Monday, September 19, 2005

Land Into Trust Declared Constitutional: NARF worked with the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe against the State of South Dakotas challenge to the United States decision to place approximately 91 acres of land into trust for the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe under Section 465 of the Indian Reorganization Act. In South Dakota v. United States, the State alleged, among other things, that the Secretary of the Interior lacks authority to place land into trust because Section 465 is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. In an earlier proceeding regarding this same 91 acres of land, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals did hold that Section 465 was unconstitutional, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that opinion and remanded to the Secretary for further reconsideration. The State then challenged the Secretarys reconsidered, and again favorable, decision to place the land in trust. In April 2004, the Federal District Court upheld the Secretarys decision and the State appealed.

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, acting as amicus curiae, and the United States argued before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to defend the Secretarys decision and the constitutionality of Section 465. NARF and former NARF Attorney Tracy Labin filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the Tribe.

On September 6, 2005 the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the constitutionality of Section 465, holding that it did not constitute an unlawful delegation of authority to the Secretary. The statutory aims of providing lands sufficient to enable Indians to achieve self-support and ameliorating the damage arising from the allotment policy sufficiently narrow the discretionary authority granted to the Department. The Court also concluded that the Secretarys action was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion, and affirmed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the Department.

Link to decision