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An attorney represented a Native corporation in litigation nearly three decades ago. The corporation disputed the attorney’s claim for fees, and in 1995, after the attorney’s death, the superior court entered judgment on an arbitration award of nearly $800,000 to the attorney’s law firm, then represented by the attorney’s son. The corporation paid eight installments on the judgment, but eventually stopped paying, citing financial difficulties. The law firm sought a writ of execution for the unpaid balance, and the writ was granted. The corporation appealed but under threat of the writ paid $643,760 while the appeal was pending. In a 2013 opinion the Alaska Supreme Court held the writ invalid and required the firm to repay the $643,760. The corporation was never repaid. The original law firm moved its assets to a new firm and sought a stay of execution, averring that the original firm now lacked the funds necessary for repayment. The corporation sued the original firm, the successor firm, and the son for breach of contract, fraudulent conveyance, conspiracy to fraudulently convey assets, violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA), unjust enrichment, and punitive damages. The firm counterclaimed, seeking recovery in quantum meruit for attorney’s fees it claimed were still owing for its original representation. The superior court granted summary judgment for the corporation on the law firm’s quantum meruit claim and, following trial, found that the son and both law firms fraudulently conveyed assets and were liable for treble damages under the UTPA. The son and the law firms appealed, arguing the trial court erred by: (1) holding that the quantum meruit claim was barred by res judicata; (2) holding the defendants liable for fraudulent conveyance; (3) awarding damages under the UTPA; and (4) making mistakes in the form of judgment and award of costs. The Alaska Supreme Court found no reversible error with one exception. The Court remanded for reconsideration of whether all three defendants are liable for prejudgment interest from the same date. View "Merdes & Merdes, P.C. v. Leisnoi, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case brought against the Ute Indian Tribe, tribal officials, various companies owned by the tribal officials, oil and gas companies, and other companies, Plaintiff alleged that, through its ability to restrict the oil and gas industry’s access to the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, the tribe has held hostage the economy of the non-Indian population in the Uintah Basin. The district court dismissed Plaintiff's claims against all Defendants. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the Ute Indian Tribe under sovereign immunity and the dismissal of Newfield, LaRose Construction, and D. Ray C. Enterprises for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted but vacated the dismissal of the remaining defendants and remanded for further proceedings consistent with the tribal exhaustion doctrine, holding (1) the Ute Tribe is immune from suit, but the tribal officials were not protected by sovereign immunity in their individual capacities; (2) the district court erred in dismissing the case for failure to join and indispensable party; (3) the tribal exhaustion doctrine prevents Utah courts from reviewing the case at this time; and (4) certain defendants were entitled to dismissal for failure to state a claim, but the remaining defendants were not. View "Harvey v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, holding that Mont. Const. art. II, section 18 did not require the Montana Legislature to approve the Compact or its administrative provisions. The Compact, negotiated between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, provided a unified system for the administration of water rights and the resolution of disputes on the reservation. The Compact was approved by the Montana Legislature in 2015. The Flathead Board of Joint Control brought suit against the State seeking to invalidate the Compact. The district court ruled (1) the challenged section of the Compact did not contravene Article II, Section 18 because it did not enact any new immunities from suit; but (2) the challenged section of the administrative provision provided new immunity to the State and, therefore, was covered by Article II, Section 18, and because the provision did not pass by a two-thirds majority of each house, it is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) none of the Compact’s provisions grant any state governmental agency new immunities from a potential lawsuit; and (2) the Legislature’s majority vote to approve and adopt the contract was consistent with subject provisions of the Montana Constitution. View "Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State" on Justia Law

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Kenneth and Donna Johnson appealed a district court judgment recognizing a tribal judgment from the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Court (Tribal Court). The Johnsons owned land within the Coeur d’Alene Reservation (Reservation) on the banks of the St. Joe River and had a dock and pilings on the river. The Coeur d’Alene Tribe (Tribe) initiated an action in Tribal Court to enforce a tribal statute which required a permit for docks on the St. Joe River within the Reservation. The Johnsons did not appear and a default judgment was entered against them. The judgment imposed a civil penalty of $17,400 and declared that the Tribe was entitled to remove the dock and pilings. On January 2016, the Tribe filed a petition to have the Tribal Court judgment recognized in Idaho pursuant to the Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act. I.C. sections 10-1301, et seq. The district court held the Tribal Judgment was valid and enforceable, entitled to full faith and credit. However, the Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court was incorrect in holding the Tribal Judgment was entitled to full faith and credit, and the civil penalty was not entitled to recognition in Idaho courts. However, the Idaho Supreme Court held the Tribal Court had jurisdiction over the Johnsons and the subject matter of this case; the Johnsons did not meet their burden of establishing the Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction, and the Johnsons were afforded due process in Tribal Court. In this case the judgment comprised two parts: (1) the civil penalty of $17,400; and (2) the declaration that the Tribe had the right to remove the offending encroachment. The civil penalty was not enforceable under principles of comity. However, the penal law rule does not prevent courts from recognizing declaratory judgments of foreign courts. Therefore, the Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court’s judgment to the extent that it recognized the Tribal Court’s judgment imposing the civil penalty of $17,400. The Court affirmed the judgment recognizing the Tribal Court judgment regarding the Tribe’s right to remove the dock and pilings. View "Coeur d' Alene Tribe v. Johnson" 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

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Defendant Darren Rose, a member of the Alturas Indian Rancheria, ran two smoke shops located in Indian country but far from any lands governed by the Alturas Indian Rancheria. In those smoke shops, Rose sold illegal cigarettes and failed to collect state taxes. California brought an enforcement action to stop illegal sales and collect civil penalties. Rose appealed, arguing: (1) California and its courts did not have jurisdiction to enforce California’s civil/regulatory laws for his actions in Indian country; and (2) the amount of civil penalties imposed was inequitable and erroneous. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) federal law and tribal sovereignty did not preempt California’s regulation and enforcement of its laws concerning sales of cigarettes; and (2) the superior court’s imposition of civil penalties was proper. View "California v. Rose" on Justia Law

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A tribe qualifies to have land taken into trust for its benefit under 25 U.S.C. 5108 of the Indian Reorganization Act if it (1) was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of June 18, 1934, and (2) is "recognized" at the time the decision is made to take land into trust. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Interior and the Ione Band of Miwok Indians in a case involving a dispute over a proposed casino in the County. The panel held that the Interior's reading of the ambiguous phrase "under Federal jurisdiction" was the best interpretation and the Interior did not err in adopting that interpretation for purposes of deciding whether the Ione Band was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. Finally, the Interior did not err in allowing the Band to conduct gaming operations on the Plymouth Parcels under the "restored tribe" exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2719(a). View "County of Amador v. USDOI" on Justia Law

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Casey Wilkes and Alexander Russell appealed the grant of summary judgment favor of PCI Gaming Authority d/b/a Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka ("Wind Creek-Wetumpka"), and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (collectively as "the tribal defendants"), on negligence and wantonness claims asserted by Wilkes and Russell seeking compensation for injuries they received when an automobile driven by Wilkes was involved in a collision with a pickup truck belonging to Wind Creek Wetumpka and being driven by Barbie Spraggins, an employee at Wind Creek-Wetumpka. In the interest of justice, the Alabama Supreme Court declined to extend the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity beyond the circumstances in which the Supreme Court of the United States itself has applied it. The judgment of the trial court holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the claims asserted by Wilkes and Russell based on the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity was accordingly reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilkes v. PCI Gaming Authority" on Justia Law

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Benjamin Harrison was injured during the early morning hours of March 1, 2013, when, as a passenger, he was involved in an automobile accident following a high-speed police chase on a portion of a county roadway that traverses land held by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe") in Escambia County. The driver of the vehicle in which Benjamin was a passenger, Roil Hadley, had consumed alcohol while he was a patron at Wind Creek Casino during the evening of February 28, 2013, and the early morning hours of March 1, 2013. Amanda Harrison, as mother and next friend of Benjamin, sued the tribal defendants and two individuals, alleging the tribal defendants were responsible for negligently or wantonly serving alcohol to Hadley despite his being visibly intoxicated and asserted, among other claims, claims against the tribal defendants under Alabama’s Dram Shop Act. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds they were immune under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity, and that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Tribal Court held exclusive jurisdiction over the claims. The Alabama Supreme Court declined to extend the doctrine of tribal immunity to actions in tort, in which the plaintiff had no opportunity to bargain for a waiver and no other avenue for relief. The Court similarly concluded the judgment entered by the trial court was reversed. The case was remanded for the circuit court to consider a related issue pertaining to an asserted lack of adjudicative, or "direct" subject-matter jurisdiction by the circuit court thus addressing the tribal defendants’ position that the claim in this case arose on Indian land, but Benjamin's fatal injuries occurred on an Escambia County Road. Also, the Court directed the circuit court to consider whether subject-matter jurisdiction is affected by the fact that the alleged tortious conduct of the tribal defendants entails a violation of Alabama's statutory and regulatory scheme for the sale of alcohol in Alabama, a scheme to which Congress has expressly declared the Tribe to be subject. View "Harrison v. PCI Gaming Authority" on Justia Law

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Jerry Rape appealed the circuit court’s dismissal of his action alleging breach of contract and various tort claims against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe”), PCI Gaming Authority, Creek Indian Enterprises, LLC, and Creek Casino Montgomery ("Wind Creek Casino" or "Wind Creek") (collectively, "the tribal defendants") and casino employees James Ingram and Lorenzo Teague and fictitiously named defendants. Rape and his wife visited Wind Creek Casino one evening in 2010. Rape placed a five-dollar bet at a slot machine, and managed to win the jackpot totaling $1,377,015.30. The screen displayed a prompt to "call an attendant to verify winnings." Rape alleged that at that point he was approached and congratulated by casino employees and patrons and that one casino employee said to him: "[D]on't let them cheat you out of it." Rape alleged that the machine printed out a ticket containing the winning amount of $1,377,015.30 but that casino representatives took possession of the ticket and refused to return it to him. Rape alleged that he was made to wait into the early morning hours with no information provided to him, even though he saw several individuals entering and leaving the room, presumably to discuss the situation. In his complaint, Rape stated that he "was taken into a small room in the rear of [Wind Creek Casino] by casino and/or tribal officials, where he was told, in a threatening and intimidating manner, that the machine in question 'malfunctioned,' and that [Rape] did not win the jackpot of $1,377,015.30. [Rape] was given a copy of an 'incident report,' and left [Wind Creek Casino] empty-handed approximately 24 hours after winning the jackpot." Rape sued the defendants alleging breach of contract; unjust enrichment; misrepresentation; suppression; civil conspiracy; negligence and/or wantonness; negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision; respondeat superior; and spoliation of evidence. For each claim, Rape requested damages in the amount of the jackpot he had allegedly won. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal: “[o]n the one hand, if the dispute here arises from activity determined to be ‘permitted by Federal law’ and thus to be the subject of a congressional delegation of ‘regulatory authority’ to the Tribe, then disputes arising out of the same would . . .likewise be a legitimate adjudicative matter for the Tribe, and the circuit court's dismissal of Rape's claims would have been proper on that basis. But conversely, even if it were to be determined that the gaming at issue were illegal under the provisions of IGRA and therefore not the subject of an ‘express congressional delegation’ of regulatory authority to the Tribe, it would be that very illegality that would also prevent our state courts from providing relief to Rape. . . .Under the unique circumstances of this case, therefore, there is no analytical path to an award of relief for Rape.” View "Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, et al." on Justia Law