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Defendant Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (the Tribe) appealed a judgment after trial in favor of plaintiff Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. (Sharp Image), in plaintiff’s breach of contract action stemming from a deal to develop a casino on the Tribe’s land. On appeal, the Tribe argued: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Sharp Image’s action in state court was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA); (2) the trial court erred in failing to defer to the National Indian Gaming Commission’s (NIGC) determination that the disputed Equipment Lease Agreement (ELA) and a promissory note (the Note) were management contracts requiring the NIGC’s approval; (3) Sharp Image’s claims were barred by the Tribe’s sovereign immunity; (4) the trial court erred in denying the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment; (5) the jury’s finding that the ELA was an enforceable contract was inconsistent with its finding that the ELA left essential terms for future determination; and (6) substantial evidence does not support the jury’s verdict on the Note. After the parties completed briefing in this case, the United States was granted permission to submit an amicus curiae brief in partial support of the Tribe on the questions of preemption and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal concluded IGRA preempted state contract actions based on unapproved “management contracts” and “collateral agreements to management contracts” as such agreements are defined in the IGRA regulatory scheme. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to determine whether the ELA and the Note were agreements subject to IGRA regulation, a necessary determination related to the question of preemption and the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the ELA was a management contract and the Note was a collateral agreement to a management contract subject to IGRA regulation. Because these agreements were never approved by the NIGC Chairman as required by the IGRA and were thus void, Sharp Image’s action was preempted by IGRA. Consequently, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. View "Sharp Image Gaming v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" on Justia Law

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Under the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act (NAHASDA), 25 U.S.C. 4101–4243, tribes receive direct funding to provide affordable housing to their members. Grants are based on factors including “[t]he number of low-income housing dwelling units . . . owned or operated” by the tribes on NAHASDA’s effective date. Grantees are limited in how and when they may dispense the funds. The Tribes received NAHASDA block grants. In 2001, a HUD Inspector General report concluded that HUD had improperly allocated their funds because the formula applied by HUD had included housing that did not qualify. HUD provided the Tribes with the opportunity to dispute HUD’s findings, then eliminated the ineligible units from the data and deducted the amount overfunded from subsequent allocations. The Tribes brought suit under the Tucker Act and Indian Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. 1491(a)(1) and 1505. The Claims Court held that NAHASDA is money mandating, but that the failure to give a hearing alone did not support an illegal exaction claim. Because the finding that NAHASDA is money-mandating was dispositive concerning jurisdiction, the government filed an interlocutory appeal. The Federal Circuit vacated and ordered dismissal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.The underlying claim is not for presently due money damages but is for larger strings-attached NAHASDA grants—including subsequent supervision and adjustment—and, therefore, for equitable relief. NAHASDA does not authorize a free and clear transfer of money. View "Lummi Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

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The superior court dismissed a complaint by Douglas Indian Association against Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and two Central Council officials on tribal sovereign immunity grounds. Douglas argued the superior court’s action was premature because sovereign immunity was an affirmative defense that should be resolved following discovery. The Alaska Supreme Court found federal courts recognizing tribal sovereign immunity is a jurisdictional bar that may be asserted at any time, and the Alaska Court agreed with this basic principle. "Immunity is a core aspect of tribal sovereignty that deprives our courts of jurisdiction when properly asserted." The Court therefore affirmed the superior court’s order dismissing the complaint. View "Douglas Indian Association v. Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Tribes of Alaska" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court denying Birth Father’s motion to intervene in this contested adoption. Both Birth Father and Birth Mother were members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and their Child was an Indian child. Birth Mother executed a voluntary relinquishment of parental rights and consent to adoption and represented that her brother-in-law was the Child’s biological father. No Indian tribe received notice of the proceedings. The district court terminated Birth Mother’s parental rights and determined that the biological father was not a “parent” under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Birth Father later filed a motion to intervene in the proceedings in order to establish paternity. The court denied Birth Father’s motion to intervene on the basis that he was not a parent under either the ICWA or Utah’s adoption statutes. A majority of the court held that Birth Father was a “parent” under the ICWA and, as such, was entitled to participate in the proceedings below on remand. View "In re Adoption of B.B." 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 contract at issue in this appeal was an Independent Contractor Agreement (the Contract) between the Ute Indian Tribe and Lynn Becker, a former manager in the Tribe’s Energy and Minerals Department. Becker claimed the Tribe breached the Contract by failing to pay him 2% of net revenue distributed to Ute Energy Holdings, LLC from Ute Energy, LLC. After Becker filed suit in Utah state court, the Tribe filed this suit against him and Judge Barry Lawrence, the state judge presiding over Becker’s suit, seeking declarations that: (1) the state court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over the dispute; (2) the Contract was void under federal and tribal law; and (3) there was no valid waiver of the Tribe’s sovereign immunity for the claims asserted in state court. The Tribe also sought a preliminary injunction ordering defendants to refrain from further action in the state court proceedings. The federal district court held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Tribe’s challenge to the jurisdiction of the state court. The Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court, and reversed and remanded for further proceedings. The Court held that the Tribe’s claim that federal law precluded state-court jurisdiction over a claim against Indians arising on the reservation presented a federal question that sustained federal jurisdiction. View "Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah v. Lawrence" on Justia Law

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The Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation appealed a preliminary injunction ordering it not to proceed with litigation in tribal court against a nonmember former contractor, Lynn Becker. The district court ruled that although the parties’ dispute would ordinarily come within the tribal court’s jurisdiction, their Independent Contractor Agreement (the Contract) waived the Tribe’s right to litigate in that forum. The Tribe argued: (1) the tribal-exhaustion rule, which ordinarily requires a federal court to abstain from determining the jurisdiction of a tribal court until the tribal court has ruled on its own jurisdiction, deprived the district court of jurisdiction to determine the tribal court’s jurisdiction; and (2) even if exhaustion was not required, the preliminary injunction was improper because the Contract did not waive the Tribe’s right to litigate this dispute in tribal court. In addition, the Tribe challenged the district court’s dismissal of its claims under the federal civil-rights act, 42 U.S.C. 1983, seeking to halt state-court litigation between it and Becker. The Tenth Circuit did not agree the tribal-exhaustion rule was jurisdictional, but agreed the district court should have abstained on the issue. Although the Contract contained a waiver of the tribal-exhaustion rule, Becker could not show a likelihood of success based on the validity of the waiver; he failed to adequately counter the Tribe’s contention that the entire Contract, including the waiver, was void because it did not receive federal-government approval, as was required for contracts transferring property held in trust for the Tribe by the federal government. With respect to the Tribe’s claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Tenth Circuit found the Tribe has not stated a claim because it is not a “person” entitled to relief under that statute when it is seeking, as here, to vindicate only a sovereign interest. To resolve the remaining issues raised in this case, the Court adopted its decision in the companion case of Ute Indian Tribe v. Lawrence, No. 16-4154 (August 25, 2017). View "Becker v. Ute Indian Tribe" on Justia Law

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Defendant is a member of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation. Before his arrest and incarceration, he resided on the Isabella Reservation in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan with his wife and his step-daughter, B.J. Defendant repeatedly sexually abused B.J. and his nieces for several years when the three were young children. He was sentenced to concurrent terms of life in prison for three counts of aggravated sexual abuse, 18 U.S.C. 2241(c), one count of sexual abuse, 18 U.S.C. 2242(2), and one count of abusive sexual contact, 18 U.S.C. 2244(a)(2); 15 years in prison for two counts of sexual abuse of a minor, 18 U.S.C. 2243(a); and three years in prison for one count of abusive sexual contact, 18 U.S.C. 2244(a)(2). The Sixth Circuit affirmed, upholding the admission of evidence of his past sexual assaults pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 413 and 403 and that his victims witnessed him physically assault his wife pursuant to Federal Rules of Evidence 404(b) and 403. View "United States v. Mandoka" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Patrick Murphy of murder in Oklahoma state court and imposed the death penalty. In August 1999, Murphy lived with Patsy Jacobs; Jacobs was previously in a relationship with the victim, George Jacobs. Murphy had an argument with her about George, and said he was “going to get” George Jacobs and his family. A passerby found George Jacobs in a ditch with his face bloodied and slashes across his chest and stomach. His genitals had been cut off and his throat slit. Murphy allegedly confessed the killing to Ms. Jacobs, and he was later arrested and tried. On appeal, Murphy asserted he was tried in the wrong court: he challenged the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma state court in which he was convicted and sentenced, contending he should have been tried in federal court because he was an Indian and the offense occurred in Indian country. To this point, the Tenth Circuit agreed and remanded to the district court to issue a writ of habeas corpus vacating his conviction and sentence. The question of whether the state court had jurisdiction was straightforward but reaching an answer was not. Parsing the issue involved review of: (1) federal habeas corpus review of state court decisions; (2) Indian country jurisdiction generally; (3) Indian reservations specifically; and (4) how a reservation can be disestablished or diminished. In this case, the Oklahoma court applied a rule that was contrary to clearly established Supreme Court law. Congress has not disestablished the Creek Reservation; the crime in this case occurred in Indian country; Murphy was an Indian and because the crime occurred in Indian country, the federal court has exclusive jurisdiction. Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction. The Tenth Circuit therefore reversed the district court’s judgment and remanded with instructions to grant Murphy’s application for a writ of habeas corpus. View "Murphy v. Royal" on Justia Law

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Consolidated appeals arose from a government agency’s decision to recapture via administrative offset funds that the agency allegedly overpaid to multiple grant recipients. The grant recipients filed suit arguing in relevant part that the agency lacked authority to recapture the funds without first providing them with administrative hearings. The district court agreed and ordered the agency to repay the grant recipients. The agency appealed that order. The issues the appeal raised for the Tenth Circuit's review were: (1) did the agency recapture the funds pursuant to a statute or regulation that imposed a hearing requirement, thus rendering the recaptures illegal; (2) if the agency didn’t recapture the funds pursuant to such a statute or regulation, did it have authority to recapture the alleged overpayments at all; and (3) if not, must the agency reimburse the grant recipients for the amounts it illegally collected? The Court found the agency didn’t recapture the funds pursuant to a statute or regulation that imposes a hearing requirement, therefore, the district court erred in ruling that the recipients were entitled to hearings before the agency could recapture the alleged overpayments. Two members of the panel agreed the agency lacked authority to recapture the funds via administrative offset, and the Court affirmed the portion of the district court’s order that characterized the recaptures as illegal. The two other members of the panel agreed that if the agency no longer had the recaptured funds in its possession, then the district court lacked authority to order the agency to repay the recipients. Thus, the Court reversed that portion of the district court’s order and remanded for further factual findings. View "Modoc Lassen Indian Housing v. DOHUD" on Justia Law