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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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The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe purchased land and commissioned a boundary survey, which convinced the Tribe that about an acre of its land lay on the other side of a boundary fence between its land and land owned by the Lundgrens. The Lundgrens filed a quiet title action in Washington state court, arguing adverse possession and mutual acquiescence. The Washington Supreme Court rejected the Tribe’s sovereign immunity claim, reasoning that tribal sovereign immunity does not apply to in rem suits. The U.S. Supreme Court vacated and remanded. The precedent on which the state court relied (Yakima) addressed not the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, but a question of statutory interpretation of the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887. The Act authorized the President to allot parcels of reservation land to individual tribal members and directed the government to issue fee patents to the allottees. In 1934, Congress reversed course but did not withdraw the lands already conveyed so that Indian reservations sometimes contain both trust land held by the government and fee-patented land held by private parties. The Supreme Court held that the state collection of property taxes on fee-patented land within reservations was allowed under the Act; Yakima resolved nothing about the law of sovereign immunity. View "Upper Skagit Tribe v. Lundgren" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated a child protective proceeding in requesting that the court take jurisdiction of two-year-old JJW and newborn ELW after ELW tested positive for controlled substances at birth. The minor children were removed from the biological parents’ care and placed with foster parents. Both children were eligible for membership in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. In 2015, the biological parents released their rights to the children; a referee accepted the parents’ releases and entered standard orders terminating the biological parents’ rights. The children’s foster parents petitioned to adopt the children, the Sault Tribe objected, and the court denied the foster parents’ petition. The court committed the children to the Michigan Children’s Institute (MCI) for further case planning. Respondent-father Jack Williams then filed a notice to withdraw his prior consent to the termination of his parental rights and demanded the return of the children under MCL 712B.13(3) of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA). The court denied Williams’s withdrawal request, reasoning that MCL 712B.13(3) did not apply because Williams had not voluntarily consented to placement for purposes of adoption under MCL 712B.13(3) but instead had released his parental rights to the minor children to DHHS under MCL 710.28. The foster parents appealed the circuit court order denying their adoption petition, and Williams appealed the order denying his motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and for return of the children. The Court of Appeals consolidated the cases, and in a per curiam opinion, vacated the circuit court’s order denying the adoption and remanded for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Williams’s motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and to have his children returned to his custody. Williams believed the plain language of MCL 712B.13(3) entitled him to withdraw his consent because the trial court had not yet entered a final order of adoption for his children. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "In re Williams" on Justia Law

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In a proceeding to terminate parental rights that is governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA), qualified expert witness testimony is required to support the determination that continued custody of the child by the parent is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. The district court terminated the parental rights of Mother and Father, concluding that ICWA and MIFPA applied to the proceedings and that the laws’ requirements had been satisfied. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in failing expressly to find under ICWA and MIFPA that continued custody of the child by the parent was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. On appeal, the district court stated as much in a one-sentence addendum to its findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s termination decision. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that the district court erred in terminating Father’s parental rights because the qualified expert witness’s testimony did not support the court’s determination that continued custody of the children by Father would likely result in serious damage to the children. View "In re Welfare of Children of S.R.K. & O.A.K." 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 Tribe filed suit alleging that the Corps violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in issuing permit and exemption determinations to a real property owner. The permits and exemptions allowed the owner to construct a road by dredging and filling portions of Enemy Swim Lake. With one exception, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Tribe's claims. The court held that the 2010 letter issued by the Corp did not constitute a final agency action for purposes of the permit and exemption determinations, and that the Tribe's recapture claim was a nonjusticiable enforcement action; the Tribe was not eligible for equitable tolling in this case; the Corps did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by determining that the owner's 2009 project qualified for a nationwide permit; and the court did not have appellate jurisdiction to address the lawfulness of the Corps's NHPA regulations. View "Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation v. U.S. Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows a federally-recognized Indian tribe to conduct gaming on lands held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the tribe’s benefit, 25 U.S.C. 2710(b)(1), 2703(4)(B) if the lands had been taken into trust as of the Act’s effective date of October 17, 1988. The Act permits gaming on lands that are taken into trust after that date “as part of . . . the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition” to ensure “that tribes lacking reservations when [the Act] was enacted are not disadvantaged relative to more established ones.” In 1992, the Mechoopda Tribe regained its federal recognition; 12 years later, the Tribe asked the Secretary to take into trust a 645-acre Chico, California parcel, so that the Tribe could operate a casino, arguing that the parcel qualified as “restored lands.” The Secretary agreed. Butte County, where the parcel is located, sued. The district court and D.C. Circuit upheld the Secretary’s decision, rejecting an argument that the Secretary erred by reopening the administrative record on remand. The court noted the Secretary’s findings concerning the Tribe’s historical connection to the land and whether current Tribe members were descendants of the historical Tribe and concluded that the Secretary’s substantive decision survives arbitrary-and-capricious review. View "Butte County, California v. Chaudhuri" on Justia Law

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Harold Olson appealed a district court order affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation's ("Department") revocation of his driving privileges for two years, following an arrest for driving under the influence. The revocation of driving privileges for refusal to submit to chemical testing requires a valid arrest; in the absence of authority from Congress, the State lacks criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-member Indians on tribal land. Whether an officer has jurisdiction to arrest depends on the law of the place where the arrest is made. Olson argued the deputy lacked the authority to arrest him on tribal land and that a valid arrest was a prerequisite to revocation of his driving privileges. Absent a valid arrest, Olson argued the revocation order was not in accordance with the law. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the deputy lacked authority to arrest Olson, a non-member Indian, on Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation tribal land. The Court therefore reversed the district court's order affirming the Department's revocation of Olson's driving privileges and reinstated Olson's driving privileges. View "Olson v. N.D. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Harold Olson appealed a district court order affirming the North Dakota Department of Transportation's ("Department") revocation of his driving privileges for two years, following an arrest for driving under the influence. The revocation of driving privileges for refusal to submit to chemical testing requires a valid arrest; in the absence of authority from Congress, the State lacks criminal jurisdiction over crimes committed by non-member Indians on tribal land. Whether an officer has jurisdiction to arrest depends on the law of the place where the arrest is made. Olson argued the deputy lacked the authority to arrest him on tribal land and that a valid arrest was a prerequisite to revocation of his driving privileges. Absent a valid arrest, Olson argued the revocation order was not in accordance with the law. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the deputy lacked authority to arrest Olson, a non-member Indian, on Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation tribal land. The Court therefore reversed the district court's order affirming the Department's revocation of Olson's driving privileges and reinstated Olson's driving privileges. View "Olson v. N.D. Dep't of Transportation" on Justia Law

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Patchak filed suit challenging the authority of the Secretary of the Interior to invoke the Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. 5108, and take into trust the Bradley Property, on which the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians wished to build a casino. In an earlier decision, the Supreme Court held that the Secretary lacked sovereign immunity and that Patchak had standing. While the suit was on remand, Congress enacted the Gun Lake Act, 128 Stat. 1913, which “reaffirmed as trust land” the Bradley Property, and provided that “an action . . . relating to [that] land shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court and shall be promptly dismissed.” The D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Patchak’s suit. Section 2(b) of the Gun Lake Act does not violate Article III of the Constitution. While Congress may not exercise the judicial power, it may make laws that apply retroactively to pending lawsuits, even when it effectively ensures that one side will win. Congress violates Article III when it “compel[s] . . . findings or results under old law,” but not when it “changes the law.” By stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over actions “relating to” the Bradley Property, section 2(b) changed the law and is a jurisdiction-stripping statute. When Congress strips federal courts of jurisdiction, it exercises a valid legislative power. View "Patchak v Zinke" on Justia Law