Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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Suits over oil and gas leases on allotted trust lands are governed by federal law, not tribal law, and the tribal court lacks jurisdiction over the nonmember oil and gas companies. This appeal involved a dispute over the practice of flaring natural gas from oil wells, and at issue was the scope of Native American tribal court authority over nonmembers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the tribal court plaintiffs and tribal court judicial officials and held that the district court correctly rejected the tribal court officials' argument that this suit was barred by tribal sovereign immunity. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction because the oil and gas companies are likely to prevail on the merits. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that the oil and gas companies exhausted their tribal court remedies by moving to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and appealing the issue to the MHA Nation Supreme Court; the district court correctly concluded that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction over the oil and gas companies; and the balance of the remaining preliminary injunction factors, along with the oil and gas companies' strong likelihood of success on the merits, showed that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting the preliminary injunction. View "Kodiak Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. v. Burr" on Justia Law

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Six Native American plaintiffs filed suit challenging portions of North Dakota's election statutes, requiring a voter to present a specific form of identification at the polls before receiving a ballot. The district court enjoined the Secretary from enforcing certain statutory requirements statewide. The Eighth Circuit held that at least one of the plaintiffs had standing to raise a facial challenge to the statute. On the merits, the court held that plaintiffs' facial challenge to the residential street address requirement likely fails, and that the statewide injunction as to that provision cannot be justified as a form of as-applied relief; the statute's requirement to present an enumerated form of identification does not impose a burden on voters that justifies a statewide injunction to accept additional forms of identification; and the record is insufficient to justify enjoining the Secretary from enforcing the supplemental documents provision statewide. Accordingly, the court vacated the preliminary injunction and remanded for further proceedings. View "Brakebill v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of her minor children and mother, filed suit against the Commissioner, the County, two tribal courts, and related tribal judges, contesting the tribal court's jurisdiction over the children's child custody proceedings. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that there was no conflict between the Indian Child Welfare Manual's requirement that local social service agencies refer child custody proceedings involving Indian children to tribal social service agencies for proceedings in tribal court, and the Indian Child Welfare Act's recognition of exclusive or presumptive tribal jurisdiction for child custody proceedings involving Indian children. Section 1911(b) of the Act addresses the transfer of proceedings from state court to tribal court and, in this case, there were no state court proceedings. Furthermore, the tribal court's jurisdiction over the children was consistent with Public Law 280. Finally, the court held that plaintiffs have presented no evidence of a due process violation. View "Watso v. Lourey" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging procedures used in proceedings brought by the State to remove Native American children temporarily from their homes in exigent circumstances. The district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds and granted partial summary judgment for plaintiffs. The district court then entered a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction under principles of federal-state comity articulated in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and later cases. In this case, even setting aside the question of “ongoing” temporary custody proceedings, plaintiffs may not circumvent the abstention doctrine by attempting to accomplish the same type of interference with state proceedings through a claim for prospective relief. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the claims that gave rise to the orders. View "Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Vargo" on Justia Law

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The Tribe filed suit alleging that the Corps violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in issuing permit and exemption determinations to a real property owner. The permits and exemptions allowed the owner to construct a road by dredging and filling portions of Enemy Swim Lake. With one exception, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the Tribe's claims. The court held that the 2010 letter issued by the Corp did not constitute a final agency action for purposes of the permit and exemption determinations, and that the Tribe's recapture claim was a nonjusticiable enforcement action; the Tribe was not eligible for equitable tolling in this case; the Corps did not act arbitrarily and capriciously by determining that the owner's 2009 project qualified for a nationwide permit; and the court did not have appellate jurisdiction to address the lawfulness of the Corps's NHPA regulations. View "Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation v. U.S. Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law