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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Department in an action challenging the Department's decision to take a tract of land into trust for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and authorized it to operate a casino there. The court held that the North Fork was an Indian tribe for which the Department had authority to acquire trust land under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA). The court rejected plaintiffs' claims that the Department's trust decision violated the IRA, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The court viewed the same extensive record and afforded the appropriate measure of deference to the Department's supportable judgments and concluded that its decisions were reasonable and consistent with applicable law. View "Stand Up For California! v. DOI" on Justia Law

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An Indian child in the custody of the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The child’s psychiatrist recommended treating him with an antidepressant, with the addition of a mood stabilizer if it later became necessary. When the mother rejected the recommendation, OCS asked the superior court for authority to consent to the medications over the mother’s objection. The court granted OCS’s request. The mother appealed, arguing that the superior court failed to apply the correct standard for determining whether her fundamental constitutional rights as a parent could be overridden. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed with her in part, holding that the constitutional framework laid out in Myers v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute, 138 P.3d 238 (Alaska 2006), applied to a court’s decision whether to authorize medication of a child in OCS custody over the parent’s objection. The Supreme Court concluded that the superior court’s findings in this case regarding the antidepressant satisfied the “Myers” standard but that its findings regarding the optional mood stabilizer did not. The Court therefore affirmed in part and reversed in part the superior court’s order authorizing OCS to consent to the recommended medications. View "Kiva O. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Svcs." on Justia Law

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In a previous appeal, the court concluded that the minors’ mother revoked maternal uncle Rafael’s Indian custodian status under the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901, shortly after the children were detained. The court determined that compelling evidence supported the refusal to place the minors with Rafael as an extended family member—an ICWA "preferred placement"—given their special needs and Rafael’s cognitive deficits. The court rejected Rafael’s challenge to permanent plan orders continuing long-term foster care, concluding that Rafael was no longer a party to the dependency proceedings. While those appeals were pending, Rafael filed a new action, attacking a permanent plan order continuing the minors in foster care. Rafael argued that active efforts have not been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, specifically with regards to visitation; and that foster care was neither necessary nor appropriate, as he is willing and able to take custody. The court of appeal dismissed, finding that Rafael lacked standing. The minors have been in permanent plans for several years, so services should be tailored to support their compelling need for stability and permanency. Rafael can continue to appear in juvenile court and request visitation as an interested relative and the Tribe remains involved, arguing for increased contact among the minors, Rafael, and the grandmother. Rafael only lacks standing to challenge the minors’ permanent plans. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law

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T.C. appealed the juvenile court's dispositional order placing her minor daughter, A.F., in the care of her paternal grandmother, Donna F. T.C. contended the court erred by failing to comply with the placement preferences required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) and argued the juvenile court should have continued A.F.'s placement with T.C.'s maternal cousin. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Agency that the juvenile court's dispositional order complied with the applicable placement preferences and affirm the order. View "In re A.F." on Justia Law

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In 2015, Wichita and affiliated tribes made plans to build a History Center on a plot of land held by the federal government in trust for the Wichita Tribe, Delaware Nation, and Caddo Nation jointly. One of those neighbors, the Caddo Nation, claimed the land may contain remains of ancestral relatives. Before the Wichita Tribe began construction, Caddo Nation sued the Wichita Tribe for allegedly violating the procedures required by the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) throughout the planning process. Caddo Nation sought an emergency temporary restraining order preventing Wichita Tribe from continuing construction until it complied with those procedures. When the district court denied that request, Caddo Nation appealed to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals without seeking further preliminary relief. In the intervening year while the case was on appeal with the Tenth Circuit, Wichita Tribe completed construction of the History Center. The Tenth Circuit concluded it had no jurisdiction over this appeal because the relief Caddo Nation requested from the district court was moot. View "Caddo Nation of Oklahoma v. Wichita & Affiliated Tribes" on Justia Law

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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