Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
In re Ja.O.
A.C. (Mother) challenged a juvenile court’s dispositional finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 did not apply to the dependency proceedings to her five children. Mother contended that San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry under Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2 (b). After review of the juvenile court record, the Court of Appeal concluded that Mother’s argument lacked merit and therefore affirmed. View "In re Ja.O." on Justia Law
CHICKEN RANCH RANCHERIA, ET AL V. STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL
The Tribes sued the State of California for its failure to comply with IGRA. In an earlier opinion (Chicken Ranch I), the panel ruled for the Tribes, first noting that California Government Code Section 98005 explicitly waived the state’s sovereign immunity from suit. The panel held that California violated IGRA by failing to negotiate in good faith a Class III gaming compact with the Tribes, and it ordered the district court to implement IGRA’s remedial framework. After prevailing, the Tribes sought attorneys’ fees spent litigating the Chicken Ranch I appeal. The Ninth Circuit denied the request for attorneys’ fees. The panel held that because the Tribes prevailed on a federal cause of action, they were entitled to attorneys’ fees only if federal law allowed them. Because it did not, the panel denied the Tribes’ fee request. The panel rejected the Tribes’ argument that there is an exception authorizing attorneys’ fees in federal question cases when the claims implicate “substantial and significant issues of state law.” The panel distinguished Independent Living Center of Southern California, Inc. v. Kent, 909 F.3d 272 (9th Cir. 2018), in which there was no federal cause of action but there was federal question jurisdiction over a state-law claim that fell within a small category cases where a federal issue is necessarily raised, actually disputed, substantial, and capable of resolution in federal court without disturbing the federal-state balance approved by Congress. View "CHICKEN RANCH RANCHERIA, ET AL V. STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ET AL" on Justia Law
Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. DOI
This is an appeal from the district court’s denial of the State of North Dakota’s supplemental motion to intervene in the lawsuit against the Department of the Interior brought by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, recognized as the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation (“Tribes”). The Tribes, joined by the Interior Department, filed oppositions to the State’s continuing as a party. In response, the State moved again to intervene with respect to the remaining Counts. This time the district court denied the State’s intervention motion. The district court explained that “there [was] no longer a live controversy before the Court on that issue.” The court explained: “At various points, the State argues that ‘an M-Opinion does not establish legal title’ and that, as a result, a dispute remains. The DC Circuit reversed. The court explained that the Interior lacks “authority to adjudicate legal title to real property.” The Interior Department conceded as much. The action of the Bureau of Indian Affairs recording title in its records office, therefore, could not “establish legal title,” as the district court supposed. As the Interior stated in its brief, “there has been no final determination of title to the Missouri riverbed.” The action of the Bureau of Indian Affairs recording title in its records office, therefore, could not “establish legal title,” as the district court supposed. Accordingly, the court wrote that there is no doubt that the State satisfied the Rule’s requirement that the intervention motion must be timely. View "Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. DOI" on Justia Law
In re Robert F.
Jessica G. (Mother) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating parental rights to her son, Robert F. Relying on subdivision (b) Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2, Mother argued that the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry, because DPSS did not ask various extended family members whether Robert had any Indian ancestry. The Court of Appeal found DPSS took Robert into protective custody pursuant to a warrant, so DPSS did not take Robert into temporary custody under section 306. Accordingly, DPSS had no obligation to ask Robert’s extended family members about his potential Indian status under section 224.2(b). The Court therefore affirmed the order terminating parental rights. View "In re Robert F." on Justia Law
Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al.
The Pueblo of Jemez filed a quiet title action against the United States relating to lands comprising the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”), which the United States purchased from private landowners in 2000. In an earlier appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s ruling dismissing the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded, finding that an 1860 federal grant of title to private landowners would not extinguish the Jemez Pueblo’s claimed aboriginal title. Upon remand, the Jemez Pueblo could establish that it once and still had aboriginal title to the lands at issue. After a twenty-one-day trial, the district court ruled that the Jemez Pueblo failed to establish ever having aboriginal title to the entire lands of the Valles Caldera, failing to show that it ever used the entire claimed land to the exclusion of other Indian groups. The Jemez Pueblo moved for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). But rather than seek reconsideration of its complaint’s QTA claim to the entire Valles Caldera, the Jemez Pueblo shrunk its QTA claim into claims of title to four discrete subareas within the Valles Caldera: (1) Banco Bonito, (2) the Paramount Shrine Lands, (3) Valle San Antonio, and (4) the Redondo Meadows. The district court declined to reconsider all but Banco Bonito, on grounds that the Jemez Pueblo hadn’t earlier provided the government notice of these claims. Even so, being thorough, the court later considered and rejected those three claims on the merits. Of the issues raised by the Jemez Pueblo on appeal, we primarily address its challenge to the district court’s ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erroneously interpreted "Jemez I" in ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. So in accordance with longstanding Supreme Court precedent, and by the district court’s findings, the Court held the Jemez Pueblo still had aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Court reversed in part the denial of the Jemez Pueblo’s motion for reconsideration, and vacated in part and remanded with instructions to the district court. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Becerra, et al.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Indian Health Service (IHS) entered into a contract under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act for the Tribe to operate a federal healthcare program. Under the contract, the Tribe provided healthcare services to Indians and other eligible beneficiaries. In exchange, the Tribe was entitled to receive reimbursements from IHS for certain categories of expenditures, including “contract support costs.” The contract anticipates that the Tribe will bill third-party insurers such as Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The Tribe contended that overhead costs associated with setting up and administering this third-party billing infrastructure, as well as the administrative costs associated with recirculating the third-party revenue it received, qualified as reimbursable contract support costs under the Self-Determination Act and the Tribe’s agreement with the IHS. But when the Tribe attempted to collect those reimbursements, IHS disagreed and refused to pay. Contending it had been shortchanged, the Tribe sued the government. The district court, agreeing with the government’s reading of the Self-Determination Act and the contract, granted the government’s motion to dismiss. A divided panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to reverse (for different reasons). Under either of the jurists' interpretations, the administrative expenditures associated with collecting and expending revenue obtained from third-party insurers qualified as reimbursable contract support costs. View "Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Becerra, et al." on Justia Law
Lula Williams v. Matt Martorello
In a class-action proceeding related to a lending scheme allegedly designed to circumvent state usury laws, Defendant appealed from three district court rulings that (1) reconsidered prior factual findings based on a new finding that Defendant made misrepresentations that substantially impacted the litigation, (2) found that Plaintiffs—Virginia citizens who took out loans (the “Borrowers”)—did not waive their right to participate in a class-action suit against him, and (3) granted class certification. Defendant argued that the district court violated the mandate rule by making factual findings related to the misrepresentations that contradicted the Fourth Circuit’s holding in the prior appeal and then relying on those factual findings when granting class certification. He also contends that the Borrowers entered into enforceable loan agreements with lending entities in which they waived their right to bring class claims against him. In addition, he asserts that common issues do not predominate so as to permit class treatment in this case. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not violate the mandate rule and that the Borrowers did not waive the right to pursue the resolution of their dispute against him in a class-action proceeding. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting class certification because common issues predominate. View "Lula Williams v. Matt Martorello" on Justia Law
Navajo Nation v. DOI
The Department of the Interior (DOI) provides annual funding for the judicial system of Navajo Nation, an Indian tribe, through a series of self-determination contracts authorized by the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA). After its 2014 annual funding request was “deemed approved,” Navajo Nation filed six separate lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to enforce similar funding requests that it had submitted each year from 2015 through 2020. In evaluating the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted summary judgment to Navajo Nation as to the 2015 and 2016 proposals but granted summary judgment to the DOI as to the rest. Navajo Nation appealed the adverse judgment and contends that both the ISDEAA and its regulations prohibit the DOI from declining its funding requests for 2017 through 2020. The DC Circuit reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the DOI. The court explained that it disagrees with respect to the ISDEAA but agrees with respect to the regulations. The court explained that because there is no “material and substantial change” between the proposed renewal contract—including the proposed 2017 AFA—and the previous contract, the DOI violated 25 C.F.R. Section 900.33 when it considered the section 5321(a)(2) declination criteria and declined to award the funds Navajo Nation requested in 2017. View "Navajo Nation v. DOI" on Justia Law
SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE V. CITY OF SEATTLE, ET AL
The City of Seattle/Seattle City Light1 (“Seattle”) owns and operates the Gorge Dam, which is part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project (“Project”). Seattle operates the Project pursuant to a thirty-year license that was issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) in 1995. The Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (“Tribe”) sued Seattle in Washington state court, alleging that Seattle’s operation of the Gorge Dam without fish passage facilities (“fishways”) violates certain federal and state laws. Seattle removed the case to federal court. The district court denied the Tribe’s motion to remand, finding that it had jurisdiction because the Tribe’s complaint raised substantial federal questions. The district court then granted Seattle’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Federal Power Act (“FPA”) and dismissed the complaint. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the SaukSuiattle Indian Tribe’s motion to remand to state court and the district court’s dismissal. affirmed the district court’s order denying the Tribe’s motion to remand the action to state court. The panel held that the City properly removed the action to federal court under 28 U.S.C. Section 1441(a) because the Tribe’s right to relief depended on resolution of a substantial question of federal law. Applying a four-part test, the panel concluded that the Tribe’s complaint necessarily raised federal issues because it expressly invoked federal laws, and it was uncontested that the federal issues were disputed. The panel also affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the Tribe’s complaint was subject to section 313(b) of the Federal Power Act. View "SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE V. CITY OF SEATTLE, ET AL" on Justia Law
Native Village of Chignik Lagoon v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs.
Two tribes claimed to be a child’s tribe for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA): The Native Village of Wales claimed the child was a tribal member; the Native Village of Chignik Lagoon claims that the child is “eligible for tribal membership.” After the superior court terminated the biological parents’ parental rights, Wales moved to transfer subsequent proceedings, including potential adoption, to its tribal court. Chignik Lagoon intervened in the child in need of aid (CINA) case, arguing that the child was not a member of Wales under Wales’s constitution and that transfer of further proceedings to the Wales tribal court was not authorized under ICWA. The superior court found that the child was a member of Wales and that Wales was the child’s tribe for ICWA purposes, and therefore granted the transfer of jurisdiction. Chignik Lagoon appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s determination that the child was a member of Wales and that Wales was appropriately designated as the child’s tribe for ICWA purposes. The Supreme Court also concluded that, given that ruling, Chignik Lagoon lacked standing to challenge the transfer of proceedings to the Wales tribal court. View "Native Village of Chignik Lagoon v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs." on Justia Law