IN THE TRIBAL DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE KICKAPOO TRIBE IN KANSAS
KICKAPOO RESERVATION, HORTON, KANSAS
CHARLES BLACKSMITH, Plaintiff,
LEANDA SIMON, Defendant.
Before the Court is Plaintiffs single page document that neither alleges whether it is a lawsuit, a personnel complaint to the court, or some other form of document. Plaintiff's "complaint" appears to be directed at an employee of the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, a federally recognized tribe in Kansas to which the United States had expressly reserved lands in trust as a Reservation ("Reservation") for them within the State of Kansas. See the 1832, 1854 and 1862 Treaties between the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas and the United States; 7 Stat. 391 (1832); 10 Stat. 1078 (1854); and 12 Stat. 1249 (1862). The employee, a member of a federally recognized tribe, is alleged to be a relative of the Plaintiff, and that she serves as the court clerk for the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas' Tribal District Court. Because of this allegation, the Respondent has been recused from all action on this matter and an outside clerk has handled all filings. The Court, in reviewing the filing, sua sponte addresses it below.
A. PETITIONER'S FILING IS FACIALLY INSUFFICIENT
Even though a Pro Se litigant's pleading are entitled to liberal construction,1 a litigant must nonetheless follow the rules of civil procedure. Ogden v. San Juan County, 32 F .3d 452, 455 (10th Cir. 1994). Neither the parties nor the Court are under an obligation to develop legal theories for the Plaintiff and may not supply factual allegations to support a prose litigant's claims for relief. Hall v. Bellman, 935 F .2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991); Glenn v. First Nat'l Bank in Grand Junction, 868 F .2d 368, 371-72 (10th Cir. 1989). Simply put, it is "not the role of either the court or the defendant to sort through a conclusory and poorly drafted complaint in order to construct a cause of action." Verry v. City of El Reno, 2005 WL 3187285 at *1 (W.D. Okla. Nov. 29, 2005) (citing Abdelsamed v. United States, 13 Fed. Appx, 883, 884 (10th Cir. 2001)).
Accordingly, Title 6, Section 108 of the KTK Civil Code requires the Plaintiff to provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See, e.g. Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(1). "The purpose of the modern complaint is to give opposing parties fair notice of the basis of the claim against them so that they may respond to the complaint, and to apprise the court of sufficient allegations to allow it to conclude, if the allegations are true, that the claimant has a legal right to relief." Monument Builders of Greater Kan. City, Inc. v. Am. Cemetery Ass'n of Kan., 891 F .2d 14 73, 1480 (10th Cir. 1989). A complaint is subject to dismissal if it fails to comport with the requirements of [pleading]. Carpenter v. Williams, 86 F .3d 1015, 1016 (10th Cir. 1996) (dismissing complain as "incomprehensible"); Moser v. Oklahoma, 118 Fed. Appx. 378, 380-81 (10th Cir. 2004) (unpublished) (affirming dismissalwhere complaint was sufficiently vague and incomprehensible that defendants could not have discerned the claims or prepare a defense); Young v. Burd, 2007 WL 1456102 (D.Colo. May 15, 2007) (citing Carpenter and dismissing complaint that was "too vague, ambiguous and imprecise to allow Defendant to formulate an answer or other responsive pleading"); Wilson v. Gaylon, 2006 WL 249634 (W.D. Okla. Jan. 31, 2006) (dismissing complaint that left the defendant guessing as to the true nature of the claims against him). A dismissal is reviewed for abuse of discretion. Moser, 118 Fed. Appx. at 381.
Plaintiffs "filing" is vague, ambiguous, and imprecise and does not provide the short and plain statement demonstrating jurisdiction and entitlement to relief that is required. Plaintiff does not cite a statutory scheme nor jurisdictional statue, and fails to state any basis for jurisdiction. Plaintiff alleges a string of conclusory pronouncements without providing any details of the alleged actions taken by Defendants. The Complaint falls far short of the requirements necessary to maintain an action. The Defendant does not have sufficient information to prepare an answer. In fact, the Complaint simply strings conclusory statements without stating any action that was taken by the Defendant or why any of the enumerated items on the list entitle Plaintiff for relief.
B. THE KICKAPOO TRIBE IN KANSAS IS A SOVEREIGN INDIAN TRIBE AND THEREFORE THIS SUIT IS BARRED, AS NEITHER THE NOR CONGRESS HAS UNEQUIVOCALLY AND EXPRESSLY WAIVED IT SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY.
If at any time a court determines it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action. The party seeking to invoke jurisdiction has the duty to establish that such jurisdiction is proper. Basso v. Utah Power & light Co., 495 F .2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974). Because tribal courts have limited jurisdiction, there is a presumption against jurisdiction. Id. When a court lacks jurisdiction, it must dismiss the proceeding. "Tribal sovereign immunity is a matter of subject matter jurisdiction, which may be F .3d 1315 (10th Cir. 1997)). Therefore, Indian Tribes and tribal officials, such as the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas and its tribal court clerk, are subject to suit only where Congress has authorized it or where the tribe has waived its immunity. Cohen v. Winkleman, 428 F. Supp. 2d 1184, 1186 (W.D. Okla. 2006) (citing Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v. Mfg. Tech. Inc., 523 U.S. 751 (1998)).3 Additionally, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas extends full and complete tribal protection, legal defense, and indemnification to all officials of the judicial, executive and legislative departments, as well as all employees during the performance of assigned, mandated or delegated duties. Further, "[i]t is settled that a waiver of sovereign immunity cannot be implied but must be unequivocally expressed." Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 456 U.S. 49, 56 (1978) (internal quotations omitted); see also Kempf v. Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, 2016 Snoqualmie App. LEXIS 1.
It is undisputed that the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas is a federally recognized Indian tribe, and the Defendant named in the Complaint is an official and employee acting within the scope of her employment. Indeed, the Complaint list Plaintiffs by name, followed by their job titles. To be clear, the Defendant has not, and does not waive sovereign immunity, nor has Plaintiff alleged a waiver of sovereign immunity. Because Plaintiff has not identified any explicit waiver of sovereign immunity by the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the Complaint against the tribal officials, must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Because the Plaintiffs claims are, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, barred by tribal sovereign immunity, the Complaint by the Plaintiff is dismissed with prejudice.
IT IS SO ORDERED this 23rd day of October, 2023.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
/s/ Robert Don Gifford, II
Chief Judge, Tribal Court
Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas
1 Newton, Nell J. (Amer Univ); Tribal Court Praxis: One Year in the Life of Twenty Indian Tribal Courts, American Indian Law Review, Volume 22, Number 2 (p. 441-507).
3 John J. Francis, Stacy L. Leeds, Aliza Organick, and Jelani Jefferson Exum, Reassessing Concurrent Tribal-State-Federal Criminal Jurisdiction in Kansas, 59 U. Kan. L. Rev. 949 (June 2011).