997499
Case No. 15-CV-1378
United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin.
Filed 05/23/2016

Legal Topics: Farm Bill - Industrial Hemp Cultivation

Related News Stories: Judge rejects Menominee's hemp arguments (Washington Times) 5/24/16, Menominee Nation set for court hearing in industrial hemp lawsuit (Indianz) 4/20/16, Menominee want summary judgement in hemp case (Wisconsin Radio News) 2/25/16

In the Matter of the Will of Phyllis J. Campbell
63 IBIA 68
Docket No. IBIA 15-011
United States Department of the Interior
Interior Board of Indian Appeals
May 20, 2016

Legal Topics:  Wills and Trusts - Osage Headright

Feller v. Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office
2016 WL 2733410
Case No. 5:16-cv-61
United States District Court, D. Vermont.
Filed 05/10/2016

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. BNSF Railway Company
2016 WL 2610247
No. C15-0543RSL
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle.
Signed 05/06/2016

Legal Topics: Indian Right-of-Way Act

National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service
2016 WL 2353647
Case No. 3:01-cv-00640-SI
United States District Court, D. Oregon.
Signed 05/04/2016

*Synopsis: Environmental groups brought action challenging decision of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries that operations of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) did not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and asserting that United States Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to prepare an environmental impact statement in connection with their records of decision implementing NOAA's biological opinion (BiOp). Parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Michael H. Simon, J., held that:
1) biological opinion concluding that FCRPS did not jeopardize species listed under ESA was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA);
2) biological opinion concluding that FCRPS would not adversely modify critical habitat pursuant to ESA was not arbitrary and capricious under APA;
3) environmental groups did not waive their right to raise NEPA claim;
4) decision by Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation not to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) under NEPA was not reasonable;
5) biological opinion concluding that FCRPS was not likely to affect endangered Southern Resident killer whales pursuant to ESA was not arbitrary and capricious under APA.
Ordered accordingly.

April

Ninilchik Traditional Council vs. Tim Towarak
2016 WL 1559122
3:15-cv-00205 JWS
United States District Court, D. Alaska.
Filed 04/17/2016

Legal Topics: Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act - Title VII; Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6) - Dismissal

Greybuffalo v. Wall
2016 WL 1559179
15-cv-8-bbc
United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin.
Filed: 04/15/2016

Legal Topics: Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act; U.S. Constitution - Free Excercise Clause; Native American Church - Religious Ceremonies

Forest County Potawatomi Community v. United States
2016 WL 1465324
Civil Action No. 15-105 (CKK)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
Signed April 14, 2016

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against United States of America, United States Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior, and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, challenging defendants' decision to disapprove an amendment to a gaming compact between the tribe and the state under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). A second tribe filed motion for leave to intervene.

*Holdings: The District Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, J., held that:
1) tribe had standing to intervene as defendant, and
2) tribe's interests were not adequately represented by federal government, thereby supporting tribe's entitlement to intervene as a matter of right.
Motion granted.

March

Brenda Turunen v. Keith Creagh, Director, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Jamie Clover Adams, Director, Michigan Dept. of Agriculture
2016 WL 1253043
Case No. 2:13-CV-106
United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division.
Mar. 31, 2016.

Legal Topics: Treaty Rights - Hunting

Tohono O'odham Nation v. Ducey
2016 WL 1241888
No. CV-15-01135-PHX-DGC
United States District Court, D. Arizona.
Mar. 30, 2016.

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against Arizona's governor, attorney general, and director of Arizona Department of Gaming (ADG) alleging that Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) preempted state's policy of refusing to certify vendors and employees to work at tribe's casino. Director filed counterclaims alleging promissory estoppel, fraudulent inducement, and material misrepresentation. Tribe moved to dismiss counterclaims.

*Holdings: The District Court, David G. Campbell, J., held that:
1) Arizona law did not limit director's ability to assert counterclaims;
2) doctrine of equitable recoupment did not overcome tribe's assertion of sovereign immunity;
3) tribe waived its sovereign immunity to director's counterclaim for declaration that ADG was not obligated to certify or authorize tribe's proposed facility;
4) tribe waived its sovereign immunity to director's counterclaim for declaration that tribe was prohibited from conducting Class III gaming at facility;
5) tribe's sovereign immunity barred Adirector's counterclaims for declaration that ADG was not obligated to certify or authorize any additional facilities, declaration or injunction prohibiting tribe from conducting Class III gaming activities at other locations, and reformation of tribal-state compact;
6) director could not assert promissory estoppel claim; and
7) dismissal of state's fraudulent inducement and material misrepresentation counterclaims was not warranted.
Motion granted in part and denied in part.

Navajo Nation v. Department of the Interior
2016 WL 1273182
Civil Action No. 14-cv-1909 (TSC)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
Mar. 30, 2016.

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action alleging that Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), an agency within Department of the Interior (DOI), violated Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) by failing to disperse certain funding. Parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Tanya S. Chutkan, J., held that tribe was equitably estopped from asserting that BIA failed to approve or decline funding proposal within 90-day window.
Tribe's motion denied and DOI's motion granted.

United States v. White Plume
2016 WL 1228585
CIV. 02-5071-JLV
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Western Division.
Filed 03/28/2016

Legal Topics: Controlled Substances Act - Marijuana/Hemp

Maniilaq Association v. Burwell
170 F.Supp.3d 243
Civil Action No. 15-152 (JDB)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
Signed March 22, 2016.

*Synopsis: Regional health corporation that owned and operated medical clinic in Native American village commenced action under Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act to require Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to rent its clinic space and pay it compensation based on clinic's operating costs. Plaintiff moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, John D. Bates, J., held that amount of lease compensation was not commended to discretion of HHS, constrained only by funding floor.
Motion granted.

New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer v. Aamodt
171 F.Supp.3d 1171
No. 66cv06639 WJ/WPL
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
Signed March 21, 2016

*Synopsis: New Mexico brought action against various property owners pursuant to its water adjudication statutes, seeking determination of rights to use water of particular river system. United States, on behalf of itself and several affected Native-American tribes, intervened. Proposed settlement was reached with respect to tribal water rights, and, following enactment of Aamodt Litigation Settlement Act, settlement parties revised their agreement to conform with Act and court entered order to show cause why it should not approve settlement agreement.

*Holdings: The District Court, William P. Johnson, J., held that:
1) objections related to approval procedure did not merit rejection of agreement;
2) objections about implementation of agreement did not merit rejection of agreement; and
3) objections as to disagreements about application of state and federal laws did not merit rejection of agreement.
Objections overruled and settlement approved.

Amador County v. S.M.R. Jewell
170 F.Supp.3d 135
Civil Action No. 05-00658 (BJR)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
Signed March 16, 2016

*Synopsis: County brought action challenging decision of Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior to approve amended gaming compact between Indian tribe and State of California pursuant to Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The District Court, Richard W. Roberts, J., 592 F.Supp.2d 101, dismissed action and denied county's motion for reconsideration, 723 F.Supp.2d 67. The Court of Appeals, Tatel, Circuit Judge, 640 F.3d 373, reversed and remanded. Secretary moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Barbara Jacobs Rothstein, J., held that:
1) county agreed to treat Indian tribe's rancheria as reservation when it entered into stipulated judgment with Indian tribe, under which parties agreed that rancheria was not lawfully terminated under California Rancheria Act;
2) county and Indian tribe intended stipulated judgment to bind them in future actions, and thus county was precluded from arguing that rancheria was not reservation within meaning of IGRA; and
3) Secretary had authority to determine whether Indian tribe's rancheria was reservation within meaning of IGRA.
Motion granted.

In re Montoya
547 B.R. 439
no. 7–15–12528 JA
United States Bankruptcy Court, D. New Mexico.
March 14, 2016

*Synopsis: Chapter 7 debtor, proceeding pro se, filed motion to enforce automatic stay and for award of monetary sanctions, asserting that Indian tribe and tribal court willfully violated the stay when court entered tax lien and stay order in connection with certain unpaid cigarette taxes. 

*Holdings: The Bankruptcy Court, Robert H. Jacobvitz, J., held that:
1) entry of tax lien and stay order in the tribal court action constituted a continuation of a judicial action against debtor in violation of the automatic stay;
2) tax lien and stay order were void ab initio and could be recognized as such regardless of whether tribe was immune from suit;
3) debtor's claims against tribal court and tribal court judge for willful violation of the automatic stay were barred on grounds of immunity;
4) debtor failed to show that he suffered any actual damages from tribe's willful stay violation; and
5) the imposition of punitive damages was not warranted.

Motion granted in part.

Tuttle v. Jewell
168 F.Supp.3d 299
Civil Action No. 13-365 (RMC)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
Signed March 11, 2016.

*Synopsis: Lessee of land from Colorado River Indian Tribes brought action against Secretary of the Interior and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to challenge termination of his lease. His family trust was substituted as plaintiff after his death. Defendants moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Rosemary M. Collyer, J., held that:
1) lessee's interests were arguably within ambit of Indian Long-Term Leasing Act;
2) cancellation of lease did not violate lease or regulations;
3) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) did not delegate authority to Tribes; and
4) lease did not require BIA or tribe to accept lessee's long-overdue cure.
Motion granted.

Grand Canyon Skywalk Development, LLC v. Cieslak
2016 WL 890921
Case No.: 2:15-cv-00663-JAD-GWF consolidated with 2:15-cv-1189-JAD-GWF
United States District Court, D. Nevada.
Signed March 7, 2016

Legal Topics: Tribal Land; Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Smith v. Western Sky Financial, LLC
2016 WL 1212697
CIVIL ACTION No. 15–3639
United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.
Signed March 4, 2016

*Synopsis: Borrower, who received high-interest payday loan from lender owned by member of Native American tribe, brought action against lender and its successors-in-interest, which purchased the debt, alleging violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act, and state usury laws. Defendants moved to dismiss or to compel arbitration.

*Holdings: The District Court, McHugh, J., held that:
1) forum selection clause, providing that borrower consented to subject matter jurisdiction of tribe, was unenforceable;
2) exhaustion of claims in tribal court was not required; and
3) arbitration clause in loan agreement was unenforceable.
Motion denied.

Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Jewell
167 F.Supp.3d 1217
No. 90 CV 957 JAP/KBM
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
Filed 03/02/2016

Synopsis: Indian tribes and tribal organizations brought class action against Secretary of the Interior, seeking to collect contract support costs (CSC) for activities that had to be carried on by tribal contractors to ensure compliance with terms of self-determination contracts under Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA). Parties jointly moved for approval of final class settlement.

Holdings: The District Court, James A. Parker, J., held that:
1) class settlement amount of $940,000,000 was fair, reasonable, and adequate;
2) percentage-of-the-fund method, without applying lodestar analysis, was appropriate means to determine reasonable attorneys' fees;
3) requested attorneys' fee award of 8.5% of mega fund amount was appropriate; and
4) award to class counsel of $1,205,989 as reimbursement for costs was appropriate.
Motion granted.

February

Doe v. Piper
2016 WL 755619
Civil No. 15-2639 (JRT/SER)
United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Signed February 25, 2016

*Synopsis: Indian parents brought action on behalf of child, who was subject of pending state adoption proceeding to non-Indian adoptive parents, against Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services, Attorney General, and tribal officer, alleging that notice and intervention provisions of Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA) infringed on their rights to equal protection and due process. Defendants moved to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, John R. Tunheim, Chief Judge, held that:
1) notice-related injuries were imminent;
2) intervention-related injuries were imminent;
3) Attorney General and Commissioner were proper defendants;
4) tribal officer was not proper defendant;
5) Younger abstention did not apply to claims; and
6) capable-of-repetition exception applied such that parents' action was not moot.
Motion of tribal officer granted, and motions of Attorney General and Commissioner of Minnesota Department of Human Services denied.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water Dist.
2016 WL 2621301
EDCV 13-883 JGB (SPx)
United States District Court, C.D. California.
Signed 02/23/2016

Legal Topics: Reserved Water Rights - Groundwater

Related News Stories: Does the Agua Caliente tribe have rights to groundwater? (Desert Sun) 10/20/16, Agua Caliente Band back in federal court to defend water rights (Indianz) 10/20/16 (Turtle Talk Material)

Navajo Nation v. San Juan County
2016 WL 697120
Case No. 2:12-cv-00039-RJS-DPB
United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
Signed February 19, 2016

*Synopsis: Navajo Nation and individual tribal members brought action against county, alleging that the redistricting of county commission election districts was racially discriminatory in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Both parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Robert J. Shelby, J., held that:
1) strict scrutiny applied to Navajo Nation's traditional Equal Protection Clause claim, and
2) one election district was unconstitutional under Equal Protection Clause warranting redrawing of district boundary lines.
Plaintiffs' motion granted, and county's motion denied.

*Related News Stories: Navajos ask federal judge to restore polling places in Utah (WGEM) 9/21/16, How a Utah county silenced Native American voters (Durango Herald) 7/4/16, How a Utah county silenced Native American voters — and how Navajos are fighting back (High Country News) 6/13/16, Utah county defends mail-in voting against Navajo lawsuit (Albuquerque Journal) 4/18/16, Will Natives get a fair chance to vote in 2016? Not according to many lawsuits (New America Media) 3/11/16, Navajo Nation wins decision over voting districts in Utah county (Indianz) 2/26/16

Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria of California v. State of California
2016 WL 632782
No. 2:14-cv-01939-TLN-CKD
United States District Court, E.D. California
Signed February 16, 2016

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against California, seeking relief under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) based on California legislature's failure to ratify casino-style gaming compact negotiated between California's governor and the tribe, resulting in expiration of the compact. Tribe moved for judgment on the pleadings.

*Holdings: The District Court, Troy L. Nunley, J., held that:
1) California legislature's failure to ratify compact fell within California's waiver of Eleventh Amendment immunity for actions brought by Indian tribes arising from state's refusal to enter into compact negotiations or to negotiate in good faith pursuant to IGRA;
2) subjecting California's legislature to IGRA's negotiation mandate for casino-style gaming compacts would not invade fundamental aspect of California's Tenth Amendment sovereignty;
3) IGRA did not require Indian tribe before bringing action to make additional request that California enter into negotiations for gaming compact after California's legislature failed to ratify the compact; and
4) California legislature's failure to ratify casino-style gaming compact for nearly two years before compact expired on its own terms and failure to take any additional activity since that time constituted breach of IGRA's mandate that California negotiate in good faith to conclude compact with Indian tribe.
Motion granted.

Related News Stories: Judge sides with Enterprise Rancheria on casino compact suit (AppealDemocrat) 2/18/16

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Gerlach
2016 WL 589864
CIV 14-4171
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
Signed February 11, 2016

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action seeking a declaratory judgment that, under federal law, the state did not have authority to impose a use tax on goods and services purchased by nonmembers at the tribe's casino, which was operated pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and that the state did not have authority to regulate the tribe's sale of alcoholic beverages at the casino. Tribe moved for declaration that IGRA was broad enough in scope to cover sales of goods and services beyond game-play on the casino floor and to dismiss State's counterclaims.

*Holdings: The District Court, Lawrence L. Piersol, J., held that:
1) scope of IGRA covered activity beyond pure game-play at the casino;
2) counterclaim seeking monetary relief in the form of further payments by tribe into escrow account was not an action in recoupment; and
3) deposit agreement between state and tribe did not waive tribe's sovereign immunity from suit.
Motions granted.

Casey v. Stephens
2016 WL 543233
CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:14-CV-13
United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Corpus Christi Division
Signed February 9, 2016

*Synopsis: State prisoner brought action for declaratory and injunctive relief under Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and Free Exercise Clause, challenging policies of Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Institutions Division (TDCJ-CID) that burdened his right to practice his Native American faith. Department's Director filed motion for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Nelva Gonzalez Ramos, J., held that:
1) Department's hair grooming policy, which prevented prisoner from growing his hair long and/or wearing a kouplock, was least restrictive means;
2) policy restricting medicine bags was least restrictive means; and
3) prohibition of personal or communal prayer pipes was least restrictive means.
Motion granted; dismissed with prejudice.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Riverside County
181 F.Supp.3d 725
Case No. ED CV 14-0007 DMG (DTBx)
United States District Court, C.D. California.
Signed February 8, 2016

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against county and county tax officials, in their official capacity, alleging unlawful taxation by county on lessees using and occupying Indian trust land within tribe's reservation, and seeking declaration that taxes on lessees' possessory interest in lands and permanent improvements on lands were unlawful, and seeking injunction against county's future assessment or collection of such taxes. County moved for judgment on the pleadings.

*Holdings: The District Court, Dolly M. Gee, J., held that:
1) exception in Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) regulation governing which taxes applied to leased Indian land did not apply;
2) strong federal interest weighed in favor of preemption of tax;
3) strong tribal interest weighed in favor of preemption of tax;
4) county's general interest in raising revenue, and lack of connection between services provided to tribe and activity being taxed, weighed in favor of preemption of tax; and
5) tax was preempted, for purposes of county's motion.
Motion denied.

Dillon v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A.
2016 WL 447502
Case No. 16-mc-5-CVE-TLW
United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
Signed February 4, 2016

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

January

Steward v. Mescalero Apache Tribal Court
2016 WL 546840
No. CIV 15–1178 JB/SCY
United States District Court, D. New Mexico
Signed January 30, 2016

Legal Topics: Domestic Violence; Tribal Jurisdiction

Meyer v. Accredited Collection Agency Inc.
2016 WL 379742
CAUSE NO. 1:13CV444-LG-JCG
United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
Signed January 29, 2016

Legal Topics: Antitrust and Trade Regulation

Tanner-Brown v. Jewell
153 F.Supp.3d 102
Civil Action No.: 14-1065 (RC)
United States District Court, District of Columbia
01/27/2016

*Synopsis: Descendant of former slave held by a Native American tribe and legal advocacy group brought putative class action against Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at DOI, in their official capacities seeking an accounting relating to alleged breaches of fiduciary duties concerning land allotted to the minor children of former slaves of Native American tribes. Defendants moved to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, Rudolph Contreras, J., held that:
1) descendant lacked Article III standing, and
2) advocacy group lacked Article III standing.

Motion granted.

Wright v. Langdeau
2016 WL 323620
No. CIV 15-4097
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
Signed January 25, 2016

*Synopsis: After action was brought in tribal court seeking to remove three members of Indian tribe from their positions as tribal council members, allegedly in an effort to stop their inquiry into the whereabouts of approximately $24 million in federal funding, the three brought an action in federal court against two tribal council members and three United States government officials, seeking an accounting and other relief. Defendants filed motions to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, Lawrence L. Piersol, J., held that:
1) the federal question jurisdictional statute did not properly serve as plaintiffs' basis for subject matter jurisdiction;
2) the United States had not waived its sovereign immunity under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in this case and the APA, therefore, did not form a basis of subject matter jurisdiction;
3) plaintiffs failed to show an exhaustion of tribal remedies, as required to maintain their federal action against tribal defendants; and
4) alternatively, this action was one centering primarily on internal tribal affairs and, as such, could not proceed.
Motion granted.

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida
2016 WL 3128383
CASE NO. 4:15cv516-RH/CAS
United States District Court, N.D. Florida, Tallahassee Division.
Signed 01/06/2016

Legal Topics:  Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - Good Faith Negotiations

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 Trial Courts 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.