2017 Federal Courts Cases

Last updated: September 21, 2017

Next Update Should be Ready by:
September 28, 2017

Recently Added Cases:

United States v. Osage Wind, LLC.
2017 WL 4109940
Nos. 15-5121 & 16-5022
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
September 18, 2017

*Synopsis: Federal government brought action against wind company that was building wind farm on Indian land, alleging that its excavation of soil, sand, and rock to place cement foundations to support wind turbines constituted “mining” that required a federally-approved mineral lease. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma, James H. Payne, J., 2015 WL 5775378, granted summary judgment to wind company. Indian tribe sought to intervene and appeal.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Ebel, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) Indian tribe was entitled to appeal district court's grant of summary judgment to wind company without having intervened in district court;
2) tribe's claim was not precluded under doctrine of res judicata;
3) de minimis exception in regulation requiring mineral leases on indian land did not apply to wind company's excavation;
4) definition of “mining” in regulation requiring mineral leases on Indian land is not limited to commercial extraction of minerals, but also includes acting upon the minerals to exploit the minerals themselves; and
5) wind company's excavation constituted mineral development.
Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Appeals court reverses judge's decision allowing wind developers to dig on Osage land (Tulsa World) 9/18/17

Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe v. McFarland
2017 WL 4155043
CIV. NO. 2:17-00293-WBS
United States District Court, E.D. California.
September 19, 2017

Legal Topics: Bankruptcy - Fraudulent Transfers

Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation v. Porrino
2017 WL 4155368
Civil No. 15-5645 (RMB/JS)
United States District Court, D. New Jersey.
September 19, 2017

Legal Topics: State Recognition of Tribes

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Gerlach
2017 WL 4124242
CIV 14–4171
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division.
September 15, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Gaming; State Taxation

Related News Stories: Flandreau tribe wins victory over state tax man (Argus Leader) 9/20/17

Older Cases:


December

 

November

 

October

 

September

Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation v. United States
2017 WL 3996365
No. 1:08-cv-00848-EGB
United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.
September 12, 2017

Legal Topics: Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act - Funding

Toya v. Toledo
2017 WL 3995554
CIV 17-0258 JCH/KBM
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
September 19, 2017

Legal Topics: Right to Counsel; Right to Jury Trial

Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota v. Zinke
2017 WL 3841835
No. 16-2323
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
September 1, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Consultation

 

August

Becker v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation
2017 WL 3659020
No. 16-4175
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
August 25, 2017

*Synopsis: Nonmember former contractor brought action against Indian tribe to enjoin tribal court proceedings seeking declaratory judgment that its contract with him was invalid. Tribe filed counterclaims against contractor and third party complaint against judge presiding over contractor's state court action seeking injunction against state court proceedings. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, No. 2:16-CV-00958-CW, Clark Waddoups, J., granted contractor's motion for preliminary injunction, and dismissed tribe's counterclaims and third party claims. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Hartz, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) contractor failed to establish substantial likelihood of success on merits of his claim that tribal-exhaustion rule did not bar his state court action, and
2) tribe was not acting as “person” within meaning of § 1983 when it sought to enjoin contractor's state court action.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation v. Lawrence
2017 WL 3658868
No. 16-4154
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
August 25, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action seeking declaratory judgment that state court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over its former energy and mineral department manager's breach of contract action against it, that contract was void, and that there was no valid waiver of tribal immunity. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, No. 2:16-CV-00579-RJS, dismissed complaint, and tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Hartz, Circuit Judge, held that district court had federal question jurisdiction over tribe's action.
Reversed and remanded.

Window Rock Unified School District v. Reeves
2017 WL 3332968
No. 13-16259, No. 13-16278
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
August 3, 2017

Legal Topics: Jurisdiction; Employment Law

The Cherokee Nation v. Nash
2017 WL 3822870
No. 13-01313
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
August 30, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Enrollment

Coeur D'alene Tribe v. Hawks
2017 WL 3699347
Case No. 2:16-CV-366-BLW
United States District Court, D. Idaho.
August 25, 2017

Legal Topics: Civil Jurisdiction

Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. United States Department of the Interior
2017 WL 3581735
CASE NO. 1:16-CV-0950-AWI-EPG
United States District Court, E.D. California.
August 18, 2017

Legal Topics: Gaming

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida v. Tein
2017 WL 3400029
No. 3D16–2826
United States District Court of Appeals, Florida, Third District
August 9, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

Enerplus Resources Corporation v. Wilkinson
2017 WL 3271313
No. 16-3715
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
August 2, 2017

*Synopsis: Oil and gas producer brought action against member of Indian tribe, and others, seeking return of mistakenly overpaid mineral royalties and a declaration that tribal court lacked jurisdiction over the dispute. The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota, Daniel L. Hovland, J., 2016 WL 8737869, preliminarily enjoined member from proceeding with his case in tribal court alleging underpayment and, 2016 WL 8737872, denied his motion to stay pending appeal. Member appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Smith, Chief Judge, held that:
1) District Court was within its discretion in preliminarily enjoining member from proceeding with his case in tribal court, and
2) producer had standing to enforce forum selection clause in settlement agreement.
Affirmed.

 

July

Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County
2017 WL 3044643
No. 15-16604
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
July 19, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Law Enforcement

Related News Stories: Ninth Circuit sides with Paiute Tribe in disupte with Inyo County (Court House News Service) 7/20/17

Northern New Mexicans Protecting Land, Water, and Rights v. United States of America
2017 WL 3081630
No. 16-2047
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
July 19, 2017

Legal Topics: Right of Way - Trespass

Pueblo of Pojoaque v. State of New Mexico
2017 WL 3028501
No. 16-2228
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
July 18, 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. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, Robert C. Brack, J., 2015 WL 10818855, granted Indian tribe's motion for temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction barring defendants from taking regulatory enforcement actions against non-Indian, state-licensed gaming manufacturer vendors doing business with Indian tribe's gaming enterprises. While defendants' interlocutory appeal from order granting injunction was pending, the District Court, James O. Browning, J., 214 F.Supp.3d 1028, entered order staying preliminary injunction and dismissing action, and then denied motion by tribe to vacate district court's order, 221 F.Supp.3d 1289. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, No. 1:15-CV-00625-JB-GBW, James O. Browning, J., 2017 WL 2266857, denied tribe's motion to restore preliminary injunction pending appeal. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Kelly, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) de novo review applied to issue on appeal of whether district court had jurisdiction to proceed to merits given interlocutory appeal of preliminary injunction and, even if it did, of whether it erred in concluding that IGRA did not preempt New Mexico's regulatory enforcement actions;
2) district court could reach merits of action even though preliminary injunction was pending on appeal;
3) traditional preemption analysis that looked to whether federal law expressly or implicitly preempted state law applied to New Mexico's regulatory enforcement actions;
4) IGRA did not expressly preempt New Mexico's regulatory enforcement actions against non-Indian, state-licensed gaming manufacturer vendors doing business with Indian tribe's gaming enterprises; and
5)  IGRA did not implicitly field or conflict preempt New Mexico's off-reservation actions.
Affirmed.

Norton v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation
2017 WL 295226
No. 15-4170
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
July 11, 2017

*Synopsis: Nonmember police officers brought action against Indian tribe, its business committee, tribal court, acting chief judge of tribal court, and parents of person killed by officers, seeking to halt allegedly unlawful exercise of tribal court jurisdiction over underlying action that was brought against them by tribe, decedent's estate, and parents alleging wrongful death, trespass, and other torts. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, No. 2:15-CV-00300-DB, Dee Benson, J., denied defendants' motions to dismiss, and granted officers' motion for preliminary injunction. Defendants appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Lucero, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) tribe's trespass claim fell within jurisdiction of tribal court under Montana v. United States exception to principle that tribe generally lacked authority to regulate nonmember conduct;
2) tribe's trespass claim fairly could be called catastrophic for tribal self-government, as required to fall within jurisdiction of tribal court under Montana v. United States exception;
3) tribal exhaustion was not required for claims against nonmember police officers alleging false imprisonment, false arrest, assault and battery, wrongful death, spoliation of evidence, and conspiracy;
4) state interest was not implicated by nonmember state police officers pursuing Indian tribe member on tribal land for on-reservation offense, and thus tribal jurisdiction was not barred over trespass claim against officers;
5) bad faith exception from exhaustion of available tribal court remedies was not available as to trespass claim against nonmember police officers;
6) Ex parte Young exception to sovereign immunity applied to tribal official, sued in his official capacity, in suit seeking to halt allegedly unlawful exercise of tribal court jurisdiction; and
7) tribe, its business committee, and tribal court were not subject to Ex parte Young exception, and thus were entitled to tribal sovereign immunity.
Vacated and remanded.

United States ex rel. Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc.
2017 WL 29249090
No. 15-35001
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
July 10, 2017

*Synopsis: Former employees filed qui tam action under False Claims Act (FCA) alleging that college located on Indian reservation, college foundation, and college's board members knowingly provided false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies coming from Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Service. The United States District Court for the District of Montana, No. 9:12-cv-00181-BMM, Brian M. Morris, J., dismissed complaint, and employees appealed..

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Kozinski, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) Indian tribe was not "person" subject to suit under FCA, and
2) issue of whether college was arm of tribe was matter to be addressed in first instance by district court following jurisdictional discovery.;
Reversed and remanded.

Related News Stories: Ninth Circuit remands False Claims Act against tribal college for determinatin of sovereign status (The National Law Review) 7/21/17

Osceola Blackwood Ivory Gaming Group, LLC v. Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians
2017 WL 3190325
No. 1:17-cv-00394-DAD-BAM
United States District Court, E.D. California.
July 27, 2017

Legal Topics: Gaming - Contracts

Rincon Mushroom Corporation of America v. Mazzetti
2017 WL 3174509
CASE NO. 09cv2330-WQH-JLB
United States District Court, S.D. California.
July 26, 2017

Legal Topics: Exhaustion of Tribal Remedies; Non-Indian Fee Simple Lands

Ruchert v. Williamson
2017 WL 3120267
No. 3:16-cv-00413-BLW
United States District Court, D. Idaho.
July 21, 2017

Legal Topics: Federal Tort Claims Act; Personal Injuries

Navajo Nation v. San Juan County
2017 WL 3016782
No. 2:12-cv-00039
United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
July 14, 2017

Legal Topics: Election Districts - Gerrymandering

Related News Stories: San Juan County election maps must be redrawn again, U.S. judge rules (The Salt Lake Tribune) 7/21/17

Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Jewell
2017 WL 3025924
No. 0 CV 957 JAP/KBM
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
July 11, 2017

Legal Topics: Official Tribal Government

 

June

Penobscot Nation v. Mills
2017 WL 27821543
Nos. 16-1424
United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit.
June 30, 2017

*Synopsis: American Indian tribe brought action against state of Maine and various state officials, in response to opinion of state attorney general regarding regulatory jurisdiction of tribe and state related to hunting and fishing on stretch of river, seeking declaratory judgment clarifying boundaries of tribe's reservation and tribal fishing rights on river. United States intervened on its own behalf and as a trustee for tribe, and private interests, towns and other political entities intervened in support of state defendants. The United States District Court for the District of Maine, George Z. Singal, J., 151 F.Supp.3d 181, ruled that tribe's reservation included river's islands but not its waters, and sustenance fishing rights provided in reservation's implementing statute allowed tribe to take fish for sustenance in entirety of relevant stretch of river, and issued declaratory relief as to both points. Parties cross-appealed.

*Holdings:The Court of Appeals, Lynch, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) under Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act (MICSA), Penobscot Indian Reservation included only islands in the main stem of the Penobscot River which were included in Maine Implementing Act (MIA), but did not include any of the waters of the River itself, any portion thereof, or the submerged lands underneath;
2)  tribe lacked Article III standing to bring claim seeking declaratory judgment clarifying tribal fishing rights on river; and
3) tribe's claim against defendants, seeking declaratory judgment clarifying tribal fishing rights on stretch of river, was not ripe for adjudication.
Affirmed in part and vacated in part.

Window Rock Unified School District v. Reeves
2017 WL 2784165
No. 13-16259, No. 13-16278
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
June 28, 2017

*Synopsis: Public school districts that operated schools on land leased from Indian tribe brought action seeking declaratory judgment that tribal labor commission lacked jurisdiction over their employment decisions and practices conducted on reservation, and injunction to bar prosecution of their employees' claims against them in tribal courts. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona, No. 3:12-cv-08059-PGR, Close Paul Gerhardt Rosenblatt See Full Profile Paul G. Rosenblatt, Senior Judge, 2013 WL 1149706, entered summary judgment in districts' favor, and commission and employees appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Friedland, Circuit Judge, held that districts were required to exhaust their tribal remedies before seeking relief in federal court.
Reversed and remanded

Related News Stories: Appeals court ruling opens door for tribal jurisdiction over public schools (Indianz) 6/28/17

State of Kansas v. Zinke
2017 WL 2766292
No. 16-3015
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
June 27, 2017

*Synopsis: State of Kansas and board of county commissioners brought action against National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), arguing that legal opinion letter regarding eligibility of Indian lands for gaming was arbitrary, capricious, and erroneous as a matter of law. The United States District Court for the District of Kansas, Daniel D. Crabtree, J., 2017 WL 2766292, dismissed action. State and county appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Lucero, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) NIGC Acting General Counsel's legal opinion letter was not a reviewable final agency action under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and
2) NIGC Acting General Counsel's legal opinion letter did not constitute a reviewable final agency action under Administrative Procedure Act. Affirmed.

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

*Synopsis:Consumer brought action against limited liability company (LLC) after it made numerous automated calls to his cell phone, alleging violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Company, which had been formed by federally recognized Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians, moved to dismiss. The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Vicki Miles-LaGrange, J., 2016 WL 6537986, denied consumer's request for jurisdictional discovery and dismissed based on tribal sovereign immunity. Consumer appealed.

*Holdings:The Court of Appeals, Carlos F. Lucero, Circuit Judge, held that the district court abused its discretion in denying consumer's request for jurisdictional discovery to resolve issue of tribal sovereign immunity.
Vacated and remanded.

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

Legal Topics: Tribal Jurisdiction; Eviction

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe v. United States
2017 WL 2391698
No. 16–760 C
United States Court of Federal Claims.
June 1, 2017

*Synopsis: Indian tribe sued United States, through Department of Interior (DOI), claiming Fifth Amendment taking of tribe's reserved water rights and seeking $200 million in damages for federal government's diversion of water from river running along reservation's western boundary. Government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

*Holdings: The Court of Federal Claims, Hodges, Senior Judge, held that tribe lacked standing to pursue taking claim.
Motion granted.

Keweenaw Bay Indian Community v. Khouri
2017 WL 2821776
No: 2:16-cv-121
United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Northern Division.
June 30, 2017

Legal Topics: State Taxation - Tobacco

Wilson v. Umpqua Indian Development Corporation
2017 WL 2838463
No. 6:17-cv-00123-AA
United States District Court, D. Oregon.
June 29, 2017

Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity

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

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

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

This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

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

Garcia v. Elwell
2017 WL 3172826
No. CV 17-00333 WJ/GJF
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
May 25, 2017

Legal Topics: Indian Civil Rights Act; Tribal Sovereign Immunity

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

This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*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

*Synopsis:Indian tribe brought action against Secretary and Assistant Secretary of Department of the Interior, asserting claims for breach of fiduciary duty and violations under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) arising out of alleged improper termination of rancheria. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Edward J. Davila, J., 84 F.Supp.3d 930, granted defendants' summary judgment motion, and tribe appealed.

*Holdings:The Court of Appeals held that:
1) any continuing fiduciary duty owed to Indian tribe by United States did not preclude running of limitations period in tribe's lawsuit, and
2) equitable tolling of limitations period was not warranted.
Affirmed.

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

This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*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: California water districts ask U.S. Supreme Court to review groundwater rights case (The Groundwater Association) 8/31/17, 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

*Synopsis: Native American landowners brought trespass action against owner and operator of network of natural gas transmission pipelines, seeking injunctive relief. Landowners moved for partial summary judgment and for permanent injunction requiring removal of pipeline across property.

*Holdings: The District Court, Vicki Miles–LaGrange, J., held that:
1) owner and operator were liable for trespass, and
2) landowners were entitled to permanent injunction.
Motion granted.

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

*Synopsis: Self-governing dependent Indian community brought action against National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), Department of the Interior (DOI), and others, seeking injunctive and declaratory relief from administrative determination that community was not an Indian tribe within meaning of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Following grant, 202 F.Supp.3d 1204, of NIGC's motion to dismiss, community and DOI cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings:The District Court, Benjamin H. Settle, J., held that:
1) Congress's express recognition of community as eligible for certain special programs and services was ambiguous, and
2) Interior Department acted reasonably in concluding that phrase “recognized as eligible by the Secretary,” as it appeared in IGRA, did not refer to community.
Plaintiff's motion denied and defendants' motion granted.

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.

Clema v. Colombe
676 Fed.Appx. 801
No. 16-2004
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
January 25, 2017

*Synopsis: Suspect brought § 1983 action against tribal police officer and county, alleging that his arrest was unlawful. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico granted summary judgment for defendants. Suspect appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Mary Beck Briscoe, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) officer was public employee entitled to immunity under New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA);
2) officer had probable cause to arrest suspect; and
3) an arrest supported by probable cause cannot be the basis for a claim of false imprisonment or malicious prosecution.
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

This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*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

This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*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.

Begnoche v. D.L. Derose
676 Fed.Appx. 117
No. 16-3723
United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit.
January 12, 2017

*Synopsis: State prisoner brought § 1983 action against various prison officials, alleging that officials prevented him from exercising his Native American religious beliefs, that prisoners of non-Christian faiths were provided disparate treatment, that prison staff tampered with his legal correspondence, and that prison grievance system was inadequate. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, No. 3-12-cv-01057, Richard P. Conaboy, J., 2016 WL 4611545, granted in part and denied in part officials' motion to dismiss, granted in part and denied in part prisoner's motion for reconsideration, and granted officials' motions for summary judgment. Prisoner appealed..

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that:
1) officials did not deprive prisoner of his First Amendment right to practice his religion, and
2) officials did not interfere with prisoner's exercise of his Native American religious beliefs or violate the Establishment Clause.
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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