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

United States v. Washington

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The court amended its previous opinion and affirmed the district court's order issuing an injunction to Washington. In 1854 and 1855, Indian tribes relinquished large swaths of land in the Case Area under the Stevens Treaties. In exchange for their land, the tribes were guaranteed a right to off-reservation fishing. In 2001, twenty-one Indian tribes, joined by the United States, filed a "Request for Determination" in district court contending that the State had violated, and was continuing to violate, the Treaties. In 2007, the district court held that, in building and maintaining culverts that prevented mature salmon from returning from the sea to their spawning grounds, Washington had caused the size of salmon runs in the Case Area to diminish and that Washington thereby violated its obligation under the Treaties. In 2013, the district court issued an injunction ordering Washington to correct its offending culverts. The court concluded that Washington has violated, and continues to violate, its obligation to the Tribes under the fishing clause of the Treaties; the United States has not waived the rights of the Tribes under the Treaties, and has not waived its own sovereign immunity by bringing suit on behalf of the Tribes; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in enjoining Washington to correct most of its high-priority barrier culverts within seventeen years, and to correct the remainder at the end of the culverts' natural life or in the course of a road construction project undertaken for independent reasons. When considering Washington's appeal, the court did not understand it to argue that it should have been awarded, as recoupment or set-off, a monetary award from the United States. Although the argument was waived, the court noted that it was easily rejected. In this case, the United States sought injunctive relief against Washington and Washington sought a monetary award. The court explained that these two forms of relief are not of the same kind or nature. The court also rejected Washington's contention that because of the presence of non-state-owned barrier culverts on the same streams as state-owned barrier culverts, the benefit obtained from remediation of state-owned culverts will be insufficient to justify the district court's injunction. View "United States v. Washington" on Justia Law
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