Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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In late August 2020, Yazzie initiated an action challenging Arizona's Receipt Deadline pursuant to Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, and the Arizona Constitution's election clause. The complaint alleges that Navajo Nation reservation residents face myriad challenges to voting by mail where many on-reservation members do not have home mail service. Rather, to receive or send mail, they must travel to a post office. Furthermore, socioeconomic factors, educational disadvantages, and language barriers make both the travel to the post office—which requires access to a car—and the completion of mail ballots difficult. Yazzie also claims that these mail ballots take disproportionately longer to reach the county recorder's office because of the slower mail service on the reservation. In late September 2020, the district court denied Yazzie's motion for preliminary injunction based on its finding that Yazzie did not demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits or raise serious questions going to the merits of Yazzie's VRA claim.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Yazzie's request for a preliminary injunction. The panel did not address the district court's analysis of the VRA claim because it concluded that Yazzie and the other plaintiffs lack standing. The panel stated that not only does Yazzie fail to make a clear showing of a concrete and particularized injury, noticeably absent in the record is any particularized allegation with respect to any of the six individual plaintiffs. The panel also stated that, importantly, this case is not a putative class action filed on behalf of the Navajo Nation members who reside on the reservation. In this case, Yazzie failed to establish injury-in-fact for at least one of the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The panel concluded that also missing is a clear showing that the alleged injury is redressable by a favorable decision by this court. View "Yazzie v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal for lack of standing of a tribal health organization's action seeking declaratory relief regarding alleged violations of a federal law concerning the provision of health services to Alaska Natives. The panel held that SCF alleges an injury in fact sufficient to confer Article III standing in two distinct ways: first, that ANTHC infringed SCF's governance and participation rights under Section 325 of the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1998 by delegating the full authority of the fifteen-member Board to the five-person Executive Committee; and second, that ANTHC erected informational barriers in the Code of Conduct and Disclosure Policy that deprived SCF of its ability to exercise effectively its governance and participation rights. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Southcentral Foundation v. Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal for failure to join a required party in an action challenging the Jamul Indian Village's efforts to build a casino. The panel held that the distinction JAC urges between historic tribes and other tribal entities organized under the Indian Reorganization Act is without basis in federal law. The panel held that Jamul Indian Village is a federally recognized Indian tribe with the same privileges and immunities, including tribal sovereign immunity, that other federally recognized Indian tribes possess. Therefore, the Village's tribal sovereign immunity extends to its officers in this case. Because the Village is protected by tribal sovereign immunity, the panel agreed with the district court that the Village cannot be joined in this action and that the action cannot proceed in equity and good conscience without it. View "Jamul Action Committee v. Simermeyer" on Justia Law

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Nanouk uses her 160-acre Alaska Native allotment for traditional subsistence activities. In the 1980s, Nanouk built a small cabin, which she and her family reached by using a trail that runs from the main road through the U.S. Air Force North River Radio Relay Station, which closed in 1978. In 1981, the General Accounting Office criticized the Air Force’s failure to maintain shuttered sites, including North River, which contained hazardous chemicals. The Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers began remediation, removing 500 gallons of transformer oil containing PCBs and PCB-contaminated soil. Surveys taken in 1987 and 1989 revealed that 6,700 cubic yards of contaminated soil remained. The Air Force and the Corps released a new plan in 2001; clean-up resumed. The trail that Nanouk used ran through a “hot spot” where PCB-contaminated soil was picked up by her vehicles. Nanouk did not learn about the PCBs on her property until 2003 when she reported a strong chemical odor. The Air Force then undertook extensive environmental remediation at the Station and Nanouk’s allotment. Nanouk sued, alleging trespass and nuisance. She and several family members have experienced serious health problems.The Ninth Circuit vacated the dismissal of her suit. The Federal Tort Claims Act's discretionary exception barred claims predicated on two of the acts she challenged as negligent--the government’s alleged failure to supervise contractors during the Station’s operation, and its abandonment of the property between the 1978 closure and 1990. The government did not establish that the exception barred the claims relating to the failure to identify and remediate the hot spot in a timely manner after 1990. View "Nanouk v. United States" on Justia Law

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During negotiations for a new tribal-state compact between the Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians and California, Pauma sought authorization to offer on-track horse racing and wagering and an expanded set of lottery games. The parties met and corresponded. In 2015, Pauma triggered the 1999 Compact’s dispute resolution process. In January 2016, the state confirmed its agreement to renegotiate the 1999 Compact in full and told Pauma that it “look[ed] forward” to receiving a draft compact from Pauma with Pauma’s “plans for on-track betting.” Rather than propose a draft compact or disclose any information about the on-track facility, Pauma notified the state that it wanted to separately negotiate each item of the compact and proposed modifications to the 1999 Compact’s lottery game language. California rejected Pauma’s piecemeal negotiation approach, rejected Pauma’s lottery game language, and advised that it would send a “complete draft compact to guide our future discussions.” The subsequent 140-page draft addressed a broad array of topics. Pauma never responded but filed suit.The district court held that California satisfied its obligation to negotiate in good faith under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The state agreed to negotiate for the new types of class III gaming that Pauma sought authorization to offer, actively engaged in the negotiations, and remained willing to continue the negotiations when Pauma filed the litigation. View "Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians v. California" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's imposition of a special condition of supervised release prohibiting defendant from residing in the town of Browning, Montana, which is the tribal headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian Nation, or visiting the town without prior approval of his probation officer. Defendant is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and the special condition was imposed after he violated the conditions of his probation through alcohol and drug-related infractions.The panel held that the residency restriction is a legitimate condition of supervised release, because the condition is not an illegal banishment or exclusion. In this case, the condition allows defendant to freely travel or reside in all but one quarter square mile of the 1.5 million acres of reservation land, restricting only his access to Browning itself. Furthermore, defendant is free to visit his family, to participate in tribal life, and to receive tribal services in Browning. The panel also held that the tribe's authority does not preclude the federal government from exercising its own authority over defendant and the government's exercise of authority over defendant does not infringe the inherent sovereignty of the Blackfeet Nation. Finally, the panel held that the residency restriction is substantively reasonable. View "United States v. Many White Horses" on Justia Law

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The State of Washington may exercise criminal jurisdiction over members of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation who commit crimes on reservation land.The panel held that the Yakama Nation had Article III standing to seek a permanent injunction regarding the effect of a Washington State Proclamation retroceding, or giving back, criminal jurisdiction to the United States. Under 25 U.S.C. 1323(a), the Proclamation retroceded, "in part," civil and criminal jurisdiction over the Yakama Nation to the United States, but retained jurisdiction over matters "involving non-Indian defendants and non-Indian victims." Based on the entire context of the Proclamation, the panel concluded that "and" is disjunctive and must be read as "or." Therefore, the panel held that, under the Proclamation, the State retained criminal jurisdiction over cases in which any party is a non-Indian. Therefore, the panel found that the Yakama Nation has not shown actual success on the merits in order to justify a permanent injunction. View "Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Yakima County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff cardrooms, filed suit challenging the Secretary's approval of a Nevada-style casino project on off-reservation land in the County of Madera, California by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, a federally recognized tribe. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Department and Secretary.The Ninth Circuit held that the Tribe's jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel operates as a matter of law and the Tribe clearly exercised governmental power when it entered into agreements with local governments and enacted ordinances concerning the property; because neither the Enclave Clause nor 40 U.S.C. 3112 are implicated here, neither the State's consent nor cession is required for the Tribe to acquire any jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel; and the Indian Reorganization Act does not offend the Tenth Amendment because Congress has plenary authority to regulate Indian affairs. Therefore, the Secretary's actions were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. View "Club One Casino, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's interlocutory orders denying BNSF's motion for summary judgment on the Tribe's claim that BNSF violated a right-of-way and easement agreement limiting train traffic across the Tribe's reservation.The panel affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) does not repeal the Indian Right of Way Act and does not defeat the Tribe's right to enforce conditions in a right-of-way easement agreement issued pursuant to the Right of Way Act; the ICCTA does not abrogate the Treaty of Point Elliott and the Tribe's treaty-based federal common law right to exclude and condition a third-party's presence on, and use of, Reservation lands; and the Tribe has the right to pursue injunctive relief to enforce the terms of the Easement Agreement. The panel remanded for further proceedings. View "Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. BNSF Railway Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a subproceeding brought by the Muckleshoot seeking to expand their usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations (U&As) to certain areas of Puget Sound beyond Elliott Bay.The panel held that the district court did not err in holding that it lacked jurisdiction to entertain this subproceeding. In this case, the district court properly held that Muckleshoot's saltwater U&As in Puget Sound had already been "specifically determined" in their entirety by Judge Boldt in Final Decision #1, and accordingly, there was no continuing jurisdiction under Paragraph 25(a)(6) to entertain the present subproceeding. View "Muckleshoot Indian Tribe v. Tulalip Tribes" on Justia Law