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The Upper Skagit filed a Request for Determination as to the geographic scope of the Suquamish's usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations (U&A) as determined by Judge Boldt in 1975. The Upper Skagit sought a determination that the Suquamish's U&A determinations did not include Chuckanut Bay, Samish Bay, and a portion of Padilla Bay where the Upper Skagit has its own court-approved U&A determinations (the Contested Waters). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that Judge Boldt did not intend to include the Contested Waters in the Suquamish's U&A determinations. The panel followed the two-step Muckleshoot analytical framework to interpret Judge Boldt's U&A findings, holding that Judge Boldt intended something different from the plain text of his findings and that the Upper Skagit showed that there was no evidence before Judge Boldt that the Suquamish fished or traveled through certain contested areas. View "Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Suquamish Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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In cases consolidated for review, the issue presented for the Tenth Circuit centered on whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) acted beyond its statutory authority when it promulgated a regulation, 43 C.F.R. sec. 3162.3-3 (2015), governing hydraulic fracturing (fracking) on lands owned or held in trust by the United States. The district court invalidated this regulation as exceeding the BLM’s statutory authority. While these appeals were pending, a new President of the United States was elected, and shortly thereafter, at the President’s direction, the BLM began the process of rescinding the Fracking Regulation. Given these changed and changing circumstances, the Tenth Circuit concluded these appeals were unripe for review. As a result, the Court dismissed these appeals and remanded with directions to vacate the district court’s opinion and dismiss the action without prejudice. View "Wyoming v. Zinke" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the water court’s denial of Scott Ranch LLC’s petition for adjudication of existing water rights appurtenant to Indian allotment lands it acquired that were previously held in trust by the United States for the benefit of a member of the Apsaalooke (Crow) Tribe. After that member died and the lands were converted to fee status, Scott Ranch filed its petition. In denying the petition, the water court ruled that the lands were part of the Tribal Water Right established by the Crow Water Rights Compact and did not require a separate adjudication. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the water court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate Scott Ranch’s claims and erroneously proceeded to address the merits of the petition. View "Scott Ranch, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case presented a question of whether a large-scale excavation project constituted “mining” under the pertinent federal regulations that address mineral development on Indian land. When an entity engages in “mining” of minerals owned by the Osage Nation, a federally approved lease must be obtained from the tribe. The Osage Mineral Council (OMC), acting on behalf of the Osage Nation, appealed the award of summary judgment to Defendant Osage Wind, LLC (Osage Wind), arguing that Osage Wind engaged in “mining” without procuring a federally approved mineral lease. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has defined “mining” as the “science, technique, and business of mineral development[.]” The Tenth Circuit held the term “mineral development” had a broad meaning, including commercial mineral extractions and offsite relocations, but also encompass action upon the extracted minerals for the purpose of exploiting the minerals themselves on site. The Court held Osage Wind’s extraction, sorting, crushing, and use of minerals as part of its excavation work constituted “mineral development,” thereby requiring a federally approved lease which Osage Wind failed to obtain. Accordingly, the Court reversed the award of summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Osage Wind" on Justia Law

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Defendant Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (the Tribe) appealed a judgment after trial in favor of plaintiff Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. (Sharp Image), in plaintiff’s breach of contract action stemming from a deal to develop a casino on the Tribe’s land. On appeal, the Tribe argued: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Sharp Image’s action in state court was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA); (2) the trial court erred in failing to defer to the National Indian Gaming Commission’s (NIGC) determination that the disputed Equipment Lease Agreement (ELA) and a promissory note (the Note) were management contracts requiring the NIGC’s approval; (3) Sharp Image’s claims were barred by the Tribe’s sovereign immunity; (4) the trial court erred in denying the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment; (5) the jury’s finding that the ELA was an enforceable contract was inconsistent with its finding that the ELA left essential terms for future determination; and (6) substantial evidence does not support the jury’s verdict on the Note. After the parties completed briefing in this case, the United States was granted permission to submit an amicus curiae brief in partial support of the Tribe on the questions of preemption and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal concluded IGRA preempted state contract actions based on unapproved “management contracts” and “collateral agreements to management contracts” as such agreements are defined in the IGRA regulatory scheme. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to determine whether the ELA and the Note were agreements subject to IGRA regulation, a necessary determination related to the question of preemption and the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the ELA was a management contract and the Note was a collateral agreement to a management contract subject to IGRA regulation. Because these agreements were never approved by the NIGC Chairman as required by the IGRA and were thus void, Sharp Image’s action was preempted by IGRA. Consequently, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. View "Sharp Image Gaming v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" on Justia Law

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Under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), 25 U.S.C. 4101–4243, tribes receive direct funding to provide affordable housing to their members. Grants are based on factors including “[t]he number of low-income housing dwelling units . . . owned or operated” by the tribes on NAHASDA’s effective date. Grantees are limited in how and when they may dispense the funds. The Tribes received NAHASDA block grants. In 2001, a HUD Inspector General report concluded that HUD had improperly allocated their funds because the formula applied by HUD had included housing that did not qualify. HUD provided the Tribes with the opportunity to dispute HUD’s findings, then eliminated the ineligible units from the data and deducted the amount overfunded from subsequent allocations. The Tribes brought suit under the Tucker Act and Indian Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1) and 1505. The Claims Court held that NAHASDA is money mandating, but that the failure to give a hearing alone did not support an illegal exaction claim. Because the finding that NAHASDA is money-mandating was dispositive concerning jurisdiction, the government filed an interlocutory appeal. The Federal Circuit vacated and ordered dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The underlying claim is not for presently due money damages but is for larger strings-attached NAHASDA grants—including subsequent supervision and adjustment—and, therefore, for equitable relief. NAHASDA does not authorize a free and clear transfer of money. View "Lummi Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

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The superior court dismissed a complaint by Douglas Indian Association against Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and two Central Council officials on tribal sovereign immunity grounds. Douglas argued the superior court’s action was premature because sovereign immunity was an affirmative defense that should be resolved following discovery. The Alaska Supreme Court found federal courts recognizing tribal sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional bar that may be asserted at any time, and the Alaska Court agreed with this basic principle. "Immunity is a core aspect of tribal sovereignty that deprives our courts of jurisdiction when properly asserted." The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s order dismissing the complaint. View "Douglas Indian Association v. Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court denying Birth Father’s motion to intervene in this contested adoption. Both Birth Father and Birth Mother were members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and their Child was an Indian child. Birth Mother executed a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights and consent to adoption and represented that her brother-in-law was the Child’s biological father. No Indian tribe received notice of the proceedings. The district court terminated Birth Mother’s parental rights and determined that the biological father was not a “parent” under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Birth Father later filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings in order to establish paternity. The court denied Birth Father’s motion to intervene on the basis that he was not a parent under either the ICWA or Utah’s adoption statutes. A majority of the court held that Birth Father was a “parent” under the ICWA and, as such, was entitled to participate in the proceedings below on remand. View "In re Adoption of B.B." on Justia Law

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The Quinault Indian Nation filed suit against defendants for engaging in a scheme to defraud the Nation of taxes. After the Nation asked the district court to dismiss the action, Edwards' Estate sought to keep the litigation alive in order to litigate counterclaims against the Nation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the counterclaims as barred by the Nation's sovereign immunity. The panel explained that if Edward's Estate had brought its claims in a separate suit against the Nation, the suit could not proceed. In this case, the counterclaims did not change the sovereign-immunity analysis. The Nation did not waive tribal sovereign immunity where filing suit did not result in wholesale waiver; the nation has not waived immunity to individual counterclaims; and the estate has not asserted a counterclaim for recoupment. The panel also held that the district court properly denied the Estate's motion for leave to amend. View "Quinault Indian Nation v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The contract at issue in this appeal was an Independent Contractor Agreement (the Contract) between the Ute Indian Tribe and Lynn Becker, a former manager in the Tribe’s Energy and Minerals Department. Becker claimed the Tribe breached the Contract by failing to pay him 2% of net revenue distributed to Ute Energy Holdings, LLC from Ute Energy, LLC. After Becker filed suit in Utah state court, the Tribe filed this suit against him and Judge Barry Lawrence, the state judge presiding over Becker’s suit, seeking declarations that: (1) the state court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute; (2) the Contract was void under federal and tribal law; and (3) there was no valid waiver of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity for the claims asserted in state court. The Tribe also sought a preliminary injunction ordering defendants to refrain from further action in the state court proceedings. The federal district court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Tribe’s challenge to the jurisdiction of the state court. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The Court held that the Tribe’s claim that federal law precluded state-court jurisdiction over a claim against Indians arising on the reservation presented a federal question that sustained federal jurisdiction. View "Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah v. Lawrence" on Justia Law