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Text highlighted in blue are links to information available on the Internet free of charge. Text highlighted in green are links to information available on Westlaw, for the convenience of those who have a Westlaw account. Please contact the National Indian Law Library if you need help obtaining legal documents.

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Last updated: July 11, 2014

Next update should be ready by: July 18, 2014

Please alert us to any cases we may have missed from the U.S. Courts of Appeals.

New Cases:

Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas v. United States
2014 WL 3360472
Nos. 13-40644.
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, July 9, 2014

*Synopsis: Tribe brought suit against the United States and various federal agencies, alleging that issuance of drilling leases and permits on land violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and federal common law. Government moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Rodney Gilstrap, J., 2013 WL 1279033, adopted report and recommendation of Roy S. Payne, United States Magistrate Judge, 2013 WL 1279051, and granted motion to dismiss. Tribe appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Carl E. Stewart, Chief Judge, held that federal court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Tribe's claims.
Affirmed.


Older Cases:

June

Stockbridge Munsee Community v. New York
2014 WL 2782191
Petition for Rehearing En Banc
Nos. 13-3069.
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, June 20, 2014

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action against State of New York and certain state officials and agencies, counties, towns, and villages, asserting various claims alleging tribe, and not the State, had title to 36 square mile tract of land in upstate New York. The United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Kahn, J., 2013 WL 3822093, granted defendants' motions to dismiss, and tribe appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals held that equitable principles of laches, acquiescence, and impossibility barred tribe's claims.

United States v. Goldtooth
2014 WL 2611276
Nos. 12-10570, 12-10571.
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, June 12, 2014

*Synopsis: Following denial of their motion for judgment of acquittal, defendants were convicted after jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, James A. Teilborg, Senior District Judge, of aiding and abetting robbery on an Indian reservation, and they appealed their convictions.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Noonan, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) no rational juror could have found that defendants had advance knowledge that package of tobacco would be taken from the victims, nor could a rational juror have inferred foreknowledge or intent from the circumstances, as required to convict defendants of aiding and abetting robbery;
(2) addressing a matter of apparent first impression for the court, attempted robbery, under statute proscribing robbery in special maritime or territorial jurisdictions, including Indian reservations, requires proof of specific intent; and
(3) the government failed to prove that defendants intended to take victim's money or wallet, as required to establish the underlying crime of attempted robbery, and as required to prove that either defendant aided and abetted any such attempt.
Reversed.

May

Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida Department of Revenue
750 F.3d 1238
Nos. 13-10566.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, May 5, 2014

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action seeking declaratory judgment that tribe was exempt from paying state tax on fuel and injunction requiring refund of taxes paid. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, James I. Cohn, J., 917 F.Supp.2d 1255, dismissed complaint, and tribe appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Pryor, held that:
(1) state's sovereign immunity barred action, and
(2) action did not fall within scope of Ex parte Young exception to state's Eleventh Amendment immunity.
Affirmed.

April

Native American Council of Tribes v. Weber
Briefs from Turtle Talk
750 F.3d 742
Nos. 13–1401.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, April 25, 2014

*Synopsis: Native American organization and inmates brought action against prison officials, claiming that the prison's policy of prohibiting tobacco use by Native American inmates during religious activities substantially burdened the exercise of their religious beliefs in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Karen E. Schreier, Chief Judge, 897 F.Supp.2d 828, found the restrictions violated RLUIPA and ordered parties to confer. After the parties failed to agree on a new tobacco policy, the District Court, 2013 WL 310633, entered a remedial order granting injunctive relief. The prison officials appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Bright, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) the inmates' use of tobacco during Native American ceremonies was a religious exercise;
(2) the prison's complete ban on tobacco use substantially burdened the exercise of the inmates' religious beliefs;
(3) a complete ban was not the least restrictive means of furthering the prison's interest in order and security; and
(4) the District Court's remedial order was narrowly tailored to remedy the violation of inmates' rights.
Affirmed.

Colombe v. Rosebud Sioux Tribe
747 F.3d 1020
Nos. 13-1382, 13-1512.
United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, April 4, 2014

*Synopsis: Casino management company's principal brought action to vacate tribal court decision regarding casino management contract dispute and to enjoin tribe from continuing tribal court action to pierce corporate veil. The United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, dismissed complaint in part, 835 F.Supp.2d 736, and entered summary judgment in tribe's favor on remaining claims. Principal appealed, and tribe cross-appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Shepherd, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) company failed to adequately exhaust its tribal court remedies, and
(2) insolvency of company and its principal did not excuse principal from exhaustion requirement.
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

El Paso Natural Gas Co. v. United States
Briefs from Turtle Talk
750 F.3d 863
Nos. 12–5156, 12–5157.
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, April 4, 2014

*Synopsis: Natural gas company brought action against United States and other federal entities, alleging failure to fulfill obligations under Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), and Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in connection with certain properties alleged to be contaminated with residual radioactive waste. Indian tribe intervened, asserting claims under UMTRCA and federal and tribal law. Defendants moved to dismiss. The District Court, Richard J. Leon, J., 774 F.Supp.2d 40 and 847 F.Supp.2d 111, granted motions. Defendants appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Edwards, Senior Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) Comprehensive Environmental Resources, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) barred court's jurisdiction over RCRA claims related to landfill site;
(2) dismissal of RCRA claims under CERCLA should have been without prejudice;
(3) tribe's RCRA claims in relation to other site were not moot;
(4) as matter of first impression, governmental agencies are persons entitled to bring citizen suits under RCRA;
(5) UMTRCA did not preclude judicial review of tribe's APA claims;
(6) tribe failed to state "failure to act" claims under APA; and
(7) tribe did not have cause of action against United States for breach of trust duties.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

March

Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada v. U.S. Dep't of Interior
2014 WL 1244275
No. 12–15412.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, March 27, 2014

*Synopsis: Indian tribes brought action challenging Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) approval of mining project on federal land, alleging violations of Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Project owner intervened. The United States District Court for the District of Nevada, Larry R. Hicks, J., 2012 WL 13780, granted summary judgment in favor of BLM and project owner. Tribes appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals held that:
(1) BLM did not act arbitrarily or capriciously when it determined further accommodation of Indian tribes' religious use of pediment area of piñon-juniper groves at base of mountain in project area was not practicable, and
(2) BLM did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in analyzing project's impacts on water resources.
Affirmed.

Dolgencorp, Inc. v. the Mississippi Band of Chocktaw Indians
746 F.3d 167
No. 12–60668.
United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, March 14, 2014

*Synopsis: Corporation, which operated store on Indian reservation, brought an action seeking to enjoin member of the Indian tribe, and other tribal defendants from adjudicating tort claims against it in tribal court. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, 846 F.Supp.2d 646, denied corporation's motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment in favor of the tribal defendants, and corporation appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, James E. Graves, Jr., Circuit Judge, held that tribal jurisdiction would exist over tort claims brought against nonmember, which operated store on reservation, arising from alleged sexual molestation of Indian participant in job training program by store manager while participant was working at the store.
Affirmed.

United States v. Wanna
744 F.3d 584
No. 13–1898.
United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, March 7, 2014

*Synopsis: Defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, Charles B. Kornmann, J., of misapplication of funds from an Indian tribal organization and aiding and abetting, and was sentenced to 33 months' imprisonment, and she appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Riley, Chief Judge, held that:
(1) evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction, and
(2) defendant failed to rebut the presumption of reasonableness that applied to her guidelines sentence.
Affirmed.

February

In re Grand Jury Proceedings
744 F.3d 211
No. 13–2498.
United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Feb. 20, 2014

*Synopsis: Government moved to compel compliance by Indian tribe's historic preservation office with subpoena duces tecum that was issued by since-defunct grand jury, representing that investigation had been transferred to newly-empanelled grand jury. Preservation office objected and moved to quash subpoena on grounds of tribal sovereign immunity and unreasonableness. After granting motion to compel and issuing show cause order due to preservation office's noncompliance, the United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island, John J. McConnell, Jr., J., held preservation office in civil contempt. Preservation office appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Howard, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) subpoena could not be enforced by civil contempt sanctions after expiration of issuing grand jury;
(2) exception to mootness doctrine applied to warrant review of preservation office's additional challenges to subpoena;
(3) tribal sovereign immunity provides no refuge from subpoena power of federal grand jury; and
(4) denial of motion to quash subpoena as unreasonable was not abuse of discretion.
Vacated.

United States v. Nowlin
555 Fed.Appx. 821
No. 13-8028.
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Feb. 19, 2014

*Synopsis: Defendant was convicted in the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming, pursuant to the Major Crimes Act, of one count of assault resulting in serious bodily injury in Indian Country and four counts of assault with a dangerous weapon with intent to do bodily harm in Indian Country. Defendant appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Robert E. Bacharach, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) evidence of tribal or federal recognition of defendant's status as Indian was sufficient to support application of Major Crimes Act;
(2) trial court did not abuse its discretion in taking judicial notice of defendant's prior admission under oath of Indian status;
(3) any prejudice resulting from arresting officer's testimony portraying defendant as drunken and belligerent at time of his arrest was not unfair; and
(4) defendant's statements to arresting officer reflected defendant's involvement in charged assaults rather than uncharged misconduct.

January

Friends of Amador County v. Salazar
Briefs from Turtle Talk
554 Fed.Appx. 562
No. 11–17996.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Jan. 29, 2014

*Synopsis: An advocacy organization and its members brought action against the State of California and its Governor, the Department of the Interior (DOI) and its Secretary, and the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) and its Acting Chairman, challenging the state's gaming compact with an Indian Tribe, and the federal recognition of the Tribe. The Indian Tribe intervened. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, William B. Shubb, Senior District Judge, 2011 WL 4709883, granted the Tribe's motion to dismiss, and denied a motion to vacate the dismissal, 2011 WL 6141291. The advocacy organization and its members appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals held that:
(1) the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the Indian Tribe was a required party;
(2) the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that it would not be feasible to join the Indian Tribe;
(3) the District Court did not abuse its discretion in determining that the Indian Tribe was an indispensable party; and
(4) the public rights exception to joinder did not apply.
Affirmed.

Bonnet v. Harvest (US) Holdings, Inc.
Briefs from Turtle Talk
741 F.3d 1155

No. 12–4068.
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, Jan. 28, 2014

*Synopsis: Petroleum landman, and his sole proprietorship, brought action against various companies and individuals arising from Tribe's termination of his contract to provide independent consultant services. Plaintiff served Tribe with non-party subpoena duces tecum requesting documents. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, Clark Waddoups, J., 2012 WL 994403, denied the Tribe's motion to quash based on tribal immunity. Tribe appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Baldock, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) denial of motion to quash based on tribal immunity was immediately appealable collateral order, and
(2) as matter of first impression in Circuit, subpoena itself was "suit" against Tribe triggering tribal sovereign immunity.
Reversed.

Yellowbear v. Lampert
741 F.3d 48
No. 12–8048.
United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, Jan. 23, 2014

*Synopsis: State prisoner commenced action against individual prison officials, seeking prospective injunctive relief against them for violations of Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming granted summary judgment for prison personnel. Prisoner appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Gorsuch, Circuit Judge, held that factual issue existed as to whether preventing state prisoner from exercising his sincerely held religious belief that using sweat lodge cleansed and purified his mind, spirit, and body served compelling governmental interest and that it was least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
Vacated and remanded.

Hester v. Jewell
553 Fed.Appx. 783
No. 13-4142.
United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, Janurary 21, 2014

*Synopsis: Job applicant brought pro se Title VII action against Secretary of the Department of Interior (DOI) and Department officials. The United States District Court for the District of Utah, Dale A. Kimball, J., 2013 WL 5322625, dismissed sua sponte, and applicant appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit Carlos F. Lucero, Circuit Judge, held that application of Indian Preference to job postings within DOI was not racial discrimination under Title VII.
Affirmed.

Big Lagoon Rancheria v. California
Briefs from Turtle Talk
741 F.3d 1032
Nos. 10–17803, 10–17878.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Jan. 21, 2014

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action alleging that State violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) by failing to negotiate in good faith for a casino on a particular 11-acre parcel of land. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Claudia Wilken, P.J., granted summary judgment for the tribe, 759 F.Supp.2d 1149, but, subsequently, granted State's motion for a stay pending appeal, 2012 WL 298464. Both parties appealed.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Block, District Judge, sitting by designation, held that:
(1) tribe's right to request negotiations under the IGRA depends on it having jurisdiction over Indian lands on which it proposed to conduct gaming;
(2) the State could waive the IGRA's "Indian lands" requirement;
(3) State's challenge to entrustment of 11-acre parcel of land to tribe was timely; and
(4) 11-acre parcel of land did not constitute "Indian lands" over which tribe could demand negotiations.
Reversed and remanded.

Oklahoma Dep't of Environmental Quality v. EPA
Briefs from Turtle Talk
740 F.3d 185
No. 11–1307.
United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, Jan. 17, 2014

*Synopsis: Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality petitioned for review of final rule promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act (CAA), which established a federal implementation plan for the attainment of national air quality standards in Indian country.

* Holding: The Court of Appeals, Ginsburg, Senior Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) Oklahoma had standing to bring petition;
(2) Oklahoma's petition was not time-barred;
(3) Oklahoma did not forfeit its claim that state implementation plan presumptively applied in non-reservation Indian country; and
(4) EPA had no authority under the CAA to issue the rule.
Petition granted.

 

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