2019 Federal Courts Cases

Last updated: July 18, 2019

Next update should be ready by:
July 25, 2019

Recently Added Cases:

Navajo Nation v. San Juan County
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 3121838
No. 18-4005
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit
July 16, 2019

Legal Topics: Voting Rights; Districts

Watso v. Lourey, et al.
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 3114047
No. 18-1723
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
July 16, 2019

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act


Dustin Lee MacLeod v. William Moritz
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 3072098
No. 18-cv-11653
United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
July 15, 2019

Legal Topics: Lands; Treaty Rights


Kalispel Tribe of Indians v. United States Department of the Interior
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 3037048
No. 2:17-CV-0138-WFN
United States District Court, E.D. Washington
July 11, 2019

Legal Topics: Lands into Trust; Federal Trust Responsibility; Gaming

United States of America v. Paul Wollweber
2019 WL 3017123
No. 1-16-cr-04008-JCH-1
United States District Court, D. New Mexico
July 10, 2019

Legal Topics: Land Status; Enrollment

Older Cases:

December

 

November

 

October

 

September

 

August

 

July

Williams v. Big Picture Loans, LLC
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 2864341
No. 18-1827
United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.
July 3, 2019

*Synopsis: Borrowers brought putative class action against lending entity, and related defendants, alleging that payday loans carried unlawfully high interest rates. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 3:17–cv–00461–REP–RCY, Robert E. Payne, Senior District Judge, 329 F.Supp.3d 248, denied motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants filed interlocutory appeal.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Gregory, Chief Judge, held that: burden of proof to demonstrate tribal immunity as an arm of the tribe was on party seeking such immunity, and entities were entitled to sovereign tribal immunity. Reversed and remanded with instructions.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States of America; Department of Health and Human Services
2019 WL 2953259
No. 3:16-CV-03038-RAL
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Central Division.
July 9, 2019

Legal Topics: Indian Health Care Improvement Act

Wilson and Franke, M.D. v. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 2870080
No. 3:16-cv-00195-TMB
United States District Court, D. Alaska.
July 3, 2019

Legal Topics: Unlawful Termination; Financial Fraud

June

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. Ryan Zinke
2019 WL 2569919
No. 18-2242 (RMC)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
June 21, 2019

Legal Topics: Land into Trust; Under Federal Jurisdiction

 

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. United States Department of Agriculture
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 2394356
4:19-CV-04094-KES
United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division.
June 6, 2019

Legal Topics: Hemp Production

Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pauma and Yuima Reservation v. Unite Here International Union
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 2358756
No. 16-cv-2660-BAS-AGS
United States District Court, S.D. California
June 4, 2019

Legal Topics: National Labor Relations Board

Rincon Mushroom Corporation of America v. B.M, J.C., V.W., G.P., S.S., C.K., D.W., DOE CO., DOE I, DOE II
2019 WL 2341376
No. 09-cv-2330-WQH-JLB
United States District Court, S.D. California
June 3, 2019

Legal Topics: Exhaustion of Tribal Court Remedies

May

United States v. Smith
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 2263344
No. 17-30248
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
May 28, 2019

Legal Topics: Assimilative Crimes Act; Indian Country Crimes Act

Kim R. Jim v. Shiprock Associated Schools, Inc.
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 2285918
No. CIV 17-1114 RB/JHR
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
May 29, 2019

Legal Topics: Indian Tribe - Definition of

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Dakota Access, LLC
2019 WL 2028709
No. 16-1534
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
May 8, 2019

Legal Topics: Oil & Gas Pipelines; Documents for Administrative Record

Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment v. Bernhardt
2019 WL 1999298
No. 18-2089
United States District Court, Tenth Circuit.
May 7, 2019

*Synopsis: Environmental advocacy groups brought action alleging that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in granting applications for permits to drill (APD) horizontal, multi-stage hydraulically fracked wells on public lands. The United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, No. 1:15-CV-00209-JB-LF, James O. Browning, J., 312 F.Supp.3d 1031, entered judgment in BLM's favor, and groups appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Briscoe, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) groups had standing to bring action;
2) environmental assessments (EA) did not arbitrarily define area of potential effects (APE) for each APD in way that excluded cultural sites;
3) EAs adequately analyzed cumulative effects of developing new APDs;
4) BLM did not abuse its discretion under National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) when it failed to consult with state historic preservation office (SHPO);
5) EAs were properly tiered to its previous environmental impact statement (EIS);
6) NEPA required BLM to consider cumulative impacts of reasonably foreseeable wells in EAs;
7) groups failed to carry their burden to show that BLM acted arbitrarily or capriciously in analyzing air pollution impacts; and
8) BLM abused its discretion by failing to consider cumulative water impacts.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Muscogee Creek Indian Freedman Band, Inc. v. David Bernhardt
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 1992787
No. 18-1705
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
May 6, 2019

Legal Topics: Exhaustion of Tribal Remedies

Related News: Freedman Citizenship Lawsuit Against Oklahoma Tribe Rejected (U.S. News) 5/10/19

April

Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. Wisconsin
2019 WL 1923403
No. 17-cv-06478-RS
United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.
April 30, 2019

Legal Topics: Gaming; Statute of Limitations; Sovereign Immunity

Gringas v. Think Finance, Inc.
2019 WL 1780951
Nos. 16-2019-cv (L); 16-2132-cv; 16-2135-cv; 16-2138-cv; 16-2140-cv (Con)
United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit.
April 24, 2019

*Synopsis: Borrowers, who were Vermont residents, brought putative class action against individuals and companies involved in online lending operation owned by Indian tribe in Montana, alleging that “payday” loans offered by lender violated Vermont and federal law due to their usurious interest rates and other unlawful features, and seeking prospective declaratory and injunctive relief against tribal officers in charge of lender as well as award of money damages against other defendants. Some defendants moved to dismiss on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity, and all defendants moved to compel arbitration under terms of loan agreements. The United States District Court for the District of Vermont, Geoffrey W. Crawford, J., 2016 WL 2932163, denied both motions, and subsequently denied motion to clarify, 2016 WL 4442792. Defendants appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Hall, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) the court had jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal;
2) addressing an issue of first impression for the court, tribal sovereign immunity did not bar the suit because plaintiffs could sue tribal officers in their official capacities under a theory analogous to Ex parte Young for prospective, injunctive relief based on violations of state and substantive federal law occurring off of tribal lands;
3) borrowers' Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claims could proceed; and
4) the arbitration clauses of the parties' loan agreements were unenforceable and unconscionable.
Affirmed.

Related News: Second Circuit Decision has Implications for Native American Sovereign Immunity and Predatory Lending Practices (JD Supra) 5/10/19

Duanna Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria of Northern Paiute Indains
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 1781404
No. 17-15515
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
April 24, 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.

Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District
2019 WL 2610965
No. EDCV 13-00883 JGB
United States District Court, C.D. California.
April 19, 2019

Legal Topics: Tribal Water Rights - Groundwater

 

United States v. Jones
2019 WL 1606317
No. 18-2129
United States Court of Appeals,  Tenth Circuit.
April 16, 2019

*Synopsis: Defendant pled guilty in the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico, No. 1:17-CR-00699-MV-1, Martha Vazquez, J., of assimilative New Mexico crime of child abuse, and he appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, McHugh, Circuit Judge, held that district court's mathematical error in calculating defendant's sentence was not harmless.
Vacated and remanded.

James Clay and Audrey Osceola v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Materials via Turtle Talk
152 T.C. No. 13
Nos. 13104-11
United States Tax Court.
April 24, 2019

*Synopsis: Taxpayers, who were members of Native American tribe, petitioned for redetermination of income tax deficiencies arising from unreported taxable income received from tribal casino revenue during three taxable years at issue. Actions were consolidated.

*Holdings: The Tax Court, Pugh, J., held that:
1) taxpayers were not entitled to argue issues relating to the “general welfare doctrine” in deficiency proceeding;
2) it was not appropriate to reopen record to admit contract between tribe and developer to construct, manage and operate gaming facility for tribe, as well as letter from tribe to Bureau of Indian Affairs' acting director;
3) taxpayers were liable for federal income taxes owed on tribal gaming revenue distributions; bu
4) taxpayers were not liable for accuracy-related penalties due to substantial understatement of income tax.
Decision for IRS in part and for taxpayers in part.

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians v. David Bernhardt
Materials via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 1789458
No. 1:18-cv-02035 (TNM)
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
April 24, 2019

Legal Topics: Tribal Sales Tax

Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc.
2019 WL 1643634
CV-12-181-M-BMM
United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division.
April 16, 2019

Legal Topics: Tribal Colleges - Arm-of-the-Tribe

Employers Mutual Casualty Company v. Ethel B Branch
2019 WL 1489121
Materials via Turtle Talk
No. CV-18-08110-PCT-DWL
United States District Court, D. Arizona.
April 4, 2019

Legal Topics: Jurisdiction

Related News: Ethel Branch, former Navajo Nation Attorney General, to return to Kanji & Katzen and Lead Flagstaff office. (Turtle Talk) 4/9/19

 

March

Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. Newsom
2019 WL 1285060
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-55604
United States Court of Appeals,  Ninth Circuit.
March 21, 2019

*Synopsis: Indian tribes brought action against state seeking declaratory judgment that duration provision of tribal-state gaming compacts violated Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The United States District Court for the Central District of California, No. 5:16-cv-01347-JFW-MRW, John F. Walter, J., 2017 WL 2971864, entered summary judgment in state's favor, and tribes appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Gilliam, District Judge, sitting by designation, held that as matter of first impression, duration provisions were permitted by IGRA.
Affirmed.

United States v. Cooley
2019 WL 1285055
Briefs via Turtle Talk
No. 17-30022
United States Court of Appeals,  Ninth Circuit.
March 21, 2019

*Synopsis: Motorist charged with narcotics offenses, as result of evidence discovered by tribal officer after seizing motorist on public highway that ran across reservation, filed motion to suppress this evidence. The United States District Court for the District of Montana, No. 1:16-cr-00042-SPW-1, Susan P. Watters, J., 2017 WL 499896, granted motion, and government appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Berzon, Circuit Judge, held that:
1) as matter of first impression, exclusionary rule applies in federal court prosecutions to evidence obtained in violation, not of the Fourth Amendment itself, but of the Indian Civil Rights Act's (ICRA’s) Fourth Amendment counterpart, and
2) tribal officer's extra-jurisdictional acts violated the ICRA’s Fourth Amendment counterpart and required suppression of evidence.
Affirmed.

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.

Tolowa Nation v. United States of America
2019 WL 1975442
No. 17-cv-06478-RS
United States District Court, N.D. California.
March 12, 2019

Legal Topics: Federal Recognition

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

LaBatte v. United States
2019 WL 1417247
No. 16-798C
United States Court of Federal Claims.
March 29, 2019

*Synopsis: Native American farmer filed an action against government, alleging that the government breached a settlement agreement of a class action discrimination suit brought by Native American farmers against the Department of Agriculture and breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing, when government directed farmer's two witnesses, who were employees of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to refrain from testifying and providing evidence on behalf of the farmer in support of his claim for settlement funds. The United States Court of Federal Claims, No. 1:16-cv-00798-BAF, Bohdan A. Futey, J., dismissed the action. Farmer appealed. The Court of Appeals, Dyk, Circuit Judge, 899 F.3d 1373, reversed and remanded. On remand, government renewed its motion to dismiss.

*Holdings: The Court of Federal Claims, Sweeney, Chief Judge, held that:
1) Department of Agriculture had no duty to respond to farmer's notice of violation of agreement and, thus, farmer failed to state breach of contract claim against government, and
2) farmer had received remedy contemplated by agreement's enforcement provision by bringing action in district court and, thus, farmer failed to state requisite damages to support breach of contract claim.
Motion granted.

Pueblo of Isleta v. Michelle Lujan Grisham
2019 WL 1429586
No. 17-654 KG/KK
United States District Court, D. New Mexico.
March 30, 2019

Legal Topics: Gaming - Revenue Sharing

Related News: Judge rules for pueblos in revenue dispute with state (Santa Fe New Mexican) 4/1/19

Peggy Fontenot v. Mike Hunter
Materials via Turtle Talk

2019 WL 1413760
No. CIV-16-1339-G
United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma.
March 28, 2019

Legal Topics: Oklahoma’s American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act

Related News: Cherokee Nation not happy with ruling on 'Native American' art (Tahlequah Daily Press) 4/4/19, Judge rejects state's effort to restrict Native art (Muskogee Phoenix) 4/1/19

City of Council Bluffs, Iowa v. United States Department of Interior
Briefs via Turtle Talk
2019 WL 1368561
No. 1:17-CV-00033-SMR-CFB
United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Western Division.
March 26, 2019

*Synopsis: City in state of Iowa filed suit against Department of Interior and National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC), asserting claims under Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and seeking declaratory judgment invalidating NIGC's amended final order approving site-specific gaming ordinance enacted by Ponca Tribe of Nebraska that allowed tribe to conduct Class II gaming, under Indian Gaming Regulation Act (IGRA), on 4.8-acre tract of land in Iowa that was within tribe's service area, designated pursuant to Ponca Restoration Act (PRA) that restored tribe's government-to-government relationship with United States, and that was subsequently placed into trust by Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), as authorized by Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). State of Nebraska and State of Iowa intervened as intervenor-plaintiffs. Parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Stephanie M. Rose, J., held that:
1) NIGC appropriately found tribe was not estopped from asserting that parcel qualified for IGRA's restored lands exception;
2) NIGC reasonably interpreted PRA;
3) NIGC was not required to consider new IGRA regulations in interpreting PRA;
4) NIGC reasonably determined that new IGRA regulations did not apply; but
5) NIGC unreasonably failed to consider purported verbal agreement between tribe and Iowa.
Plaintiffs' motion granted in part and denied in part; defendants' motion denied.

Related News: Ponca Tribe wins crucial backing for Prairie Flower Casino in 12-year legal battle with Iowa, Nebraska (Casino.org) 5/3/19

Yselta Del Sur Pueblo v. City of El Paso
2018 WL 7133707
EP-17-CV-00162-DCG
United States District Court, W.D. Texas, El Paso Division.
March 22, 2019

Legal Topics: Tribal Real Property

Gibbs v. Haynes Investments, LLC
2019 WL 1314921
No. 3:18cv48
United States District Court,  E.D. Virginia.
March 22, 2019

*Synopsis: Borrowers who entered into loan agreements with two lending companies owned by two Native American tribes brought putative class action against two investment companies and their owner, alleging that although the tribes nominally owned the lending companies, they were actually funded and operated by the defendants, who used the tribe's ownership status to make usurious loans, in violation of Virginia laws and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). Defendants filed motion to transfer or to stay proceedings, motion to compel arbitration, and motion to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, M. Hannah Lauck, J., held that:
1) first-to-file rule did not apply to warrant transfer to federal court in Vermont, where a similar action had previously been filed;
2) even if the rule applied, special circumstances existed to warrant allowing the case to proceed in Virginia;
3) arbitration agreements within the loan agreements sought to prospectively exclude the application of federal law, and therefore, were unenforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA);
4) borrowers stated a claim against defendants for violation of Virginia's usury laws;
5) borrowers stated claims under RICO; and
6) borrowers stated unjust enrichment claim under Virginia law.
Motions denied.

United States of America v. State of Washington
2019 WL 1294834
 NO. C70-9213RSM
United States District Court, W.D. Washington.
March 21, 2019

Legal Topics: Fishing Rights - Usual and Customary Areas

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

*Synopsis: Faction of Indian nation sought review of decision of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Department of the Interior (DOI) recognizing another faction as nation's governing body. Parties moved for summary judgment.

*Holdings: The District Court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, J., held that:
1) review by Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs was adequate;
2) determination that statement of support (SOS) was a valid mechanism for selecting members of governing council was not contrary to nation's law;
3) BIA and DOI adequately explained their change in policy relating to use of SOS campaign to select members of council;
4) BIA and DOI adequately accounted for expert evidence; and
5) challengers were not deprived of neutral decision maker.
Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment denied; defendants' motions for summary judgment granted.

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

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

*Synopsis: Corporation of federally recognized Indian Tribe, and corporation's division, petitioned separately for review of IRS determinations to proceed with liens to collect unpaid employment taxes arising from division's business operations. Actions were consolidated.

*Holdings: The Tax Court, Goeke, J., held that:
1) IRS notices of determination to sustain tax liens were sufficient to provide Tax Court with jurisdiction;
2) state law did not restrict Indian tribal corporation's power, pursuant to charter issued by Department of Interior (DOI) under Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), to create legally distinct corporate division whose federal employment tax liabilities were not collectible from corporation by IRS;
3) Indian tribal corporation's power to create legally distinct corporate division was within scope of Indian Reorganization Act (IRA); and
4) Indian tribal corporation's division acted as legally distinct entity, and thus IRS could not collect division's employment tax liabilities from corporation.
Ordered accordingly.

 

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

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

*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.

Brisbois v. Tulalip Tribal Court
2019 WL 1522540
NO. 2:18-cv-01677-TSZ-BAT
United States District Court, W.D. Washington, at Seattle.
February 27, 2019

Legal Topics: Indian Civil Rights Act; Writ of Habeas Corpus 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

*Synopsis: Defendant, a member of the Seminole Tribe of Florida who lived on a Seminole Indian reservation, was charged with selling American alligator eggs in violation of Lacey Act, predicated on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Defendant moved to dismiss.

*Holdings: The District Court, Sheri Polster Chappell, J., held that:
1) the Tribe's usufructuary rights included the right to sell alligator eggs gathered from the reservation;
2) ESA did not abrogate the Tribe's usufructuary right to sell alligator eggs; but
3) Congress could regulate the Tribe's usufructuary rights with reasonable and necessary conservation measures.
Motion denied.

 

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.