Articles Posted in Washington Supreme Court

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The issue in this case centered on the interpretation of the "right to travel" provision Article III of the Yakama Nation Treaty of 1855, in the context of importing fuel into Washington State. The Washington State Department of Licensing (Department) challenged Cougar Den Inc.'s importation of fuel without holding an importer's license and without paying state fuel taxes under former chapter 82.36 RCW, repealed by LAWS OF 2013, ch. 225, section 501, and former chapter 82.38 RCW (2007). An administrative law judge ruled in favor of Cougar Den, holding that the right to travel on highways should be interpreted to preempt the tax. The Department's director, Pat Kohler, reversed. On appeal, the Yakima County Superior Court reversed the director's order and ruled in favor of Cougar Den. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cougar Den, Inc. v. Dep't of Licensing" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court’s review was whether the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe's (Tribe) assertion of sovereign immunity requires dismissal of an in rem adverse possession action to quiet title to a disputed strip of land on the boundary of property purchased by the Tribe. The superior court concluded that because it had in rem jurisdiction, it could determine ownership of the land without the Tribe's participation. An inquiry under CR 19, involved a merit-based determination that some interest will be adversely affected in the litigation. Where no interest is found to exist, especially in an in rem proceeding, nonjoinder presents no jurisdictional barriers. The Supreme Court found that the Tribe did not have an interest in the disputed property; therefore, the Tribe's sovereign immunity was no barrier to this in rem proceeding. The trial court properly denied the Tribe's motion to dismiss and granted summary judgment to the property owner. View "Lundgren v. Upper Skagit Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether a certain governmental charge imposed on Indian tribes was a tax. After the legislature amended a statute to expand the types of tribal property that were eligible for a property tax: exemption, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe applied for and received an exemption on its Salish Lodge property pursuant to the amendment. As required by statute, the tribe negotiated and paid an amount to the county in lieu of taxes. The issue before the Washington Supreme Court centered on the constitutionality of this payment in lieu of tax (PILT). The Court found that the PILT was not a tax at all but, rather, a charge that tribes pay to compensate municipalities for public services provided to the exempt property. View "City of Snoqualmie v. King County Exec. Constantine" on Justia Law

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In June 2013, C.B.(mother) married R.B. (stepfather). C.B. and R.B. filed a petition for termination of parental rights as to C.W. (biological father) and adoption later that month of T.A.W., C.B.'s biological child and an "Indian child" under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), and the Washington State Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA). C.W. was non-Indian, but C.B. was, and an enrolled member of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. C.W. had been incarcerated at the time of the termination petition on charges relating to drug abuse and domestic violence. C.W.'s parental rights were ultimately terminated. In reaching its decision, the trial court found that ICWA applied to the termination proceedings and that ICWA's requirements were met beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court did not require C.B. and R.B. to prove that active efforts were undertaken to remedy C.W.'s parental deficiencies prior to terminating his parental rights and made no finding to that effect. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding: (1) ICWA and WICWA protected non-Indian and Indian parents alike; (2) the trial court erred by not making an active efforts finding; (3) the United States Supreme Court's decision in "Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl," (133 S. Ct. 2552 (2013)), was factually distinguishable; and (4) WICWA had no abandonment exception. C.B. and R.B. appealed. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision and remanded this case to the trial court so that it could reconsider the termination petition in light of those holdings. View "In re Adoption of T.A.W." on Justia Law