Articles Posted in Native American Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a police officer and a towing company after the officer seized plaintiff's truck on the Lummi reservation. Plaintiff was stopped by Lummi police and marijuana was found in his truck. The officer cited a violation of tribal drug laws and issued a notice of forfeiture and took possession of the truck. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff because plaintiff failed to exhaust his tribal remedies against the towing company. Applying principles of comity, the panel held that the Lummi Tribal Court must be given the opportunity to first address the question of whether tribal jurisdiction exists. The panel held that the district court properly substituted the United States as a party for the tribal police officer pursuant to the Westfall Act, and that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies against the United States pursuant to the two-step test in Shirk v. U.S. ex rel. Dep't of Interior, 773 F.3d 999, 1006 (9th Cir. 2014), which determined whether a tribal employee could be deemed a federal Bureau of Indian Affairs employee for the purposes of Federal Tort Claims Act liability. Finally, the panel vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice to refiling after plaintiff has exhausted the appropriate remedies. View "Wilson v. Horton's Towing" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the Department's decision ordering the Tribe to provide relief to a member that was removed from the Tribe's governing body in retaliation for his whistleblowing. The member informed the Department that some members of the Tribe's governing body (the Business Committee) were misusing federal stimulus funds. The panel held that the member was an employee and thus eligible for whistleblower protection under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; the Department's order did not infringe on the Tribe's sovereignty and powers of self-governance; the Tribe voluntarily agreed to federal oversight when it accepted the stimulus funds; the Tribe did not have a due process right to a hearing with cross-examination before the Department reached its conclusion; although the Department did commit a procedural error where the Tribe did not have access to the Inspector General's report until the Department issued its preliminary decision, the error was harmless; and the Department did not err in finding that the removal of St. Marks was retaliatory. Finally, the court rejected the Tribe's argument regarding the monetary reward because it was raised for the first time on appeal. View "Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation v. USDOI" on Justia Law

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Section 511(a) of the Veterans' Judicial Review Act barred the Community's action against the VA for failing to reimburse the Community for the care it provided to veterans at tribal facilities. In this case, the Community sought review of the VA's determination that two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act did not require the VA to reimburse the Community absent a sharing agreement. The panel held that such a determination fell under the jurisdictional bar of section 511(a) because it was plainly a question of law that affected the provision of benefits by the Secretary of the VA to veterans, and the relief requested could clearly affect the provision of benefits. The panel also held that the presumption in Montana v. Blackfeet Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 759, 766 (1985), did not apply to section 511(a). Finally, the Community's argument that the district court had jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1362 was waived. View "Gila River Indian Community v. US Department of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment for the United States in an action seeking to collect delinquent federal excise taxes and penalties for the manufacture of tobacco products under 26 U.S.C. 5701. Determining that it had jurisdiction over the appeal, the panel held that the amended judgment sufficiently specified both the amount of money due to the plaintiff and a formula for computing that amount of money. The panel also held that a tobacco manufacturer located on trust land was subject to a federal excise tax applicable to all tobacco products manufactured in the United States under 26 U.S.C. 5702. In this case, King Mountain manufactures and grows tobacco products on lands held in trust by the United States, within the boundaries of the Yakama Nation. Finally, the panel rejected King Mountain's claim of exemption based on either the General Allotment Act of 1887 or the Treaty with the Yakamas of 1855. View "United States v. King Mountain Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to California and the United States in an action seeking injunctive relief prohibiting the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel from continuing to operate Desert Rose Casino. The panel held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) protects gaming activity conducted on Indian lands. However, a patron's act of placing a bet or wager on a game of Desert Rose Bingo (DRB) while located in California constitutes gaming activity that is not located on Indian lands. Therefore, it violates the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and was not protected by the IGRA. The panel further held that, even if Iipay was correct that all of the "gaming activity" associated with DRB occurred on Indian lands, the patrons' act of placing bets or wagers over the internet while located in a jurisdiction where those bets or wagers was illegal makes Iipay's decision to accept financial payments associated with those bets or wagers a violation of the UIGEA. View "California v. Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing an action brought by the United States and the Walker River Paiute Tribe against the Walker River Irrigation District and others over water rights in the Walker River basin. In 2015, without briefing or argument on the issue, the district court sua sponte dismissed all of the Tribe's and the United States' counterclaims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds. The panel held that the district court had continuing jurisdiction over the counterclaims and that it erred in dismissing the claims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds without giving the parties an opportunity to brief the issue. On remand, the panel ordered the reassignment of this case to another district judge. View "United States v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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After the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria asked the BIA to take a parcel of land into trust for them so that they could build a casino and hotel complex, the BIA agreed to the acquisition. Several entities, including the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community and various citizens' groups and individuals filed suit seeking to enjoin the trust acquisition. On appeal, Citizens and Colusa raised numerous statutory, regulatory, and procedural challenges to the trust acquisition. The Ninth Circuit held, among other things, that Interior had the statutory authority under the Indian Reorganization Act to take land into trust for Enterprise; the Secretary properly considered Enterprise's "need" for the land; Interior's incorrect legal description of the parcel in the Federal Register was a trivial error; the panel rejected challenges based on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act; and the panel rejected challenges to the National Environmental Policy Act. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Enterprise. View "Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The broad waiver of sovereign immunity found in section 702 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) waived sovereign immunity for all non-monetary claims, and section 704 of the APA's final agency action requirement constrained only actions brought under the APA, 5 U.S.C. 702, 704. The Navajo Nation filed suit challenging Interior's published guidelines clarifying how it would make surplus and shortage determinations for delivery to Western states of the waters of the Colorado River. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Nation's claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq., based on lack of standing where the challenged guidelines did not present a reasonable probability of threat to either the Nation's adjudicated water rights or its practical water needs. The panel also held that the Nation's breach of trust claim sought relief other than money damages, and the waiver of sovereign immunity in section 702 applied squarely to the claim. Therefore, the panel reversed and remanded as to this issue. Finally, the district court acted within its discretion in refusing post-judgment leave to amend. View "Navajo Nation v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that the Treaty of Point Elliott reserves to the Lummi Nation the right to fish in the waters west of Whidbey Island, Washington. The panel previouslyy concluded that the Treaty secured the Lummi's right to fish in Admiralty Inlet because the Lummi would have used the Inlet as a passage to travel from its home in the San Juan Islands to present-day Seattle. The panel held that the waters at issue are situated directly between the San Juan Islands and Admiralty Inlet and also would have served as a passage to Seattle. In United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 (W.D. Wash. 1974), Judge Boldt developed a framework for determining the usual and accustomed grounds and stations (U&As) for Indian signatories to the Treaty and other similarly worded treaties. At step one of the analysis, all parties agree that Finding of Fact 46 was ambiguous because it did not clearly include or exclude the disputed waters. At step two, the panel held that the district court erred in excluding the waters west of Whidbey Island from the Lummi's U&A. View "Lower Elwha Klallam Indian Tribe v. Lummi Nation" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part the district court's judgment concerning the fishing rights of the Quileute Indian Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation under the Treaty of Olympia. The panel held that the district court did not clearly err in its finding that the Quileute and Quinault understood that the Treaty's preservation of the "right of taking fish" included whales and seals. The panel explained that the district court's extensive factual findings supported its ultimate conclusion that "fish" as used in the Treaty of Olympia encompassed sea mammals and evidence of customary harvest of whales and seals at and before treaty time may be the basis for the determination of a tribe's usual and accustomed fishing grounds. However, the panel reversed the district court's delineation of the fishing boundaries because the lines drawn far exceed the district court's underlying factual findings. View "Makah Indian Tribe v. Quileute Indian Tribe" on Justia Law