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Indian Law Bulletins  |  U.S. Supreme Court  |  2013-2014 Term

News Related to the Current Supreme Court Term

 

Supreme Court cases from the 2013-2014 term impacting Native Americans

2013-2014 Supreme Court Term: October 2013 - July 2014

Last Updated: 7/03/14

Please alert us to any cases we may have missed from the U.S. Supreme Court.

See also the website for the Tribal Supreme Court Project for cases related to Native American law.


A note about links used in this document

Blue links are to free materials on the internet.

Green links are to 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.

The National Indian Law Library and Native American Rights Fund are not affiliated with Westlaw. See www.westlaw.com for more information about the Westlaw legal databases.

* Issues and holdings are provided under an agreement BNA, Inc. www.bna.com


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Cases Decided

One Native American law case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2013-2014 term.

Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community
Briefs and Pleadings & Oral Argument Transcript
Audio of Oral Argument
Docket No. 12-515

*Issues: (1) Does a federal court have jurisdiction to enjoin activity that violates the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act but takes place outside of Native American lands? (2) Does tribal sovereign immunity bar a state from suing in federal court to enjoin a tribe from violating IGRA outside of Native American lands?

*Summary from U.S. Law Week: Tribal sovereign immunity bars Michigan's suit against the Bay Mills Indian Community for operating a casino outside Indian lands. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act partially abrogates tribal sovereign immunity in 25 U.S.C. § 2710(d)(7)(A)(ii), but only in regards to gaming activity that takes place on Indian lands.

History: Petition was filed on 10/23/12. Petition was granted on 6/24/13.Oral argument was on 12/2/13. Decided on May 27, 2014.

*Holding Below: Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, 2012 WL 3326596. Under the Michigan Indian Land Claims Settlement Act, the defendant tribe used trust funds to purchase new "Indian lands." It then built a casino on the property. The state of Michigan sued the tribe under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, arguing that the casino was built in violation of the parties' tribal-state compact. Michigan's own pleadings defeat its argument that the IGRA supplies jurisdiction here, because it expressly alleges that the casino is not located on Native American land. Additionally, under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, a state may regulate tribal activities that occur outside Native American lands but it may not enforce those regulations by suing the tribe itself absent waiver or abrogation of tribal immunity. Michigan has not demonstrated that either of those exceptions exist in this case. The district court's preliminary injunction against gambling at the casino is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Related News Stories: Justices bar Michigan from suing tribe over casino (NY Times) 5/27/14. High Court: Mich. can't sue to block off-reservation casino (Detroit News) 5/28/14. Fletcher Commentary on the Michigan v. Bay Mills Argument (Turtle Talk Blog) 12/2/13. NARF And NCAI Advise Tribes To Stay Away From Supreme Court (KGOU.org) 9/27/13. Cliff Schrader: Supreme Court doesn't bode well for Bay Mills' casino bid (thetimesherald.com) 6/27/13. U.S. Supreme Court to hear Bay Mills casino case, could impact other proposed Michigan casinos (MLive) 6/24/13. Michigan asks Supreme Court to hear Bay Mills gaming lawsuit (Indianz.com) 12/3/12.

 

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Petition for certiorari granted

Currently, no pending Native American law cases have been granted review for the 2013-2014 term.

 

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Petition for certiorari pending

4 petitions for writs of certiorari were pending in the 2013-2014 term. See the 2014-2015 Supreme Court Buletin for the status of these cases.

 

Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-1496

*Issues: (from the petition for certiorari) In Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544, 565 (1981), this Court held that generally "the inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe do not extend to the activities of nonmembers of the tribe." The Court recognized as an exception to that rule that a "tribe may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members." Id. (emphasis added). The Court subsequently recognized in Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353, 358 n.2 (2001), that it has "never held that a tribal court had jurisdiction over a nonmember defendant" in any context, so that it remains an "open question" whether tribal courts may ever exercise civil jurisdiction over nonmembers. In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., 554 U.S. 316 (2008), this Court granted certiorari to decide whether Montana's undefined "other means" include adjudicating civil tort claims in tribal court. However, the Court resolved the case on other grounds. In this case, a divided panel of the Fifth Circuit held that tribal courts do have that jurisdiction. Five judges dissented from the denial of rehearing en bane. The case accordingly presents the issue the Court left open in Hicks and the Question the Court granted certiorari to decide in Plains Commerce: Whether Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against nonmembers, including as a means of regulating the conduct of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with a tribe or its members?

History: Petition was filed on 6/12/14.

*Holding Below: Dolgencorp, Inc. v. the Mississippi Band of Chocktaw Indians, 746 F.3d 167. 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.

Marcussen v. Burwell
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-1447

*Issues: (1) Should the Rooker-Feldman doctrine be overruled for denying all judicial relief by removing the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear any civil action brought against federally mandated statutes enforced in state courts? (2) Does Congress have the authority to adopt laws intended to be primarily of exclusively enforced in the state courts?

History: Petition was filed on 6/04/14.

*Holding Below: The order of the district court, dismissing plaintiff attorney's case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine as a collateral attack on a state court judgment, is affirmed. The questions raised in the appeal, attacking the doctrine and Congress's authority, are insubstantial.

Knight v. Thompson
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-955

*Issues: (from the petition for certiorari) Whether RLUIPA requires that prison officials actually consider and demonstrate a sufficient basis for rejecting widely accepted accommodations to traditional religious practices as part of their burden of proving that they have chosen the “least restrictive means” of furthering their asserted governmental interests.

History: Petition was filed on 2/06/14.

*Holding Below: Knight v. Thompson. 723 F.3d. 837. (from Westlaw) The Court of Appeals, Schlesinger, District Judge, sitting by designation, held that: 1) policy furthered compelling governmental interests in security and discipline, and 2) policy was least-restrictive means of furthering those interests.

Yowell v. Abbey
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-1049

*Issues: (1) Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit err in assuming facts not in evidence and finding that Yowell's cattle grazing ranges encompassed by the 1941 proclamation regarding the South Fork Indian Reservation were subject to Bureau of Land Management grazing regulations? (2) Did the Ninth Circuit err when it concluded that the BLM regulations and management applied to the ranges encompassed by the proclamation regarding the South Fork Indian Reservation? (3) Is Yowell's Article 6 treaty guaranteed vested right a clearly established federal right? (4) Are the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unwarranted seizure of property and the Fifth and 14th Amendment guarantees of due process clearly established federal rights held by Yowell? (5) Did the Ninth Circuit err when they assumed facts not in evidence and held that the duty was discretionary and that the state defendants followed the applicable brand inspection procedures? (6) Did the Ninth Circuit err when it did not consider the factual allegations in the Yowell complaint to be true?

History: Petition was filed on 1/17/14.

*Holding Below: Yowell v. Abbey, 532 Fed.Appx. 708. The district court abused its discretion in requiring the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw its certification of Yowell's debt to the Treasury Department. The district court failed to identify and apply the correct standard for granting an injunction. The district court erred in denying the federal defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for reconsideration, because under Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), no action may lie against federal agencies like the Treasury Department, and no Bivens action may lie against federal officials for “strictly enforcing rules against trespass or conditions on grazing permits.” Qualified immunity applied here because Yowell failed to establish that the state defendants either failed to follow the applicable state law, which thereby caused him to be deprived of a clearly established federal right, or that the state law was itself “patently violative of fundamental constitutional principles.”

 


Petition for certiorari denied

16 petitions for writs of certiorari have been denied in the 2013-2014 term.

Native Wholesale Company v. Idaho
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-838

*Issues: (1) Is a state precluded from regulating a corporation wholly owned by an Indian and organized under the laws of a federally recognized tribe, under circumstances in which a state is admittedly precluded from regulating an Indian? (2) Can the state of Idaho prohibit an Indian-owned business on the Coeur d'Alene reservation from importing into that reservation cigarettes that are sold “FOB Seneca Nation” by a company wholly owned by a member of the Seneca Nation and licensed by the Seneca Nation to carry on such trade, under a state law that purports to give the attorney general power to “approve” all cigarettes before they may be imported into Idaho? (3) Are the State of Idaho's cigarette-sale statutes preempted to the extent that they are enforced in a manner that prohibits Native Wholesale Supply Company from trading with Warpath Inc.? (4) Can the State of Idaho constitutionally exercise personal jurisdiction over NWS, an Indian-chartered entity located on Seneca Nation of Indians Land, situated within the geographic boundaries of the state of New York, where NWS sells the tobacco products “FOB Seneca Nation” to Warpath, and the products are then transported to Warpath's place of business on the Coeur d'Alene reservation?

History: Petition was filed on 1/13/14. Petition was denied on 6/23/14.

*Holding Below: State of Idaho v. Native Wholesale Supply Company. 312 P.3d 1257. Native Wholesale Supply's sales were exempt from state taxation and NWS was therefore not required to obtain a wholesale permit. The state had subject matter jurisdiction over NWS's importation of noncompliant cigarettes into Idaho, and the state could therefore validly exercise personal jurisdiction over NWS. The district court is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded with instructions to enter a new permanent injunction.

Michigan v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Briefs & Pleadings
Briefs and Pleadings from Turtle Talk

Docket No. 13-1372

*Issues: (from the petition for certiorari) 1. Should an Indian tribe that operates commercial gaming casinos under the authority of a tribal-state compact be protected by tribal immunity from a State’s effort to enforce the compact in federal litigation arising out of those gaming activities? 2. Even if tribal immunity exists as a matter of federal common law, under what circumstances does the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act abrogate that immunity for lawsuits in federal court seeking to enjoin a tribe’s conduct that violates a material provision in its gaming compact with a State?

History: Petition was filed on 5/14/14. Rule 46 dismissal.

*Holding Below: Michigan v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. 2013 WL 6645395 . (from Westlaw) The Court of Appeals, Rogers, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) state's claim that tribe's trust submission would violate tribal–state compact was barred by tribe's sovereign immunity, and (2) state's claim that Indian tribe's conduct of class III gaming on trust property would violate tribal–state compact and Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was not ripe for adjudication. Reversed.

Related News Stories: Schuette asks U.S. Supreme Court to hear Lansing casino case (LSJ.com) 5/14/14

Village of Hobart v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-847

*Issues: (1) Does Congress's waiver of the federal government's sovereign immunity under Section 313(a) of the Clean Water Act, for enforcement of local stormwater management ordinances, for “any property” over which it has “jurisdiction,” apply to land taken into trust pursuant to 25 U.S.C. §465? (2) Are lands acquired by an Indian tribe pursuant to 25 U.S.C. §465, within its former reservation boundaries, removed from state jurisdiction because, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled, they are reclassified as “Indian Country”?

History: Petition was filed on 1/15/14. Petition was denied on 5/27/14.

*Holding Below: Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin v. Village of Hobart, Wisconsin. 723 F.3d. 837. The district court's grant of summary judgment for the tribe is affirmed. Because federal law forbids states and local authorities to tax Indian lands, the tribe can't be forced to pay the assessment decreed by the challenged ordinance if the assessment is a tax. The stormwater runoff assessment was a tax rather than a fee, because it was designed to generate revenue to pay for a governmental project and was not a penalty.

State of Alaska v. Jewell
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-562

*Issues: (1) Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit properly hold—in conflict with this court's decisions—that the federal reserve water rights doctrine authorizes the unprecedented federal takeover of Alaska's navigable waters sanctioned by a 1999 Rule that transfers from Alaska to the United States authority to control fishing and hunting along waterways in over half of the state? (2) Did the Ninth Circuit properly proceed on the premise—which also conflicts with this court's decisions—that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, 16 U.S.C. §3101 et seq., could be interpreted to federalize navigable waters at all given Congress's silence on the act's application to navigable waters?

History: Petition was filed on 11/04/13. Petition was denied on 3/31/14.

*Holding Below: John v. U.S,. 720 F.3d 1214. The 1999 Final Rules promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to implement part of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act concerning subsistence fishing and hunting rights are upheld. In Alaska v. Babbitt, 72 F.3d 698 (9th Cir. 1995), this court held that, because Congress included subsistence fishing in Title VIII, the act applied to some of Alaska's navigable waters. The 1999 Rules identified which navigable waters within Alaska constituted “public lands” under Title VIII of the act, which provides a priority to rural Alaska residents for subsistence hunting and fishing on such lands.

Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 12-604

*Issues: Does the ancient Oneida reservation in New York still exist, neither disestablished nor diminished, despite (a) the federal government's actions taken in furtherance of disestablishment; (b) the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Sherrill, N.Y. v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), that the Oneida Indian Nation of New York cannot exercise sovereignty over lands it purchases in the ancient reservation area; and (c) the Supreme Court's finding in that case that land in the ancient reservation area has not been treated as an Indian reservation by the federal, state or local governments for nearly two centuries?

History: Petition was filed on 11/12/12. Petition was dismissed - Rule 46, 3/26/14.

*Holding Below: Oneida Indian Nation of New York v. Madison County, 665 F.3d 408. It remains the law of the Second Circuit that the plaintiff Oneida Indian Nation's reservation is not disestablished until such time as decisions by prior panels are overruled either by an en banc panel or by the U.S. Supreme Court. The dismissal of the defendant counties' counterclaims in this action involving taxation of property owned by the plaintiff is affirmed.

Wolfchild v. U.S.
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-794

*Issues: (1) Do the court of appeals interpretations of statutes specific to the Mdewakanton Band—1863 Acts, 1888-1890 Acts and 1980 Act: (a) contradict Tohono O'Odham Nation because the court of appeals failed to appreciate that the U.S. Court of Federal Claims is to provide a judicial forum for most non-tort requests for significant monetary relief against the U.S.; (b) contradict Nevada v. Hicks because the court of appeals opinions, including the Eighth Circuit opinion in Smith v. Babbitt, essentially refer the Mdewakanton Band's federal claims to tribal courts which lack jurisdiction; (c) contradict Mitchell I, Mitchell II, White Mountain Apache, and Navajo Nation because the court of appeals misinterpreted statutory trust and other legal obligations and failed to properly apply the money-mandating duty requirement; (d) conflict with the First Circuit opinion in Passamaquoddy Tribe because the court of appeals failed to apply the “plain and unambiguous” requirement to the 1980 Act for the purported termination of the Mdewakanton Band and its statutory property rights; and (e) contradict Carcieri because the court of appeals treated the three non-tribal communities as sovereign historical tribes when they are not? (2) Do the court of appeals' interpretation of statues general to American Indians: (a) contradict Oneida I and Oneida II and their progeny because the court of appeals failed to properly interpret the Indian Nonintercourse Act to require Congressional authorization prior to the purported termination of the Mdewakanton Band's tribal statutory property rights; (b) contradict Carcieri and the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act because the court of appeals deemed the purchased IRA lands to be held exclusively in trust for the three post-1934 non-tribal communities; and (c) misinterpret the six-year statute of limitations and the Indian Trust Accounting Statute to bar the Mdewakanton Band's monetary claims? (3) Should summary judgment have been granted to petitioners on the pre-1980 and post-1980 statutory fund claims and the statutory land claim?

History: Petition was denied on 3/10/14.

*Holding Below: Wolfchild v. U.S. 731 F.3d. 1280. In 2009—the last time this court ruled on these complex land use claims from a collection of descendants of Indians regarding certain tracts of land the U.S. currently holds in trust for three Indian communities—we held that certain 1888-1890 Acts of Congress did not create a trust for the statutorily designated beneficiaries or their descendants and that, even if there was such a trust, it was terminated by a subsequent 1980 Act. In the current controversy, this court affirms in part but also reverses in part the judgment of the Court of Federal Claims, concluding that the rejection of the trust claim four years ago requires rejection of what amounts, at bottom, to the same substantive claim here. None of the new theories claimants advance breathes life into this case because none supports an actionable claim for relief under governing law. Evaluating the new claims for damages under the Indian Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. §1505, this court holds that the 1888-1890 Acts did not impose any “money-mandating” duty that extends to claims made for the alleged right to pre-1980 revenues generated from the lands purchased under the 1888-1890 Acts. The Secretary of Interior's authority to act does not support inference of the asserted duty to act (enforceable by a suit for money damages). The mere authority to generate leasing, or any other, revenues from the land does not carry with it any obligation to do so. A more explicit direction from Congress is needed to justify inferring not just a grant of discretionary authority but a mandate enforceable in court through damages. In any event, this court would reverse on the independent ground that claimants filed this claim too late, in 2003, more than 20 years after the pre-1980 revenues were disbursed to the three communities in 1981 and 1982, far outside the six-year statute of limitations from 28 U.S.C. §2501. The claims court's judgment against the United States on the claim to pre-1980 money is reversed, and the judgments against claimants on the remainder of the proposed claims are affirmed.

Zephier v. U.S.
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-795

*Issues: (1) Is the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's 2013 holding that a February 16, 1863 Act of Congress, providing that “the Secretary of Interior is hereby authorized to set apart the public lands [] eighty acres in severalty” to loyal Mdewakanton Indian individuals, “too discretionary to support a viable claim,” thereby conflicting with this court's and other precedents holding that power given to public officers in permissive form statutory language, but involving individual property rights calling for its exercise, the language the language used is “in fact peremptory” and money-mandating? (2) Did the panel fail to recognize the trust nature of the February 1863 Act in rejecting petitioners’ “two basic claims” and thus issued a determination that conflicts with a previous authoritative decision in Wolfchild v. United States, 559 F.3d 1228 (Fed Cir. 2009), which found that the language of the Act of February 16, 1863, Section 9, ch. 37, 12 Stat. 652, “created an inheritable beneficial interest in the recipients of any land conveyed under the statute [] [and] explicitly created a trust relationship” with the federal government? (3) Petitioner plaintiff-intervenors also adopt the issues raised by the petitioning Wolfchild plaintiffs in their separately docketed appeal, No. 13-794, except where noted previously and in petitioner plaintiff-intervenors' petition for certiorari.

History: Petition was denied on 3/10/14.

*Holding Below: Wolfchild v. U.S. 731 F.3d. 1280. In 2009—the last time this court ruled on these complex land use claims from a collection of descendants of Indians regarding certain tracts of land the U.S. currently holds in trust for three Indian communities—we held that certain 1888-1890 Acts of Congress did not create a trust for the statutorily designated beneficiaries or their descendants and that, even if there was such a trust, it was terminated by a subsequent 1980 Act. In the current controversy, this court affirms in part but also reverses in part the judgment of the Court of Federal Claims, concluding that the rejection of the trust claim four years ago requires rejection of what amounts, at bottom, to the same substantive claim here. None of the new theories claimants advance breathes life into this case because none supports an actionable claim for relief under governing law. Evaluating the new claims for damages under the Indian Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. §1505, this court holds that the 1888-1890 Acts did not impose any “money-mandating” duty that extends to claims made for the alleged right to pre-1980 revenues generated from the lands purchased under the 1888-1890 Acts. The Secretary of Interior's authority to act does not support inference of the asserted duty to act (enforceable by a suit for money damages). The mere authority to generate leasing, or any other, revenues from the land does not carry with it any obligation to do so. A more explicit direction from Congress is needed to justify inferring not just a grant of discretionary authority but a mandate enforceable in court through damages. In any event, this court would reverse on the independent ground that claimants filed this claim too late, in 2003, more than 20 years after the pre-1980 revenues were disbursed to the three communities in 1981 and 1982, far outside the six-year statute of limitations from 28 U.S.C. §2501. The claims court's judgment against the United States on the claim to pre-1980 money is reversed, and the judgments against claimants on the remainder of the proposed claims are affirmed.

Grand Canyon Skywalk Development LLC v. Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, et al.
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-313

*Issues: (from the petition for certiorari) The Ninth Circuit, affirming the District Court, held that GCSD must exhaust its tribal court remedies and that the dispute did not fall under the exceptions to tribal court exhaustion laid out in National Farmers Union Insurance Companies v. Crow Tribe, 471 U.S. 845 (1985) for actions that are patently without jurisdiction or motivated by bad faith. The Ninth Circuit’s decision raises four questions:
1. Does Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981) apply on tribal land, as this Court suggested in Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353, 358 (2001), or does this Court acquiesce in the Ninth Circuit’s contrary decision in Water Wheel Camp Recreation Area v. LaRance, 642 F.3d 802 (9th Cir. 2011)?
2. Does a non-tribal member consent to tribal jurisdiction under Montana even when that “consent” comes in the form of a contract with a tribal corporation which expressly provides that disputes will be resolved through binding arbitration, not in tribal court, and where the tribal enterprise has expressly waived its sovereign immunity to permit arbitration?
3. Are intangible contract rights of a Nevada corporation located on federal land held in trust for the Tribe and thus subject to the Tribe’s eminent domain powers because they relate to activities on tribal land?
4. Does the bad-faith exception to National Farmers exhaustion require a showing that the tribal court acted in bad faith, or is it sufficient to demonstrate that the Tribe’s governing council (Tribal Council) did so and that the Tribe’s judiciary lacked judicial independence?

History: Petition was filed on 9/05/13. Petition was denied on 12/16/13.

*Holding Below: (from Westlaw) Grand Canyon Skywalk Development, LLC. v. 'Sa' Nyu Wa inc. 715 F.3d 1196 The Court of Appeals, Tallman, Circuit Judge, held that:
(1) bad faith exception to the requirement to exhaust tribal court remedies did not apply;
(2) futility exception to the requirement to exhaust tribal court remedies did not apply; and
(3) tribal court did not plainly lack jurisdiction over Nevada corporation so as to excuse the exhaustion requirement.
Affirmed.

Related News Stories: Skywalk feud sent to tribal court (AZ Central) 4/26/13

Grand River Enterprises Six Nations Ltd. v. Oklahoma ex rel. Pruitt
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-266

*Issues: (1) Do this court's precedents establish that Oklahoma (along with 45 other states and various U.S. territories with similar statutes) can impose escrow obligations on certain cigarette manufacturers based partly on sales by Indian tribes to tribal members in Indian country? (2) Does the Oklahoma Escrow Statute, as interpreted by the state courts in this case, violate federal law by imposing escrow obligations on certain cigarette manufacturers—including Indian-owned businesses operating on reservation lands—based partly on sales by Indian tribes to tribal members in Indian country?

History: Petition was filed on 8/26/13. Petition was denied on 12/2/13.

*Holding Below: State ex rel. Edmondson v. Grand River Enterprises, Six Nations, Ltd. 2013 OK CIV APP 58. The trial court's order denying appellants' claims in their entirety and entering judgment in favor of the state is affirmed. The trial court did not err by finding that packs of cigarettes manufactured by Grand River Enterprises which have an Oklahoma tax stamp affixed and are sold in-state by retailers owned, licensed or operated by an American Indian Tribe are “units sold” upon which escrow is due. The escrow fund act is rationally related to the state's legitimate interests in promoting health and insuring availability of adequate funds to address the state's future tobacco-related health care costs.

Onondaga Nation v. New York
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 12-1279

*Issues: Does the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit's ruling that equitable considerations bar the Onondaga Nation's claim for a declaratory judgment for violations of the Trade and Intercourse Act, three federal treaties, and the U.S. Constitution contravene the fundamental right to a remedy, international legal norms, principles of federal equity, and the U.S. Supreme Court's decisions in County of Oneida v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York State, 470 U.S. 226 (1985), and City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation, 544 U.S. 197 (2005)?

History: Petition was filed on 4/23/13. Petition was denied on 10/15/13.

*Holding Below: Onondaga Nation v. New York, 2012 WL 5075534. Three specific factors determine when ancestral land claims are foreclosed on equitable grounds: (1) the length of time at issue between a historical injustice and the present day; (2) the disruptive nature of claims long delayed; and (3) the degree to which these claims upset the justifiable expectations of individuals and entities far removed from the events giving rise to the plaintiffs' injury. Here, all three factors support dismissal. As to length of time, the district court noted that about 183 years separate the filing of this action from the most recent occurrence giving rise to the Onondaga Nation's claims. The disruptive nature of the claims is indisputable as a matter of law. It is irrelevant that the plaintiff merely seeks a declaratory judgment. Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, 617 F.3d 114 (2d Cir. 2010), held that a declaratory judgment alone—even without a contemporaneous request for an ejectment—would be disruptive. As to settled expectations, the district court took judicial notice that the contested land has been extensively populated by non-Native-Americans, such that the land is predominantly non-Native-American today, and has experienced significant material development by private persons and enterprises as well as by public entities. Under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), the government and the current occupants of the land therefore have justifiable expectations of ownership. The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

Related News Stories: Onondaga Nation Press Release on Denial of Cert (Turtle Talk) 10/15/13. Commentary on the Final Dismissal of the Onondaga Nation’s Land Claims: “Tribal Disruption and Indian Claims.” (Turtle Talk) 10/15/13.

Valenzuela v. Silversmith
Docket No. 12-9289

*Issues: (Not yet available)

History: Petition was filed on 3/11/13.

*Holding Below: Valenzuela v. Silversmith, 699 F.3d 1199. (From Westlaw) The Court of Appeals, Matheson, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) taking less burdensome course of disposing of appeal without addressing mootness issue was warranted; (2) member was required to exhaust his tribal court remedies before filing his petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court; (3) member had tribal court remedies that he had to exhaust; and (4) failure of member to file habeas petition in tribal court could not be excused from requirement to exhaust.

Matheson v. Washington Department of Revenue
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-135

*Issues: (1) Did the state courts below err in entering a state excise tax and penalty judgment against a tribal Indian who is exempt from state taxes and who also had a state tobacco license to transport cigarettes free of state tax stamps? (2) Is a tribal Indian, whose only activity was to transport cargo in round trips to Indian reservations, exempt from state taxes under the Indian and interstate commerce clauses of the U.S. Constitution?

History: Petition was filed on 6/26/13. Petition was denied on 10/7/13.

*Holding Below: The superior court properly dismissed the cigarette wholesaler's petition to review an order requiring her to pay cigarette taxes and penalties because the wholesaler did not first pay the contested tax, as required by statute. Moreover, the wholesaler's constitutional arguments are without merit. Even though she is correct that Washington cannot tax interstate or on-reservation shipments, the wholesaler failed to show that she shipped her cigarettes to another tribal member or out-of-state. Additionally, by virtue of her voluntarily obtained Washington cigarette wholesaler license, the wholesaler has the requisite contacts with the state to qualify as a taxpayer. Next, contrary to the wholesaler's assertion, Indians who conduct business off-reservation are subject to generally applicable state law. Finally, the fines were not excessive under the Eighth Amendment.

Tonasket v. Sargent
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 12-1410

*Issues: (1) Is a Native American tribe immune from suit alleging violations of federal antitrust law related to price-fixing? (2) Are officials of a Native American tribe who are allegedly violating federal law immune from a suit seeking prospective relief?

History: Petition was filed on 5/30/13. Petition was denied on 10/7/13.

*Holding Below: Tonasket v. Sargent, 2013 WL 792768. The defendant Native American tribes did not waive their sovereign immunity by entering into a cigarette tax contract with the state of Washington. Tribal sovereign immunity extends to tribal officials acting in their official capacities and within their scope of authority in taxing cigarette sales occurring on tribal land. The federal antitrust laws do not abrogate tribal sovereign immunity. The district court's order dismissing the plaintiffs' action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction is affirmed.

Nebraska. v. Elise M.
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 12-1278

*Issues: (from the petition for certiorari) Innumerable child welfare cases are brought in state courts each year. In those cases involving an Indian child domiciled off-reservation, the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901- 63 allows the tribe to request the case be transferred to tribal court. The state court must then transfer the case unless a parent objects or "good cause" is shown to deny the transfer. These transfer provisions apply throughout the life of a child welfare case and often only come into play after the child has been in foster care for years. But even at such late stages, a court must grapple with uncertain jurisdiction due to the open division involving at least seventeen states on two crucial issues:
(1) Whether ICWA prohibits a state court from considering the ’best interests of the child" when determining whether "good cause" exists to deny the transfer of an ongoing child welfare case.
(2) Whether ICWA requires a state court to treat a motion to terminate parental rights as a "new proceeding" for purposes of determining whether "good cause" exists to deny the transfer of an ongoing child welfare case

History: Petition was filed on 4/23/13. Petition was denied on 10/7/13.

*Holding Below: In re Zylena R., 284 Neb. 834."The Supreme Court, Stephan, J., held that:
(1) foster placement and termination of parental rights proceedings involving an Indian child are separate and distinct under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and should not be conflated in determining whether a "proceeding" is at an "advanced stage" such as to warrant denial of transfer of proceeding from state court to tribal court; abrogating, In re Interest of Louis S. et al., 17 Neb.App. 867, 774 N.W.2d 416,In re Interest of Leslie S. et al., 17 Neb.App. 828, 770 N.W.2d 678;
(2) termination of parental rights proceedings were not at an "advanced stage," such as would warrant denial of transfer; and (3) state court is not permitted to consider best interests of an Indian child in deciding whether there is good cause to deny motion to transfer child custody proceeding to tribal court; overruling, In re Interest of C.W. et al., 239 Neb. 817, 479 N.W.2d 105. Reversed and remanded with directions.
Heavican, C.J., dissented, with opinion.

Native Village of Eyak v. Blank
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 12-668

*Issues: Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit err in concluding that the exclusive use required to establish aboriginal title was defeated by a failure to demonstrate an ability to expel a hypothetical invader, by other groups' use of the Native American petitioners' territory, and by the fact that the petitioners' villages were politically independent?

History: Petition was filed on 11/28/12. Petition was denied on 10/7/13.

*Holding Below: Native Village of Eyak v. Blank, 688 F.3d 619. Based on the uncontested factual findings of the district court, its conclusion that the plaintiff Native Alaskan Villages failed to establish an entitlement to aboriginal hunting and fishing rights on an area of the Outer Continental Shelf is affirmed. The plaintiffs failed to show that their occupancy and use of the area was exclusive.

James L v. Devin H.
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-49

*Issues: (1) Does the Indian Child Welfare Act apply to an involuntary child custody proceeding involving an Indian child, between biological parents and a third-party nonparent? (2) Does awarding conservatorship of a child to a third-party nonparent and without a finding of parental unfitness, unconstitutionally infringe upon “the interest of parents in the care, custody and control of their children”?

History: Petition was filed on 7/08/13. Petition was denied on 10/7/13.

*Holding Below: In re E.G.L. 378 S.W.3d 542. The trial court's order, after a jury trial, appointing the mother and the stepfather as joint managing conservators, with the stepfather having the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of the child, and father as possessory conservator, is affirmed. The Indian Child Welfare Act does not apply to this case because this is not a “child custody proceeding” within the meaning of the act. This proceeding does not count as a “foster care placement” because appointing the stepfather as sole managing conservator does not involve a “temporary placement in a foster home or institution or the home of a guardian or conservator.”

 

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