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R.W.D. appealed a juvenile court order terminating his parental rights to his two children, K.S.D. and J.S.D. After a review of the juvenile court record, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded clear and convincing evidence established that the children were deprived, the deprivation was likely to continue, and the children had been in foster care at least 450 of 660 nights. The Court also concluded active efforts to prevent the breakup of this Indian family were made and those efforts have been unsuccessful. However, the Court found nothing in the record to satisfy the Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) requirement of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, including testimony of a qualified expert witness, that continued custody by the parents would likely result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children. Accordingly, though the Court retained jurisdiction over this case, it remanded for testimony from an ICWA qualified expert witness. View "Interest of K.S.D." 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 Elem Indian Colony Pomo Tribe’s “Brown faction” sued the Tribe’s “Garcia Council” over allegedly defamatory statements published in a notification that warned they would be disenrolled if the Tribe’s General Council found them guilty of specified crimes. The trial court ruled the lawsuit was barred by sovereign immunity and dismissed the complaint. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court misapplied the law when it considered whether defendants issued the alleged defamatory statements in the scope of their official capacities and whether allowing the case to proceed in state court would interfere with tribal administration because they sued defendants in their individual, not tribal, capacities. Substantial evidence established that defendants were tribal officials at the time of the alleged defamation and that they were acting within the scope of their tribal authority when they determined that, for the reasons stated in the allegedly defamatory Order of Disenrollment, plaintiffs should be disenrolled from the Tribe pursuant to a validly enacted tribal ordinance. A tribe’s right to define its own membership for tribal purposes has long been recognized as central to its existence as an independent political community. View "Brown v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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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