2019 Federal Courts Cases

Last updated: March 20, 2019

Next update should be ready by:
April 1, 2019

Recently Added Cases:

Texas v. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas
2019 WL 1199564
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 18-40116
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
March 14, 2019

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against state seeking declaratory judgment that its gaming activities on tribal lands were permitted under Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). State filed counterclaim to enjoin tribe from conducting gaming activities based on Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act. After state's motion for permanent injunction was granted, state moved to realign parties, moved for contempt, and sought declaration that IGRA did not apply, and tribe moved for relief from injunction. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Keith F. Giblin, United States Magistrate Judge, entered summary judgment in state's favor, 208 F.Supp.2d 670, and denied tribe's motion for relief from injunction, 298 F.Supp.3d 909. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Jerry E. Smith, Circuit Judge, held that National Indian Gaming Commission's (NIGC) determination that IGRA governed question of whether tribe could conduct class II gaming on tribal lands was not entitled to Chevron deference.
Affirmed.

Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria of Northern Paiute Indians
2019 WL 1145150
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-15515
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
March 13, 2019

*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. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, William Horsley Orrick, J., 234 F.Supp.3d 1042, dismissed action. Former administrator appealed.

*Holdings:  The Court of Appeals, Piersol, Senior Judge for the District of South Dakota, sitting by designation, held that:
1) tribal court had subject matter jurisdiction over tribe’s claims against administrator;
2) administrator reasonably should have anticipated that her conduct on tribal land would have fallen within tribe’s regulatory jurisdiction;
3) conduct of administrator threatened or had some direct effect on political integrity, economic security, or health or welfare of tribe; and
4) tribe’s adjudicatory authority did not exceed its regulatory authority over conduct of administrator during her employment.
Affirmed.

Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission
2019 WL 1119912
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-35368
United States Court of Appeals,  Ninth Circuit.
March 12, 2019

*Synopsis: Indian community brought action against Department of Interior and National Indian Gaming Commission, challenging Interior's determination that tribe was ineligible for gaming for purposes of Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Benjamin H. Settle, J., 242 F.Supp.3d 1156, granted summary judgment in favor of Department of Interior. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Morgan Christen, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) a tribe must appear on the Secretary's annual list of federally recognized tribes in order to be eligible to engage in class II gaming, and
2) Franks Landing Act did not grant Community permission to engage in class II gaming.
Affirmed.

Related News: Frank's Landing Indian Community loses decision in sovereignty case (Indianz) 3/13/19

Cayuga Nation v. Bernhardt
2019 WL 1130445
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-1923 (CKK)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
March 12, 2019

Legal Topics: Official Tribal Government

Pueblo of Jemez v. United States of America
2019 WL 1128359
No. CIV 12-0800 JB\JHR
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
March 12, 2019

Legal Topics: Aboriginal Title


Older Cases:

December

 

November

 

October

 

September

 

August

 

July

 

June

 

May

 

April

 

March

Blue Lake Rancheria Economic Development Corporation v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
152 T.C. No. 5
Nos. 16150-17L, 16189-17L
United States Tax Court.
March 6, 2019

Legal Topics: Employment Taxation

 

February

In re Greektown Holdings, LLC
2019 WL 922658
Briefs via Turtle Talk
Nos. 18-1165
United States Court of Appeals,  Sixth Circuit.
February 26, 2019

*Synopsis: Litigation trustee brought strong-arm proceeding to avoid allegedly fraudulent transfers, and Indian tribe named as defendant moved to dismiss on sovereign immunity grounds. The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Walter Shapero, J., 516 B.R. 462, denied the motion, and Indian tribe appealed. The District Court, Paul D. Borman, J., 532 B.R. 680, reversed and remanded. On remand, the Bankruptcy Court, Shapero, J., 559 B.R. 842, granted motion to dismiss, and litigation trustee appealed. The District Court, Borman, J., 584 B.R. 706, affirmed. Appeal was taken.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Clay, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) Congress did not unequivocally express intent to abrogate Indian tribe's sovereign immunity from cause of action by litigation trustee in strong-arm capacity to set aside allegedly fraudulent prepetition transfers made by Chapter 11 debtor to tribe;
2) while tribal sovereign immunity could be waived by litigation conduct, it could not be waived by the litigation conduct, not of tribe, but of tribe’s alleged alter ego or agent; and
3) litigation conduct of filing bankruptcy petition does not waive tribal sovereign immunity as to a separate, adversarial fraudulent transfer avoidance claim.
Affirmed.

Related News: Federal Appeals Court Affirms Tribal Immunity from Bankruptcy Code (JDSupra) 3/1/19

Stanko v. Oglala Sioux Tribe
2019 WL 846573
No. 17-3176
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
February 22, 2019

*Synopsis: An arrestee who was not a member of an Indian tribe brought § 1983 action against a federally recognized tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and various tribal officers, seeking damages for violation of the plaintiff's constitutional and civil rights in connection with allegations that the arrestee was traveling on a federally-maintained highway on reservation land was when he was arrested, detained, assaulted, battered, and robbed. The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Jeffrey L. Viken, Chief District Judge, 2017 WL 4217113, granted defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Arrestee appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Loken, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) arrestee did not state an Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA) claim, and
2) arrestee failed to exhaust available tribal court remedies.
Affirmed.

National Lifeline Association v. Federal Communications Commission
2019 WL 405020
No. 18-1026
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.
February 1, 2019

*Synopsis: Petitions for review were filed challenging Federal Communications Commission (FCC) order limiting enhanced tribal telecommunications support to service provided using tribal facilities, and to low-income consumers living on rural areas of tribal lands.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Rogers, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) FCC action in changing its policy to limit enhanced tribal telecommunications subsidy to service provided using tribal facilities was arbitrary and capricious;
2) FCC action in changing its policy to limit enhanced tribal telecommunications subsidy to service provided to low-income consumers living on rural areas of tribal lands was arbitrary and capricious;
3) FCC's notice was insufficient under Administrative Procedure Act's (APA) requirements for notice-and-comment rulemaking; and
4) FCC improperly made substantive changes to its former policy without commencing new notice-and-comment-rulemaking proceeding.
Petitions granted, order vacated, and matter remanded.

Landreth v. United States
2019 WL 512154
No. 18-476L
United States Court of Federal Claims.
February 8, 2019

*Synopsis: Property owner filed suit against United States, seeking determination as to property rights of non-tribal property owners abutting shore of lake that was within national park and was navigable waterway abutting Quinault Indian Reservation and determination of public's right to access lake, its shore, and lake bed. Quinault Indian Nation moved for leave to appear as amicus curiae.

*Holdings: The Court of Federal Claims, Campbell-Smith, J., held that amicus brief would not be useful at motion to dismiss stage of proceeding.
Motion denied.

Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
2019 WL 639971
EP-17-CV-179-PRM
United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division.
February 14, 2019

Legal Topics: Tribal Gaming - State Regulation

First Interstate Bancsystem, INC. v. First Interstate Bank
2019 WL 498733
CV 19-10-BLG-SPW
United States District Court, D. Montana.
February 8, 2019

Legal Topics: Clean Water Act

Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Army Corps of Engineers
2019 WL 469842
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 2:18-CV-598-RSL
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle.
February 6, 2019

Legal Topics: Eelgrass Beds; Sustainable Fisheries and Shellfish

Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. United States Department of the Interior
2019 WL 451351
No. 18-cv-1462 (CRC)
United States District Court,  District of Columbia.
February 5, 2019

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against United States Department of the Interior and its secretary, challenging Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) approval of permits to drill horizontal oil and gas wells underneath lake on well pad located on non-Indian privately-owned fee land within Indian reservation. After exploration company intervened, defendants and company moved to transfer venue.

*Holdings: The District Court, Christopher R. Cooper, J., held that:
1) public interest in having local controversies decided locally weighed in favor of transfer;
2) transferee forum's familiarity with governing law weighed in favor of transfer;
3) relative congestion of court dockets weighed slightly against transfer;
4) tribe's choice of forum was entitled to less deference; and
5) exploration company's choice of forum weighed in favor of transfer.
Motion granted.

United States of America v. Jack W. Turtle
2019 WL 423346
NO: 2:18-cr-88-FtM-38MRM
United States District Court, M.D. Florida.
February 4, 2019

Legal Topics: Lacey Act; Endangered Species

 

January

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Riverside County
2019 WL 351204
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-56003
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
January 28, 2019

Legal Topics: Indian Trust Lands - Possessory Interest Tax

Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians v. Washington
2019 WL 274040
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-35722
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
January 22, 2019

*Synopsis: Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians brought action against State of Washington and the Attorney General of Washington, seeking a declaration that its tribal sovereign immunity barred any lawsuit for indemnification arising from a contract with the State of Washington concerning construction of a revetment to protect salmon populations in a river on tribal lands following a landslide near the river. The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, Robert J. Bryan, Senior District Judge, 2017 WL 3424942, granted tribe's summary judgment motion. Defendants appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, McKeown, Circuit Judge, held that under the well-pleaded complaint rule, district court lacked federal question jurisdiction over declaratory judgment action that was based on existence of a tribal immunity defense.
Vacated and remanded.

Davilla v. Enable Midstream Partners L.P.
2019 WL 150627
No. 17-6088
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit.
January 10, 2019

*Synopsis: Native American landowners brought trespass action against owner and operator of network of natural gas transmission pipelines The United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, No. 5:15-CV-01262-M, Vicki Miles–LaGrange, J., 247 F.Supp.3d 1233, granted summary judgment to plaintiffs and entered permanent injunction requiring removal of pipeline. Defendant appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Tymkovich, Chief Judge, held that:
1) consent of minority of allottees did not form complete defense to remaining allottees' federal trespass claim;
2) expiration of easement permitting natural gas pipeline across allotted tribal land created duty on part of pipeline's owner to remove pipeline; and
3)district court was required to apply federal courts' traditional equity jurisprudence, rather than simplified injunction rule from Oklahoma law, in determining whether to grant injunctive relief.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

United States v. Eagle Pipe
2019 WL 117120
No. 17-3039
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
January 7, 2019

*Synopsis: Defendant was convicted following guilty plea in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Charles B. Kornmann, J., of domestic assault by an habitual offender, and was sentenced to 45 months' imprisonment. Defendant appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Loken, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) upward departure from sentencing guidelines was warranted to account for tribal offenses, and
2) sentence of 45 months' imprisonment, which included upward departure for underrepresented criminal history, was not procedurally unreasonable.
Affirmed.

Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians v. Whitmer
2019 WL 687882
No. 1:15-cv-850
United States District Court, W.D. Michigan, Southern Division.
January 31, 2019

*Synopsis: American Indian tribe brought action against Michigan state and municipal officials for failure to recognize reservation land. Government moved for judgment on the pleadings.

*Holdings: The District Court, Paul L. Maloney, J., held that:
1) tribe was not judicially estopped from claiming interest in reservation land;
2) prior proceeding before Indian Claims Commission did not collaterally estop tribe from claiming interest in reservation land; and
3) tribe's claims were not barred by Indian Claims Commission Act.
Motion denied.

Winnemucca Indian Colony v. United States of America, Department of the Interior
2019 WL 320560
3:11-cv-00622-RCJ-CBC
United States District Court, D. Nevada.
January 24, 2019

Legal Topics: Attorneys' Fees; Equal Access to Justice Act

United States of America v. Merle Denezpi
2019 WL 295670
No. 18-cr-00267-REB-JMC
United States District Court, D. Colorado.
January 24, 2019

Legal Topics: Double Jeopardy

Koi Nation of Northern California v. United States of the Interior
2019 WL 250670
No. 17-1718 (BAH)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
January 16, 2019

*Synopsis: The Koi Nation of Northern California, which was a landless federally recognized Indian tribe, brought action alleging that United States Department of the Interior's (DOI) decision concluding that the tribe was not eligible to game on lands under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) restored lands exception violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), IGRA, and Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), and challenging the subsection of the regulation on which the DOI's decision relied, seeking declaration that tribe qualified as an Indian tribe restored to federal recognition under IGRA, and injunction invalidating subsection of implementing regulation to extent it excluded from eligibility for IGRA's restored lands exception tribes administratively determined to be recognized outside the formal Part 83 Federal acknowledgement process. Koi Nation and DOI cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Beryl A. Howell, Chief Judge, held that:
1) tribe's claim was ripe for judicial review;
2) statutory six-year limitations period for challenging agency regulation did not apply to tribe's claim challenging DOI regulation;
3) tribe was “restored to Federal recognition,” within meaning of IGRA's restored lands exception;
4) even if IGRA's restored lands exception was ambiguous, Indian canon of construction would resolve the ambiguity in tribe's favor;
5) DOI decision violated statute prohibiting classifying, enhancing, or diminishing privileges and immunities available to Indian tribe relative to other federally recognized tribes; and
6) DOI failed to adequately explain its change in policy.
Koi Nation's motion granted; DOI's motion denied.

Cavazos v. Zinke
2019 WL 121210
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 18-891 (CKK)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
January 7, 2019

Legal Topics: Tribal Membership

Barron v. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
2019 WL 80889
No. 3:18-cv-00118-SLG
United States District Court, D. Alaska.
January 2, 2019

*Synopsis: Former employee brought § 1981 action in state court against employer, an Alaska Native tribal health consortium, alleging disparate treatment and retaliation on the basis of race. After removal, employer moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

*Holdings: The District Court, Sharon L. Gleason, J., held that:
1) employer was an arm of Alaska's tribes with tribal sovereign immunity, and
2) as a matter of first impression, Congress did not abrogate tribal sovereign immunity as to § 1981 claims.
Motion granted.