Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals
United States v. Morrison
A jury convicted defendant of conspiracy, (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d)), and being a felon in possession of a firearm, (18 U.S.C. 922(g)). The district court upheld the firearm conviction, but vacated the RICO conviction and dismissed the conspiracy count from his indictment. The court stated that the attempt to prosecute conspiracy to violate the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act, 18 U.S.C. 2341, failed for unconstitutional vagueness in New York Tax Law, 471, which delineated the parameters of a CCTA violation. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that a prior decision to certify questions regarding Section 471 to the state’s highest court did not indicate that that statute was unconstitutionally vague. The court rejected a claim that the CCTA was inapplicable to defendant given New York’s “forbearance policy,” under which the state refrained from collecting taxes on cigarette sales transacted on Native American reservations. The forbearance policy did not signal a choice not to enforce tax laws when enforcement would be possible, but represented a concession to the difficulty of state enforcement, complex jurisdictional issues surrounding reservation-based cigarette sales, and the politically combustible nature of bootlegging prosecutions. Congress enacted the CCTA to provide federal support to states struggling with those circumstances. View "United States v. Morrison" on Justia Law
State of New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation
In 2003, the Shinnecock Indian Nation entered began construction of a 61,000-square-foot casino on 80 acres in Southampton, New York. The Tribe did not obtain permits from the state or the town, but began bulldozing trees and brush. The state sued in state court, alleging that the planned casino violates state law, and is outside the scope of the IGRA (a federal act authorizing tribal gaming under certain conditions) because the Tribe is not federally recognized and the site is not “Indian lands” and that construction would violate state environmental laws. The Shinnecock removed the case to federal court on the basis that the complaint pleaded issues of federal law. The State moved to remand the action to state court, arguing that its complaint is based entirely on violations of New York state law, that removal was based on the complaint’s anticipation of defenses, and that the its reference to the IGRA asserts only that the IGRA does not apply. The district court denied remand, conducted a bench trial, and granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the Shinnecock from building a casino without complying with state and local law. The Second Circuit vacated, holding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "State of New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation" on Justia Law
Oneida Indian Nation v. Madison County
These consolidated appeals, which have been returned to the court on remand from the United States Supreme Court, once again called upon the court to consider whether - and, if so, on what grounds - the Oneida Indian Nation of New York (OIN) was entitled to restrain the Counties from foreclosing upon certain fee-title properties, acquired on the open market by the OIN in the 1990's, for which the OIN had refused to pay property tax. The court held that the OIN had abandoned its claims premised on tribal sovereign immunity from suit as well as its claims based upon the Nonintercourse Act, 25 U.S.C. 177. The court also held that the district court erred in ruling that the Counties' redemption-notice procedures failed to comport with due process. The court further held that the district court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the OIN's state-law claims. The court finally affirmed as to several ancillary matters. View "Oneida Indian Nation v. Madison County" on Justia Law
Red Earth LLC v. United States, et al.
The government appealed from an order of the district court granting a preliminary injunction to stay enforcement of provisions of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), Pub. L. No. 111-154, section 2(a), 124 Stat. 1087, 1088, requiring mail-order cigarette sellers to pay state excise taxes. The government argued that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the PACT Act's provision requiring out-of-state tobacco sellers to pay state excise taxes, regardless of their contact with that state, violated the Due Process Clause. The court held that because the district court's entry of the preliminary injunction was not an abuse of discretion, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Red Earth LLC v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
Oneida Nation of New York v. Andrew Cuomo; Seneca Nation of Indians, et al v. Andrew Cuomo
The Seneca Nation of Indians ("Seneca Nation"), Unkechauge Indian Nation ("Unkechauge Nation"), St. Regis Mohawk Tribe ("Mohawk Tribe"), Cayuga Indian Nation of New York ("Cayuga Nation"), and Oneida Nation of New York ("Oneida Nation") (collectively, "plaintiffs") sought to enjoin amendments to New York's tax law which were designed to tax on-reservation cigarette sales to non-member purchasers. At issue was whether New York's amended tax law interfered with plaintiffs' tribal sovereignty and violated their immunity from state taxation. The court held that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the precollection scheme impermissibly imposed a direct tax on tribal retailers, or alternatively, imposed an undue and unnecessary economic burden on tribal retailers; and that the coupon and prior approval systems interfered with their rights of self-government and rights to purchase cigarettes free from state taxation. Accordingly, the district court abused its discretion in granting the Oneida Nation's motion for preliminary injunction and correctly rejected the Seneca Nation's, Cayuga Nation's, Unkechauge Nation's, and Mohawk Tribe's motions for preliminary injunctions.