Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Oneida Indian Nation of New York's motion for judgment on the pleadings for its claims asserting a tribal right to possession of land under the Indian Commerce Clause (ICC), federal treaties and statutes, and federal common law. This action arose from a disputed tract of 19.6 acres of land in the Town of Vernon in Oneida County, New York, over which both the Nation and defendant assert ownership.The court granted the district court's decision and order granting the Nation's motion to dismiss defendant's counterclaim. The court held that: (1) the district court correctly granted the Nation's motion for judgment on the pleadings because title was not properly transferred to defendant, and defendant's defenses do not raise any issues of material fact that would preclude the requested declaratory and injunctive relief sought by the Nation; and (2) the district court did not err by declining to apply an immovable property exception to tribal sovereign immunity in dismissing defendant's counterclaim. View "Oneida Indian Nation v. Phillips" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the district court's permanent injunction enjoining the County from foreclosing on the Cayuga Indian Nation's real property for nonpayment of taxes. The court agreed with the district court that tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars the County from pursuing tax enforcement actions under Article 11 of the New York Real Property Tax Law against the Cayuga Indian Nation. The court explained that the County's foreclosure proceedings are not permitted by the traditional common law exception to sovereign immunity that covers certain actions related to immovable property. In this case, the foreclosure actions fall outside the purview of the common law version of the immovable-property exception. The court also rejected the County's reading of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), as abrogating a tribe's immunity from suit. View "Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County" on Justia Law

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Neither the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua nor the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca Nation create an individualized exemption from federal income taxes for income "derived from" Seneca land. In this case, petitioners filed suit in tax court seeking a redetermination of their 2008 and 2009 joint individual tax returns, in which they sought an exemption for income derived from their gravel operation, contending that their gravel sales during 2008 and 2009 were exempt from federal income taxes pursuant to the two treaties.The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's determination that neither treaty created an exemption and rejected petitioners' argument suggesting otherwise because petitioners' view is premised upon the erroneous presumption that an exemption from federal taxes for income derived from land held in trust for American Indians extends to land that remains in the possession of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The court also noted that, to the extent the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca creates an exemption from taxes on Seneca land, that exemption does not cover income derived from Seneca land by individual enrolled members of the Seneca Nation. View "Perkins v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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King Mountain appealed the district court's judgment granting partial summary judgment for the State on its claims that King Mountain violated state laws on cigarette sales, and enjoining future violations. The State cross-appealed from the district court's dismissal of its claims under the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) and the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act).The Second Circuit reversed with respect to the district court's grant of summary judgment for King Mountain and the denial of summary judgment for the State on the PACT Act claim. The court agreed with the State that Congress's decision to separately define "Indian country" and "State" in the PACT Act evidenced Congressional intent to expand the traditional understanding of "interstate commerce" rather than narrow it. The court held that the definition of "commerce between a State and any place outside the State," encompassed King Mountain's sales from the Yakama reservation in Washington State to Indian reservations in New York. The court agreed with the district court's holding that King Mountain, which was organized under the laws of the Yakama Nation, wholly owned by a member of the Yakama Nation, and located on the Yakama reservation, qualified as an "Indian in Indian Country," and thus was exempt from the CCTA.The court held that King Mountain failed to establish a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause; there was no error in the district court's determination that the State's third claim for relief was not barred by res judicata; the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the State on its third claim for relief; and, to the extent King Mountain's argument related to trade, there was no right to trade in the Yakama Treaty. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "New York v. Mountain Tobacco Co." on Justia Law