Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Aguayo v. Jewell

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Plaintiffs are descendants of Margarita Britten (Margarita), a Pala Band of Mission Indian who was born in 1856. After the Executive committee disenrolled more than 150 of Margarita's descendants, the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs (AS-IA) affirmed. Plaintiffs filed suit invoking 5 U.S.C. 706(2)(A), alleging that the AS-IA’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. Determining that the court has jurisdiction to review the agency's decision, the court concluded that the AS-IA’s decision articulated a rational interpretation of the facts before him, and reasonably concluded that the 1997 Constitution was valid, notwithstanding the absence of a formal election, based on the language of the governing documents, and the past practice of the Band. The court rejected plaintiffs' argument that the BIA has an independent trust duty to protect them from unjust disenrollment. Because the Executive Committee now has ultimate authority over enrollment decisions under the 1997 Constitution and 2009 Ordinance, the AS-IA reasonably concluded that any questions of the surviving preclusive effect of the 1989 decision are properly directed to the Band, not the BIA. Finally, the AS-IA acted reasonably in declining to join two disenrolled minors to the agency appeal, because the minors had not challenged their disenrollment before the Regional Director. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment upholding the AS-IA; granted defendants' motion to supplement the record on appeal; and denied plaintiffs' motion for judicial notice. View "Aguayo v. Jewell" on Justia Law
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