2017 Federal Courts Cases

Last updated: June 21, 2017

Next Update Should be Ready by:
July 10, 2017

Recently Added Cases:

French v. Starr
2017 WL 2377982
No. 15-15470
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
June 01, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Jurisdiction; Eviction

Darnell v. Merchant
2017 WL 2618823
Case No. 17-cv-3063-EFM-TJJ
United States District Court, D. Kansas.
June 16, 2017

Legal Topics: Witnesses


Older Cases:

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June

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
2017 WL 2573994
Civil Action No. 16–1534 (JEB)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
Signed 06/14/2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribes brought action under Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against Army Corps of Engineers alleging, inter alia, that Corps' authorization of crude oil pipeline under federally regulated waterway bordering tribes' reservations violated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), and Mineral Leasing Act (MLA). Indian tribes moved for partial summary judgment and Corps cross-moved for partial summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, James E. Boasberg, J., held that:
1) Corps took requisite "hard look" at risk of oil spill in its environmental assessment (EA) of pipeline;
2) Corps failed to take requisite "hard look" at methodological and data flaws in its assessment of oil spill risk identified in expert reports submitted to Corps;
3) Corps took requisite "hard look" at potential impact of construction of pipeline on tribe's water, fishing, and hunting treaty rights in its EA;
4) Corps failed to take requisite "hard look" at potential impact of oil spill on tribe's fishing and hunting treaty rights in its EA;
5) Corps adequately considered alternatives to proposed location of pipeline in its EA;
6) Corps' use of 0.5-mile buffer in environmental-justice analysis under NEPA was arbitrary and capricious;
7) grant of easement under MLA did not violate Corps' trust responsibility to protect tribe's treaty rights;
8) Corps' conclusion that pipeline would not impair waterway, as required for issuance of RHA permit, was not arbitrary and capricious; and
9) Corps imposed sufficient liability on pipeline operator, as required for easement under MLA.
Ordered accordingly.

Related News Stories: Judge announces Trump won't be defendent in Dakota Access Pipeline lawsuit (JWN Energy) 6/21/17, Ruling on pipeline surprises oil industry (Capital Journal) 6/16/17, Future of Dakota Access Pipeline in question again after judge orders review of permits (The Independent) 6/15/17, Third time's the charm in Dakota Access pipeline challenge (Courthouse News Service) 6/15/17, Breaking: DAPL approved illegal, Judge finds (Indian Country Today) 6/14/17

United States v. Gila Valley Irrigation District
2017 WL 2541042
Nos. 14-16942, 14-16943, 14-16944, 14-17047, 14-17048, 14-17185,
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
June 13, 2017

*Synopsis: In a proceeding to adjudicate corporation's applications to sever water rights from its appurtenant lands, and transfer those rights to other lands, pursuant to consent decree governing distribution of water among Indian community, tribe, and other landowners, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Susan R. Bolton, J., D.C. Nos. 4:31-cv-00059-SRB and subdocket 4:31-cv-00061-SRB, denied applications, and entered final judgment on 419 applications to sever and transfer decree water rights. New sever and transfer applications were subsequently filed on the main docket, which the district court continued to adjudicate. Parties cross-appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, O'Scannlain, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) Court of Appeals lacked jurisdiction over applications and associated objections that had been voluntarily withdrawn or dismissed without prejudice;
2) post-judgment order dismissing applications to sever and transfer decree water rights was not a final, appealable order;
3) Court of Appeals had jurisdiction to review district court's finding that corporation abandoned its water rights as to one application;
4) generalized assertions that proposed diversion would not change priorities, volumes of water use and acreage were insufficient to make a prima facie case of no harm;
5) district court did not abuse its discretion in rejecting corporation's attempts to amend its applications;
6) district court's improperly concluded that water rights vested prior to 1919 could not be lost through statutory forfeiture; and
7) corporation's payment of taxes and fees and its involvement in unrelated water rights litigation did not undermine district court's determination that corporation abandoned water rights as to 1.4 acres.
Dismissed in part, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Related News Stories: Major 9th Circuit Court ruling affirms Gila River Indian Community's water rights in upper valley of the Gila River (Native News Online) 6/18/17

Wyandot Nation of Kansas v. United States
2017 WL 2467267
No. 2016-1654
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
June 8, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe, which was not federally recognized tribe, brought action against United States, seeking money damages and full trust fund accountings arising from breach of trust and fiduciary obligation regarding treaty trust funds and trust land that the government allegedly held in trust for tribe. The Court of Federal Claims, No. 1:15-cv-00560-TCW, Thomas C. Wheeler, J., 124 Fed.Cl. 601, granted government's motion to dismiss. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Dyk, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) threshold question of whether Wyandot Nation was federally recognized Indian tribe was within primary jurisdiction of Department of Interior, and thus tribe's claims for accounting or monetary damages had to be dismissed without prejudice, and
2) tribe's claims for monetary damages from United States for failure to collect, account for, and manage Huron Cemetery lands and its revenues generated from easements by Kansas City had to be dismissed without prejudice.
Affirmed on other grounds.

Finn v. Great Plains Lending, LLC
2017 WL 2376550
No. 16-6348
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
June 1, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

California Valley Miwok Tribe v. Zinke
2017 WL 2379945
Case CIV. No. 2:16-01345 WBS CKD
United States District Court, E.D. California.
June 1, 2017

Legal Topics: Official Tribal Government; Tribal Membership

May

Public Service Company of New Mexico v. Barboan
2017 WL 2296875
No. 16-2050
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
May 26, 2017

*Synopsis: Electricity provider brought condemnation action, seeking to condemn perpetual easement for electrical transmission lines over five allotted lands owned by Indian tribe and its members. Indian tribe moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction with respect to two allotments in which tribe held fractional interest. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, James A. Parker, Senior District Judge, 155 F.Supp.3d 1151, 1:15-CV-00501-JAP-CG, granted motion. Provider moved to alter or amend order. The District Court, Parker, Senior District Judge, 167 F.Supp.3d 1248, granted provider's request to certify four questions of law for interlocutory appeal, but denied provider's request to sever its claims against the two parcels in which tribe held fractional interest. Provider appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Phillips, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) as a matter of first impression, Indian General Allotment Act did not allow condemnation of allotted lands owned in any part by tribe, and
2) oil pipeline company was not entitled to intervene on appeal.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of Navajo Nation (Navajo-Hopi Observer) 6/13/17, Navajo Nation welcomes vitory for 'sovereignty' in land dispute (Indianz) 5/30/17

United States v. State of Washington
2017 WL 2193387
No. 13-35474
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
May 19, 2017

Legal Topics: Treaty Fishing Rights

Related News Stories: Washington to restore salmon habitat blocked by culverts (High Country News) 6/5/17, Court: State must replace salmon-blocking culverts (Indian Country Today) 5/30/17, Treaty tribes celebrate after court refuses to rehear salmon dispute (Indianz) 5/22/17 (Turtle Talk Materials)

Keepseagle v. Perdue
856 F.3d 1039
No. 16-5189
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.
May 16, 2017

*Synopsis: Native American farmers and ranchers filed class action alleging that United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) discriminated against Native American applicants in their claims under farm credit and benefits programs. After parties entered into settlement agreement and settlement funds were distributed, parties reformed agreement's cy-près process to award supplemental payments to class members. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:99-cv-03119, approved modification, and class members appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Edwards, Senior Circuit Judge, held that:
1) consent decree did not require unanimous consent of class representatives for modification;
2) district court did not abuse its discretion in approving modification;
3) class member waived his challenges to validity of cy-près provision;
4) class member forfeited his challenges to validity of cy-près provision; and
5) class counsel did not breach its fiduciary duty by seeking modification.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Court decision supports release of $380M in Keepseagle settlement funds (Indianz) 5/16/17

Dillon v. BMO Harris Bank, N.A.
856 F.3d 330
No. 16-1362
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
May 10, 2017

*Synopsis: Borrower of "payday loan" charging interest rate of 440.18% brought putative class action against financial institution that facilitated loan, alleging it violated of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by using its role within network of financial institutions to conduct and participate in collection of unlawful "payday loans." The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Catherine C. Eagles, J., 2014 WL 3107295, denied financial institution's motion to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeals, Duncan, Circuit Judge, 787 F.3d 707, vacated and remanded. On remand, the District Court again denied the financial institution's motion to compel arbitration. Financial institution appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Keenan, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) choice of law provision in arbitration agreement rendered it unenforceable, and
2) choice of law provisions were not severable.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Fourth Circuit affirms finding that arbitration agreement in payday loan obtained over the internet is unenforceable (Reinsurance Focus) 5/31/17

Cherokee Nation v. S.M.R. Jewell
2017 WL 2352011
Case No. CIV–14–428–RAW
United States District Court, E.D. Oklahoma.
May 31, 2017

Legal Topics: Land into Trust

Related News Stories: Court rules in CN's favor on UKB trust land case (Cherokee Phoenix) 6/1/17

Ho-Chunk, INC., v. Sessions
2017 WL 2274940
Case No. 16–cv–01652 (CRC)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
May 24, 2017

*Synopsis: Tribal-owned corporations engaged in distribution of cigarettes brought action against the Attorney General of the United States, seeking declaration clarifying whether certain recordkeeping requirements of the Contraband Cigarettes Trafficking Act (CCTA) applied to Indian tribal entities. Defendant moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Christopher R. Cooper, J., held that:
1) CCTA's recordkeeping requirements applied to Indian tribal entities, and
2) tribal governments, and thus tribal-owned entities, were "persons" within meaning of CCTA and fell within scope of the Act.
Motion granted.

Davis v. Abercrombie
2017 WL 2234175
Civil No. 11-00144 LEK-BMK
United States District Court, D. Hawai'i.
May 22, 2017

Legal Topics: Native Hawaiians; Prisoners - Religious Rights

Nooksack Indian Tribe v. Zinke
2017 WL 1957076
Turtle Talk Materials
CASE NO. C17-0219-JCC
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle.
May 11, 2017

Legal Topics: Official Tribal Government; Jurisdiction

Related News Stories: Nooksack Tribe remains without recognized council as Trump administration digs in (Indianz) 5/12/17

Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County, New York
2017 WL 1653026
11-CV-6004 CJS
United States District Court, W.D. New York.
May 2, 2017

Legal Topics: Real Property Taxes; Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Related News Stories: Judge rules against Seneca County: Siragusa rejects claim against Cayuga Indian Nation over tax issue (Finger Lakes Times) 5/10/17

April

New Mexico v. Department of Interior
854 F.3d 1207
Nos. 14-2219 & 14-2222
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
April 21, 2017

*Synopsis: State of New Mexico brought action against the Department of the Interior (DOI), challenging DOI's authority to promulgate regulations under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) concerning the process under which Indian tribes and states negotiate compacts to allow gaming on Indian lands. Indian tribe intervened. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, No. 1:14-CV-00695-JAP-SCY, James A. Parker, Senior District Judge, 2014 WL 10298036, granted summary judgment to New Mexico. Indian tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Holmes, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) State demonstrated it suffered a procedural injury from the IGRA regulations;
2) State demonstrated that it suffered a forced-choice injury from the IGRA regulations;
3) State's challenge to the regulations was ripe for judicial review;
4) DOI exceeded its authority under IGRA in promulgating regulations governing the negotiation of Indian gaming compacts; and
5) unconstitutional provision of the IGRA, which authorized Indian tribes to sue states, was severable.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Court rules that tribe must come to agreement on new gaming compact with state (Gaming Today) 4/27/17

Fletcher v. United States
854 F.3d 1201
No. 16-5050
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
April 21, 2017

*Synopsis: Tribal members brought class action against federal government, seeking an accounting to determine whether the federal government had fulfilled the fiduciary obligations it chose to assume as trustee to oversee the collection of royalty income from oil and gas reserves and its distribution to tribal members. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, 2012 WL 1109090, dismissed the tribal members' claims, and they appealed. The Court of Appeals, Gorsuch, Circuit Judge, 730 F.3d 1206, reversed and remanded. On remand, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, 153 F.Supp.3d 1354, D.C. No. 4:02-CV-00427-GKF-PJC, ordered government to provide an accounting. Tribal members appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Kelly, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) district court did not abuse its discretion in setting time period of accounting, and
2) district court did not abuse its discretion when it fashioned scope of accounting.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: 10th Circuit upholds scope of accounting by lower court in Fletcher case (Osage News) 5/23/17

Massachusetts v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah)
853 F.3d 618
Turtle Talk Materials
No. 16-1137
United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
April 10, 2017

*Synopsis: Commonwealth of Massachusetts brought action in a Commonwealth court alleging that federally recognized Indian tribe's efforts to commence commercial gaming operations on tribal trust lands, pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), without having obtained a license from the Commonwealth violated Indian Land Claims Settlement Act of 1987 (Massachusetts Settlement Act). Following removal, town and community association intervened and tribe filed counterclaim and third party claims against Commonwealth and Commonwealth officials. Parties and intervenors moved for summary judgment. The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, F. Dennis Saylor IV, J., 144 F.Supp.3d 152, entered summary judgment for Commonwealth and intervenors. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Torruella, Circuit Judge. held that:
1) tribe made necessary threshold showing that it exercised jurisdiction over the Settlement Lands at issue;
2) tribe exercised sufficient governmental power to trigger application of IGRA to Settlement Lands; and
3) IGRA effected partial repeal of Settlement Act.
Reversed.

Related News Stories: Aquinnah Wampanaog Tribe scores major win in sovereignty case (Indianz) 4/11/17, Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe defends right to use land for gaming (Indianz) 12/7/16, Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe gets court date in gaming lawsuit (Indianz) 10/26/16, Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees support for Class II gaming plan (Indianz) 6/6/16

Navajo Nation v. United States Department of Interior
852 F.3d 1124
No. 16-5117
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.
April 4, 2017

*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. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, No. 1:14-cv-01909, Tanya S. Chutkan, 174 F.Supp.3d 161, entered summary judgment in favor of DOI. Indian tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Sentelle, Senior Circuit Judge, held that:
1) deadline for BIA to approve or reject tribe's proposal began to run on date tribe hand delivered proposal during partial government shutdown to exempted employee at BIA regional office, rather than date furloughed BIA employee who was responsible for such proposals returned to office;
2) tribe's silence, in face of repeated assertions by BIA concerning deadline, did not equitably estop tribe from disputing timeliness of BIA's response; and
3) partial government shutdown did not equitably toll deadline.
Reversed.

Related News Stories: Court rules for Navajo Nation in funding dispute with BIA (Sante Fe New Mexican) 4/5/17, Navajo Nation prevails in dispute over self-determination contract (Indianz) 4/4/17

United States v. Jackson
853 F.3d 436
No. 15-1789
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
April 4, 2017

*Synopsis:After his motion to dismiss the indictment was denied, defendant, an Indian, entered a conditional plea of guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, Donovan W. Frank, J., 2011 WL 7395040, to assault with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm during commission of crime of violence. Defendant appealed. The Court of Appeals, 697 F.3d 670, vacated and remanded. On remand, the District Court entered final judgment sentencing defendant to 136 months in prison. Defendant appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Loken, Circuit Judge, held that evidence supported district court's determination that reservation on which alleged assault occurred was not diminished by 1905 Act.
Affirmed.

Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
148 T.C. No. 11
Docket No. 28120–14.
United States Tax Court.
April 5, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe petitioned for review of IRS determination that workers whom tribe had classified as contractors were employees for whom tribe owed withholding taxes. Tribe moved to compel discovery of workers' return information, which it contended would show that workers' had paid their income-tax liabilities, thereby absolving tribe of liability for withholding taxes.

*Holdings: In a matter of first impression, the Tax Court, Holmes, J., held that:
1) workers' tax return information was subject to disclosure, and
2) that tribe bore burden of proof did not bar its discovery of otherwise disclosable tax return information of its workers.
Decision for taxpayer.

Related News Stories: Employee or contractor? Double-tax case could help businesses challenge IRS (Morning Star) 5/9/17

Lesperance v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
2017 WL 1505329
Case No. 2:16-cv-232
United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division.
April 27, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Mishewal Wappo Tribe of Alexander Valley v. Zinke
2017 WL 1433323
NO.15-15993
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
April 24, 2017

Legal Topics: Fiduciary Duty; Federal Recognition

Related News Stories: Sonoma County tribe loses bid to regain federal status (Press Democrat) 5/12/17

Havasupai Tribe v. Anasazi Water Company LLC
2017 WL 1384297
No. CV-16-08290-PCT-GMS
United States District Court, D. Arizona.
April 18, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action for trespass and declaratory relief against individuals and corporations that drew from aquifer that fed creek that tribe relied on for drinking water, farming, and cultural and religious traditions, alleging that defendants' use constituted unlawful interference with tribe's rights to the water in creek. Defendants moved to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, G. Murray Snow, J., held that:
1) United States was necessary party to action;
2) waiver of sovereign immunity in general water source adjudications provided by McCarran Amendment was inapplicable to tribe's private trespass suit; and
3) dismissal for failure to join United States as party was warranted.
Motion denied.

March

Yazzie v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
851 F.3d 960
No. 14-73100, No. 14-73101, No. 14-73102
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed March 20, 2017

*Synopsis: Tribal conservation organizations and non-profit environmental organizations petitioned for review of United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) source-specific federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, John B. Owens, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) federal government's partial ownership of power plant did not weigh against affording deference to EPA's interpretation of CAA and its implementing regulations;
2) EPA's determination that Tribal Authority Rule (TAR) applied to Navajo Nation was reasonable;
3) FIP was not subject to CAA regional haze program's requirement that all necessary emission reductions take place during the period of the first long-term strategy for regional haze;
4) EPA was not required to show by clear weight of the evidence that its FIP was better than best alternative retrofit technology (BART);
5) EPA's interpretation of phrase "distribution of emissions" as used in Regional Haze Regulation was reasonable; and
6) it was reasonable for EPA to give plant emission credit when evaluating whether FIP alternative resulted in greater emissions reductions than the BART.
Petition denied.

Related News Stories: 9th Circuit affirms EPA's flexibility with BART alternative (Enviro BLR) 3/31/17, Cronkite News: Navajo Nation hails decision on aging power plant (Indianz) 3/27/17, Court rejects Navajo generating station cases (Indian Country Today) 3/27/17, Ninth Circuit rejects challenges to dirty power plant (Courthouse News Service) 3/21/17, Hopi Tribe and Native activists lose cases over aging power plant (Indianz) 3/20/17

Hopi Tribe v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
851 F.3d 957
No. 14-73055
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed March 20, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe petitioned for review of Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) federal implementation plan under the Clean Air Act (CAA) for reduction of emissions from a coal-fired generating station, which tribe contended would result in the plant's closure with resulting harm to tribe's economic interests.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Schroeder, Circuit Judge, held that EPA did not violate any duty of the Government to consult with Indian tribe during rulemaking process.
Petition denied.

Related News Stories: 9th Circuit affirms EPA's flexibility with BART alternative (Enviro BLR) 3/31/17, Cronkite News: Navajo Nation hails decision on aging power plant (Indianz) 3/27/17, Court rejects Navajo generating station cases (Indian Country Today) 3/27/17, Ninth Circuit rejects challenges to dirty power plant (Courthouse News Service) 3/21/17, Hopi Tribe and Native activists lose cases over aging power plant (Indianz) 3/20/17

Tavares v. Whitehouse
851 F.3d 863
No. 14-15814
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed March 14, 2017

*Synopsis: Petitioners, who were members of Indian tribe and excluded from tribal lands and facilities for allegedly libeling and slandering tribe, sought writ of habeas corpus under Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA). The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, Troy L. Nunley, J., 2014 WL 1155798, dismissed petition. Petitioners appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, M. Margaret McKeown, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) any disputes about per capita payments from an Indian tribe to a tribal member must be brought in a tribal forum, not through federal habeas proceedings;
2) temporary exclusion from Indian tribal land is not tantamount to a "detention," for purpose of detention requirement of habeas corpus provision of ICRA; and
3) exclusion of petitioners was not a "detention" within meaning of habeas provision of ICRA, as required for district court jurisdiction.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Federal appeals court rejects tribal land access lawsuit (Jurist Twenty) 3/15/17, Court rules for California tribe in suit over land access (Columbia Missourian) 3/14/17

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District
849 F.3d 1262
No. 15-55896
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed March 7, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against water district and desert water agency, seeking to have the court declare and quantify its federally reserved rights to groundwater underlying its reservation and enjoin district and agency from interfering with tribe's rights to groundwater. Federal government intervened as a plaintiff. The United States District Court for the Central District of California, Jesus G. Bernal, J., No. 5:13-cv-00883-JGB-SP, 2015 WL 1600065, entered partial summary judgment in favor of tribe and government. District and agency appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Tallman, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) federal government impliedly reserved general water right when it established Indian reservation in desert;
2) tribe's implied general reserved water right extended to groundwater; and
3) any state water entitlements that tribe had to groundwater did not limit tribe's federal implied water right.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Desert water agencies will appeal to Supreme Court in tribe's landmark groundwater case (The Desert Sun) 3/29/17, Tribes' federal water rights include groundwater—but how much? (JD Supra) 3/22/17, Ninth Circuit confirms tribe's water rights (Courthouse News Service) 3/8/17, Water agency dealt setback in challenge to Bureau of Indian Affairs rule (Indianz) 3/7/17

Desert Water Agency v. U.S. Department of the Interior
Briefs from Turtle Talk
849 F.3d 1250
No. 14-55461
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Filed March 7, 2017

*Synopsis: Political subdivision of the State of California brought action under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) against the United States Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), challenging a federal regulation that the subdivision believed might preempt certain taxes and fees the subdivision assessed against non-Indians who leased lands within an Indian reservation. The United States District Court for the Central District of California, Dolly M. Gee, J., D.C. No. 5:13-cv-00606-DMG-OP, dismissed action for lack of standing. Subdivision appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Circuit Judge, held that federal regulation did not preempt taxes and fees that political subdivision assessed against non-Indians who leased lands within an Indian reservation, and thus subdivision lacked standing to challenge the regulation.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: No standing to challenge BIA's Native American land lease tax reg (Constitutional Law Prof Blog) 3/9/17, Water agency dealt setback in challenge to Bureau of Indian Affairs rule (Indianz) 3/7/17

United States v. Washington
853 F.3d 946
No. 13-35474
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Amended March 2, 2017

*Synopsis: United States brought action on behalf of Indian tribes alleging that State of Washington 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, Nos. 2:01-sp-00001-RSM, 2:70-cv-09213-RSM, Ricardo S. Martinez, Chief Judge, 2013 WL 1334391, issued injunction ordering state to correct offending culverts, and state appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, W. Fletcher, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) treaties required that state ensure that fish would, in fact, be available;
2) state violated treaty as result of its construction of barrier culverts under its roads;
3) United States did not waive tribes' rights under treaties;
4) sovereign immunity barred state's cross-request for injunction;
5) injunction requiring state to correct most of its high-priority barrier culverts within 17 years was not overly broad;
6) district court did not clearly err in determining that correction of human-caused barriers was highest priority for restoring salmon habitat; and
7) injunction did not impermissibly and significantly intrude into state government operations.
Affirmed.

Godfrey v. United States
131 Fed.Cl.111
No. 16–954
United States Court of Federal Claims.
March 20, 2017

*Synopsis: Federal prisoner, as member of Sioux Indian Tribe and former plaintiff in class action to compel historical accounting of funds that Department of Interior held in trust for Native Americans, filed pro se suit against United States, claiming violation of his constitutional and statutory rights and breach of settlement agreement that was authorized by Claims Resolution Act to resolve class action. Government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state claim.

*Holdings: The Court of Federal Claims, Braden, Chief Judge, held that:
1) jurisdiction was lacking for any wrongful conviction claim;
2) administrative remedies were not exhausted for treaty violation claim;
3) jurisdiction was lacking for wrongful civil commitment claim;
4) prisoner lacked property interest required to assert takings claim;
5) jurisdiction was lacking for claims sounding in tort;
6) breach of settlement agreement claim was sufficiently alleged.
Motion granted in part and denied in part

Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States
2017 WL 1214418
3:16-CV-03038-RAL
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division.
March 31, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Health Care Improvement Act

Related News Stories: Judge rejects motion to throw out Indian hospital lawsuit (News & Observer) 3/31/17, The tribe that's suing the US government to keep its promises (Buzzfeed) 11/17/16

Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pauma & Yuima Reservation v. California
2017 WL 1166426
Case No. 16-cv-01713-BAS-JMA
United States District Court, S.D. California.
March 29, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Gaming Compact, Breach of

Davilla v. Enable Midstream Partners, L.P.
2017 WL 1169710
Case No. CIV-15-1262-M
United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma.
March 28, 2017

Legal Topics: Trespass - Natural Gas Pipeline

Skokomish Indian Tribe v. Forsman
2017 WL 1093294
CASE NO. C16-5639 RBL
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Tacoma.
March 23, 2017

Legal Topics: Treaty Right to Hunt; Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Dahlstrom v. Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe
2017 WL 1064399
CASE NO. C16-0052JLR
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle.
March 21, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

A.D. by Carter v. Washburn
2017 WL 1019685
No. CV-15-01259-PHX-NVW
United States District Court, D. Arizona.
Signed 03/16/2017

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act - Unconstitutional

Related News Stories: Indian Child Welfare Act survives attack from conservative groups (Indianz) 3/21/17 (Turtle Talk material), ICWA: Goldwater case thrown out of federal court (Indian Country Today) 3/21/17

Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission
2017 WL 1003166
CASE NO. C15-5828BHS
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Tacoma.
Signed 03/15/2017

Legal Topics: Indian Gaming Regulatory Act - Indian Tribe

Round Valley Indian Tribes of California v. United States Department of Transportation
2017 WL 950956
Case No. 15-cv-04987-JSW
United States District Court, N.D. California.
Signed 03/10/2017

Legal Topics: Public Transportation Project - Sacred Places

Related News Stories: Feds must face claims over dozered sacred sites (Courthouse News Service) 3/15/17

Robinson v. Jewell
Turtle Talk Materials
Case No.: 1:16-cv-01939 - AWI - JLT
United States District Court, E.D. California.
Filed March 09, 2017

Legal Topics: pro se action on behalf of Tribe

Related News Stories: Grass roots legal concepts intentionally forgotten in modern Indian law rulings (Indian Country Today) 3/28/17

Union Pacific Railroad Company v. Runyon
2017 WL 923915
Case No. 3:17–cv–00038–AA
United States District Court, D. Oregon,
Portland Division.
Signed 03/08/2017

*Synopsis: Railroad brought action against members of county board of commissioners and Columbia River Gorge Commission seeking declaration that Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) preempted permitting process imposed by county ordinance and that application of county ordinance to prohibit railroad's project to build new track violated commerce clause. Environmental organizations intervened as defendants. Indian tribes moved to dismiss with prejudice for failure to join tribes as required party.

*Holdings: The District Court, Aiken, J., held that:
1) tribes were necessary party;
2) tribes' interest in their treaty-reserved fishing rights related to subject matter of railroad's action, as required to be necessary party;
3) tribes' interest in their treaty-reserved fishing rights would not be adequately represented by defendants, as required to be necessary party;
4) joinder of tribes was not feasible;
5) tribes were indispensable party, warranting dismissal with prejudice; and
6) public rights exception did not apply to preclude dismissal.
Motion granted.

United States v. Sadekni
2017 WL 807024
3:16-CR-30164-MAM
United States District Court,
D. South Dakota, Central Division.
03/01/2017

Legal Topics: Indian Health Service Hospital; Jurisdiction

February

State of Wyoming v. United States Environmental Protection Agency
849 F.3d 861
Nos. 14-9512 and 14-9514
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
02/22/2017

*Synopsis: State of Wyoming and Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation petitioned for review of Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) determination of Wind River Indian Reservation boundaries for purpose of Indian tribes' application for authority to administer portions of Clean Air Act on Reservation.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Tymkovich, Chief Judge, held that Congress diminished boundaries of Wind River Indian Reservation through 1905 legislative Act.
Petition granted.

Related News Stories: Northern Arapaho, feds move to settle in Wind River lawsuit (Casper Star Tribune) 3/21/17, Feds fear Wind River injunction that requires them to negotiate with both tribes, appeal states (Casper Star-Tribune) 3/5/17, Appellate Court rules against EPA in reservation dispute; split decision highlights poor treatment of Indians (K2 Radio) 2/22/17, Court rules Riverton not part of Indian Country (U.S. News) 2/22/17, Wyoming tribes lose major ruling in reservation boundary case (Indianz) 2/22/17

In re Money Center of America, Inc.
565 B.R. 87
Case No. 14–10603 (CSS) Jointly Administered
Adv. Proc. Case No.: 14–50437 (CSS)
Adv. Proc. Case No.: 16–50410 (CSS)
United States Bankruptcy Court, D. Delaware.
Signed February 28, 2017

*Synopsis: Chapter 11 trustee brought adversary proceeding to recover allegedly preferential transfers made to tribal entity the operated casino for benefit of Indian tribe. In separate proceeding, another tribal entity brought adversary proceeding for determination that sums owed to it under its financial services agreement with debtor were not included in property of the estate, and trustee counterclaimed for recovery of prepetition preferential transfers. Tribal entities moved to dismiss trustee's complaint or counterclaims based on their alleged tribal sovereign immunity.

*Holdings: The Bankruptcy Court, Sontchi, J., held that:
1) Entities which operated casinos for benefit of Indian tribes had sufficiently close relationship to tribes to share in tribes' sovereign immunity;
2) Congress did not unequivocally express its intent to abrogate sovereign immunity of Indian tribes, such that Indian tribes, or closely-affiliated entities that operated casinos on tribes' behalf, could not be object of preference avoidance proceedings absent a waiver of their tribal sovereign immunity;
3) waiver issue could not be determined on motion to dismiss;
4) bankruptcy statute that barred creditor that was recipient of avoidable transfer from recovering on its claim until transfer was repaid was not operative as to tribal entity; and
5) tribes and tribal entities were not "governmental units," under statute providing that "governmental unit" that had filed a proof of claim was deemed to have waived its sovereign immunity with respect to a claim against that governmental unit which was property of the estate, and which arose out of the same transaction or occurrence.
Motion granted in part and denied in part.

Related News Stories: Courts continue trend of recognizing tribal immunity in bankruptcy proceedings (Holland & Knight) 3/21/17

Bruguier v. Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
2017 WL 684230
16-cv-604-jdp
16-cv-605-jdp
United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin.
02/21/2017

*Synopsis: Employees brought action against Indian tribe, former president of tribal council, and business development corporation established by tribe, alleging that defendants wrongfully terminated their employment and otherwise violated their rights on account of their political activities, in violation of Title VII and state law. Defendants moved to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, James D. Peterson, J., held that:
1) "sue and be sued" clause in tribal corporate charter did not waive sovereign immunity as to tribe itself;
2) tribal code incorporating various federal labor laws did not waive tribe's sovereign immunity;
3) tribe was not an "employer" subject to Title VII;
4) employee failed to allege that tribe's business development corporation harmed her or was her employer under Title VII; and
5) business development corporation was governmental subdivision of tribe, and, as such, was entitled to sovereign immunity.
Motion granted.

Related News Stories: Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa reaches settlement (Gaming Today) 2/20/17

Fort Sill Apache Tribe v. National Indian Gaming Commission
2017 WL 664016
Civil Action No. 14–958 (RMC)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
02/17/2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action under Administrative Procedure Act (ADA) to compel National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to issue decision on tribe's appeal of notice of violation issued by NIGC's chairman alleging that tribe had violated Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by gaming on Indian lands ineligible for gaming. Tribe filed motion for order to show cause why NIGC should not be held in contempt.

*Holdings: The District Court, Rosemary M. Collyer, J., held that NIGC did not violate court's order that it review its initial determination in light of letter from Interior Department.
Motion denied.

Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria of Northern Paiute Indians
2017 WL 616465
Case No. 16-cv-02438-WHO
United States District Court, E.D. California.
02/15/2017

*Synopsis: Former Tribal Administrator sought declaratory and injunctive relief against tribe, tribal court, and tribal court judge to avoid tribal court jurisdiction over claims that she defrauded tribe and breached her fiduciary duties to it. Defendants moved to dismiss.

*Holdings: The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, William H. Orrick, J., held that:
1) exceptions to tribe's general lack of jurisdiction over nonmembers' actions did not apply;
2) tribe had regulatory jurisdiction over Administrator; and
3) tribe had adjudicative authority over Administrator.
Motion granted.

Pueblo of Pojoaque v. State of New Mexico
2017 WL 2266857
No. CIV 15-0625 JB/GBW
United States District Court, D. New Mexico
February 9, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against State of New Mexico, Governor of New Mexico, and members of New Mexico Gaming Control Board, alleging that New Mexico failed to negotiate new gaming compact in good faith under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and that state officials conspired to deprive tribe of federal right to be free of state jurisdiction over activities that occurred on tribal lands. Preliminary injunction, 2015 WL 10818855, was granted to protect tribe's relationships with casino vendors, and then State's motion to dismiss, to stay, or suspend the preliminary injunction, and to stay discovery was granted in part, 214 F.Supp.3d 1028. Tribe moved to restore the preliminary injunction pending appeal.

*Holdings: The District Court, James O. Browning, J., held that:
1) supplementation regarding letters from Interior Secretary to Indian tribes explaining that each compact was "deemed approved," i.e., that agreements were approved by operation of law, was appropriate after Indian tribe filed motion to stay;
2) interlocutory appeal of preliminary injunction did not divest district court of jurisdiction to proceed to determine action on merits in stay pending appeal of preliminary injunction;
3) New Mexico's off-reservation regulatory enforcement actions against non–Indian, state–licensed gaming vendors to prevent them from doing business with tribe that did not have valid compact with State likely did not violate tribe's federal rights;
4) IGRA likely did not impliedly preempt off-reservation regulatory enforcement actions;
5) regulatory enforcement actions likely did not conflict with IGRA, either expressly or in field of Indian gaming;
6) IGRA's express severability clause plainly evinced Congressional intent that IGRA's remaining provisions stand if jurisdiction-granting provision were held invalid;
7) enforcement actions likely did not violate prohibition against conspiracies that interfere with civil rights or § 1983; and
8) prudential factors did not support stay pending appeal.
Motion denied.

United States v. Cooley
2017 WL 499896
CR 16–42–BLG–SPW
United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division.
Signed 02/07/2017

Legal Topics: Indian Civil Rights Act; Tribal Criminal Jursidiction

January

Jones v. United States
846 F.3d 1343
2015-5148
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
January 27, 2017

*Synopsis: While their appeal from grant of summary judgment to county, city, and law enforcement officers in separate action was pending, estate and parents of decedent, who was member of Ute Tribe, brought action against United States, alleging, inter alia, that United States violated 1868 Ute Treaty when it engaged in coverup of events surrounding decedent's death on Ute Tribe's Reservation following shootout with officers. After grant of summary judgment in separate action was affirmed, the United States Court of Federal Claims, Marian Blank Horn, J., 122 Fed.Cl. 490, granted United States' motion to dismiss for failure to state claim. Plaintiffs appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, O'Malley, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) only acts that could be prosecutable as criminal wrongdoing are cognizable under the bad men provision of the 1868 Ute Treaty;
2) a wrong committed on reservation land and continuing off-reservation land is cognizable under the bad man provision of the 1868 Ute Treaty; and
3) issue of whether federal officers had spoliated evidence related to death of decedent was not actually litigated in separate action against local police officers.
Vacated and remanded.

Related News Stories: Ute tribe proceeds with suit against U.S. for tribal member's death (UBMedia) 2/6/17, Appeals court reinstates Ute Tribe's wrongful death lawsuit (McClatchyDC) 2/6/17, Court reinstates Ute Tribe's wrongful death suit in 2007 reservation shooting (Salt Lake Tribune)2/4/17

United States v. Barnes
2017 WL 375629
Case No. 16-1188
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.
January 26, 2017

*Synopsis: After defendant's motion to dismiss indictment was denied, he was convicted pursuant to conditional guilty plea in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan of manufacturing more than fifty marijuana plants, and he appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Julia Smith Gibbons, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) Controlled Substances Act's (CSA) prohibition on manufacture of marijuana did not substantially burden defendant's practice of religion, and
2) defendant waived his sentencing argument by entry of his conditional guilty plea.
Affirmed.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Great Plains Lending, LLC
846 F.3d 1049
No. 14-55900
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
01/20/2017

*Synopsis: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) brought action against several for-profit tribal lending entities, seeking enforcement of investigative demands it served on entities. After issuing order to show cause as to why entities should not comply with demands, the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Michael W. Fitzgerald, J., denied entities' petition to set aside demands. Entities appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Rawlinson, Circuit Judge, held that CFPB did not plainly lack jurisdiction to issue demands against entities.

Related News Stories: Court enforces CFPB civil investigative demand against tribal lending entity; rejects argument that tribal sovereignty precludes such demands (JD Supra) 2/2/17, Ninth Circuit affirms CFPB authority to investigate tribal lenders (Consumer Financial Services Review) 1/26/17

Hackford v. Utah
845 F.3d 1325
No. 15-4120
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
01/19/2017

*Synopsis: Driver who alleged that he was an Indian within the meaning of the relevant federal statutes filed motion seeking to enjoin state from prosecuting him for traffic offenses, contending that he was an Indian and the offenses occurred on tribal land. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, Bruce S. Jenkins, J., 2015 WL 4717639, denied the motion. Driver appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Seymour, Circuit Judge, held that driver's traffic offenses did not occur on tribal land.
Affirmed.

Round Valley Indian Tribes of California v. United States Department of Transportation
2017 WL 282890
Case No. 15-cv-04987-JSW
United States District Court, N.D. California.
Signed 01/23/2017

Legal Topics: Public Transportation Project - Sacred Places

Related News Stories: Feds must face claims over dozered sacred sites (Courthouse News Service) 3/15/17

Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. BNSF Railway Company
2017 WL 132448
No. C15-543RSL
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle.
01/13/2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against railway company, asserting claims for breach of contract and trespass regarding right-of-way easement agreement for railroad constructed across tribal land, and seeking damages, declaratory judgment, and injunctive relief. Parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Robert S. Lasnik, J., held that:
1) company breached easement agreement;
2) tribe's state law claims seeking damages for breach of easement agreement, to compel disclosures, and an adjustment in rent were not preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA);
3) tribe's state law claims for injunctive relief were preempted by the ICCTA;
4) ICCTA does not preempt or repeal the Indian Right of Way Act (IRWA); and
5) Hazardous Materials Act does not preempt the IRWA.
Motions granted in part and denied in part.

Related News Stories: Court says tribe's suit against BNSF can proceed (Goanacortes) 1/18/17

Scudero v. Moran
2017 WL 68612
5:16-CV-00005 JWS
United States District Court, D. Alaska.
01/06/2017

*Synopsis: Defeated tribal mayoral candidate petitioned for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) seeking relief from a motion filed in tribal court by the tribal community council that sought to impose on candidate the costs incurred by the council arising from his unsuccessful challenge to the election results. Council moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

*Holdings: The District Court, John W. Sedwick, Senior District Judge, held that:
1) candidate did not suffer a severe restraint on liberty, as required to warrant the district court's jurisdiction
2) the potential loss of the right to vote in tribal community elections for non-payment of tribal court-ordered costs did not provide the district court with jurisdiction; and
3) candidate was not subject to a fine without due process, as would warrant the district court's jurisdiction.
Motion granted.

The Tulalip Tribes v. United States
2017 WL 58836
No. 2:15-cv-00940-BJR
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle
01/05/2017

Legal Topics: Indian Commerce Clause

Related News Stories: Native Americans and taxes: Tulalip Tribes challenge state taxation on tribal lands (Indian Country Today) 1/09/17

Whiteagle v. United States
2017 WL 53294
15-cv-449-wmc
15-cv-390-wmc
11-cr-65-wmc
United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin.
01/04/2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Exhaustion Doctrine

 

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