Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's order dismissing an action brought by the United States and the Walker River Paiute Tribe against the Walker River Irrigation District and others over water rights in the Walker River basin. In 2015, without briefing or argument on the issue, the district court sua sponte dismissed all of the Tribe's and the United States' counterclaims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds. The panel held that the district court had continuing jurisdiction over the counterclaims and that it erred in dismissing the claims on res judicata or jurisdictional grounds without giving the parties an opportunity to brief the issue. On remand, the panel ordered the reassignment of this case to another district judge. View "United States v. Walker River Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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After the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe of the Enterprise Rancheria asked the BIA to take a parcel of land into trust for them so that they could build a casino and hotel complex, the BIA agreed to the acquisition. Several entities, including the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community and various citizens' groups and individuals filed suit seeking to enjoin the trust acquisition. On appeal, Citizens and Colusa raised numerous statutory, regulatory, and procedural challenges to the trust acquisition. The Ninth Circuit held, among other things, that Interior had the statutory authority under the Indian Reorganization Act to take land into trust for Enterprise; the Secretary properly considered Enterprise's "need" for the land; Interior's incorrect legal description of the parcel in the Federal Register was a trivial error; the panel rejected challenges based on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act; and the panel rejected challenges to the National Environmental Policy Act. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Enterprise. View "Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community v. Zinke" 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 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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A tribe qualifies to have land taken into trust for its benefit under 25 U.S.C. 5108 of the Indian Reorganization Act if it (1) was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of June 18, 1934, and (2) is "recognized" at the time the decision is made to take land into trust. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Interior and the Ione Band of Miwok Indians in a case involving a dispute over a proposed casino in the County. The panel held that the Interior's reading of the ambiguous phrase "under Federal jurisdiction" was the best interpretation and the Interior did not err in adopting that interpretation for purposes of deciding whether the Ione Band was "under Federal jurisdiction" as of 1934. Finally, the Interior did not err in allowing the Band to conduct gaming operations on the Plymouth Parcels under the "restored tribe" exception of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2719(a). View "County of Amador v. USDOI" on Justia Law

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The Upper Skagit filed a Request for Determination as to the geographic scope of the Suquamish's usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations (U&A) as determined by Judge Boldt in 1975. The Upper Skagit sought a determination that the Suquamish's U&A determinations did not include Chuckanut Bay, Samish Bay, and a portion of Padilla Bay where the Upper Skagit has its own court-approved U&A determinations (the Contested Waters). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that Judge Boldt did not intend to include the Contested Waters in the Suquamish's U&A determinations. The panel followed the two-step Muckleshoot analytical framework to interpret Judge Boldt's U&A findings, holding that Judge Boldt intended something different from the plain text of his findings and that the Upper Skagit showed that there was no evidence before Judge Boldt that the Suquamish fished or traveled through certain contested areas. View "Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Suquamish Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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The Quinault Indian Nation filed suit against defendants for engaging in a scheme to defraud the Nation of taxes. After the Nation asked the district court to dismiss the action, Edwards' Estate sought to keep the litigation alive in order to litigate counterclaims against the Nation. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the counterclaims as barred by the Nation's sovereign immunity. The panel explained that if Edward's Estate had brought its claims in a separate suit against the Nation, the suit could not proceed. In this case, the counterclaims did not change the sovereign-immunity analysis. The Nation did not waive tribal sovereign immunity where filing suit did not result in wholesale waiver; the nation has not waived immunity to individual counterclaims; and the estate has not asserted a counterclaim for recoupment. The panel also held that the district court properly denied the Estate's motion for leave to amend. View "Quinault Indian Nation v. Pearson" on Justia Law

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The Tribe filed suit seeking a declaration that it has the right to investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law, detain, and transport or deliver a non-Indian violator encountered on the reservation to the proper authorities. The Ninth Circuit held that the first amended complaint raised a federal question that provided federal courts with subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331; the Tribe has presented a prudentially ripe case or controversy and the case is constitutionally ripe as well; and the district court's conclusion that the Tribe's response letter mooted all controversies between the parties was erroneous. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of relators' qui tam action alleging that the College violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by knowingly providing false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies. The panel held that the Tribe is not a "person" under the FCA. The panel remanded for further jurisdictional factfinding on whether the College was an arm of the Tribe that shares the Tribe's status for purposes of the FCA. View "United States ex rel Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc." on Justia Law