Articles Posted in Native American Law

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The Tribe filed suit seeking a declaration that it has the right to investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law, detain, and transport or deliver a non-Indian violator encountered on the reservation to the proper authorities. The Ninth Circuit held that the first amended complaint raised a federal question that provided federal courts with subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331; the Tribe has presented a prudentially ripe case or controversy and the case is constitutionally ripe as well; and the district court's conclusion that the Tribe's response letter mooted all controversies between the parties was erroneous. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of relators' qui tam action alleging that the College violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by knowingly providing false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies. The panel held that the Tribe is not a "person" under the FCA. The panel remanded for further jurisdictional factfinding on whether the College was an arm of the Tribe that shares the Tribe's status for purposes of the FCA. View "United States ex rel Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to enjoin further tribal proceedings regarding whether the Navajo tribal court has jurisdiction over public school districts' employment decisions and practices conducted on the Navajo Reservation. The panel held that the employment-related claims arose from conduct on tribal land and implicate no state criminal law enforcement interests and therefore tribal jurisdiction was colorable or plausible under the panel's interpretation of Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353 (2001). The panel explained that well-established exhaustion principles require that the tribal forum have the first opportunity to evaluate its own jurisdiction over this case, including the nature of the state and tribal interests involved. Because the panel's caselaw leaves open the question of what state interests might be sufficient to preclude tribal jurisdiction over disputes arising on tribal land, tribal jurisdiction was plausible enough here that exhaustion was required. View "Window Rock Unified School District v. Nez" on Justia Law

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Petitioners sought review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule (TAR) that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The court concluded that the federal government's partial ownership of the Station does not eliminate any deference to the EPA's interpretation of the CAA and its implementing regulations; the EPA reasonably interpreted the TAR and the Regional Haze Regulations to conclude that the emission reductions deadline in 40 C.F.R. 51.308(e)(2)(iii) does not apply to FIPs for regional haze that are promulgated in place of tribal implementation plans (TIPs); the court deferred to the EPA's determination that the FIP alternative was "better than BART" for nitrous oxide emissions; and the EPA's decision not to determine best available retrofit technology (BART) for particulate matter was a reasonable exercise of the EPA's discretion under the TAR. Accordingly, the court denied the petitions for review. View "Yazzie v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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The Tribe petitioned for review of the EPA's federal implementation plan (FIP) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), 42 U.S.C. 7401, for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona. The FIP was promulgated under the EPA's Tribal Authority Rule that governs CAA requirements on tribal lands. The Tribe claimed that it was not adequately consulted about its interests before the plan was promulgated and objected to a proposed closure of the Station in 2044. The court concluded that no authority allowed it to treat this as a duty to consult, stemming from the general trust relationship with the Indian tribes. In this case, the record showed that the EPA did, in fact, consult with the Hopi Tribe throughout the rulemaking process. Furthermore, while the EPA did not participate in the Technical Working Group (TWG) negotiations, the DOI did. The court also concluded that the record belies the Tribe's contention that the EPA failed to analyze each of the five best available retrofit technology (BART) factors. Because the TWG proposal was an alternative to BART, the court concluded that there was no error in the EPA not analyzing the BART factors under the TWG alternative. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for review. View "The Hopi Tribe v. USEPA" on Justia Law

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After petitioners disagreed with how the Tribal Council was governing internal tribal affairs, they submitted a recall petition to the Tribe's Election Committee. The Council subsequently disciplined petitioners for press releases that the Tribe described as inaccurate, false, and defamatory. The Council voted to withhold petitioners' per capita distributions and to ban them temporarily from tribal lands and facilities. Petitioners subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), 25 U.S.C. 1303, against the members of the Council. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that petitioners' punishment of exclusion was not a detention sufficient to invoke federal habeas jurisdiction. The court held that, reading the ICRA's habeas provision in light of the Indian canons of construction and Congress's plenary authority to limit tribal sovereignty, the district court lacked jurisdiction under section 1303 of the ICRA to review this temporary exclusion claim. The court also explained that any disputes about per capita payments must be brought in a tribal forum, not through federal habeas proceedings. View "Tavares v. Whitehouse" on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the water agencies challenged the district court's grant of partial summary judgment for the Tribe and the United States. The judgment declared that the United States impliedly reserved appurtenant water sources, including groundwater, when it created the Tribe's reservation in California's arid Coachella Valley. The court concluded that in the Winters v. United States doctrine, federal reserved water rights are directly applicable to Indian reservations and other federal enclaves, encompassing water rights in navigable and nonnavigable streams; the Winters doctrine does not distinguish between surface water and groundwater; rather, its limits derive only from the government's intent in withdrawing land for a public purpose and the location of the water in relation to the reservation created; because the United States intended to reserve water when it established a home for the Tribe, the court held that the district court did not err in determining that the government reserved appurtenant water sources—including groundwater—when it created the Tribe's reservation in the Coachella Valley; and the creation of the Agua Caliente Reservation carried with it an implied right to use water from the Coachella Valley aquifer. The court held that state water rights were preempted by federal reserved rights; held that the fact that the Tribe did not historically access groundwater does not destroy its right to groundwater now; and held that state water entitlements do not affect the court's analysis with respect to the creation of the Tribe's federally reserved water right. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District" on Justia Law

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DWA, a political subdivision of the State of California, charges businesses and residences in Riverside County a variety of fees and taxes in order to recoup its costs and expenses. Parties subject to DWA's charges include non-Indians who lease lands from the Tribe within the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation. DWA filed suit against the Department, challenging Interior's promulgation of 25 C.F.R. 162.017. Section 162.017 addresses the taxes applied to approved leases on Indian land to third parties. The court agreed with Interior and concluded that the regulation does not purport to change existing law, and therefore it does not operate to preempt DWA's charges. Consequently, DWA lacks standing to challenge the regulation. Finally, the court lacked jurisdiction to issue a declaratory judgment that DWA's charges would survive a preemption challenge under White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker where the dispute between DWA and Interior was over. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Desert Water Agency v. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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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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The Tribal Lending Entities challenged the district court's decision compelling them to comply with the Bureau's civil investigative demands. The court rejected the Tribal Lending Entities' argument that because the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010, Title X, Pub. L. No. 111-203, 124 Stat 1376, defines the term "State" as including Native American tribes, the Tribal Lending Entities, as arms of sovereign tribes, are not required to comply with the investigative demands. The court concluded that, in the Act, which is a generally applicable law, Congress did not expressly exclude tribes from the Bureau’s enforcement authority. The court explained that, although the Act defines “State” to include Native American tribes, with States occupying limited co-regulatory roles, this wording falls far short of demonstrating that the Bureau plainly lacks jurisdiction to issue the investigative demands challenged in this case, or that Congress intended to exclude Native American tribes from the Act’s enforcement provisions. Neither have the Tribes offered any legislative history compelling a contrary conclusion regarding congressional intent. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "CFPB v. Great Plains Lending, LLC" on Justia Law