NEW ORLEANS — In a divided decision, with the dissenting opinion yet to be filed, a Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 9 reversed a Texas federal judge and held that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and its implementing rule do not run afoul of the U.S. Constitution (Chad Brackeen, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-11479, 5th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23839).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California can enforce various state laws implementing a tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) on a federally chartered corporation owned by the Big Sandy Rancheria Band of Western Mono Indians, a federal judge ruled Aug. 13 in dismissing the corporation’s declaratory relief action (Big Sandy Rancheria Enterprises v. Xavier Becerra, et al., No. 1:18-cv-00958, E.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136741).
ATLANTA — In a pair of orders issued Aug. 6, a Georgia federal judge overseeing the multidistrict litigation over the 2017 data breach experienced by Equifax Inc. denied motions by the city of Chicago and three Native American tribes to establish separate tracks, respectively, for governmental enforcement actions and Indian tribal governments, finding that the existing consumer track would adequately address the claims by the moving parties (In Re: Equifax Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, No. 1:17-md-2800, N.D. Ga.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California tribe is not entitled to an order compelling the federal government to place the tribe on the list of federally recognized tribes published in the Federal Register because it failed to exhaust the regulatory process to be recognized and was not excused from the process because it was simply trying to “correct” the federal list, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Aug. 7 (Agua Caliente Tribe of Cupeño Indians of the Pala Reservation v. Tara Katuk Mac Lean Sweeney, et al., No. 17-16838, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23572).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental advocacy groups on July 30 moved in District of Columbia federal court for a status conference in their consolidated lawsuits against the Trump administration, arguing that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has damaged Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by authorizing a contractor to collect data in the area as part of land use planning efforts (The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
SALT LAKE CITY — A dispute over the alleged misappropriation of water from an Indian Tribe’s federally protected water right has gone to the summary judgment stage, with the tribe arguing July 29 in response to the defendants’ motion and in reply to its own motion in Utah federal court that a tribal court’s award of damages to the tribe should be enforced based on comity (Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation v. Gregory D. McKee, et al., No. 2:18-cv-314, D. Utah).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California federal judge should look at all the evidence and reconsider his ruling that a Native American tribe lacks standing to assert water rights claims because the standing issue is an important legal question that the judge “should decide on a complete record,” intervenor the United States says in a Aug. 5 reply brief (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, et al. v. Coachella Valley Water District, et al., No. 5:13-cv-883, C.D. Calif.).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of Native American mineral rights owners filed a brief in New Mexico federal court on Aug. 6 seeking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by environmental groups against the Trump administration for alleged violations of federal law in connection with approval of hydraulic fracturing permits. The mineral rights owners, who support fracking in their region, contend that it is a sacred Navajo right to pursue “economic opportunity” (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 19-703, D. N.M.).
NOME, Alaska — An Alaskan Native hospital group is protected from a doctor’s breach of contract claims because it is protected by sovereign immunity as an arm of its member tribes, a federal judge held Aug. 5 (Jason Matyascik v. Arctic Slope Native Association, Ltd., No. 2:19-cv-0002, D. Alaska, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130157).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American tribe on Aug. 2 filed a brief in the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals contending that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s argument that the tribe should have intervened earlier in its objection to the construction of a pipeline to carry hydraulically fractured gas across tribal lands is not valid because FERC’s own regulations required it to engage in off-the-record negotiations first (Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, No. 19-1009, D.C. Cir.).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A tribal court lacks jurisdiction over declaratory and injunctive relief claims filed by oil and gas companies seeking to halt the tribal court and tribal members from prosecuting the members’ lease royalty claims against them, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided Aug. 5 (Kodiak Oil & Gas [USA] Inc., et al. v. Jolene Burr, et al., Nos. 18-1824, 18-1856, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23368).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 1 upheld a man’s conviction for domestic assault and witness tampering after finding that there was enough evidence presented at trial to prove that he assaulted his Indian girlfriend after being convicted of six prior assaults (United States v. Alexander James Oka, No. 18-2315, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 23017).
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A New York federal judge on July 31 declared the Oneida Indian Nation the rightful owner of a 19-acre parcel in the state, invalidated a tribal member’s quitclaim deed for the property and ordered the member to never again claim the land for himself (Oneida Indian Nation v. Melvin L. Phillips, Sr., et al., No. 5:17-cv-1035, N.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127476).
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court should take up the case of a former tribal administrator, who says a California tribal court cannot hear the tribe’s fraud claims against her for lack of due process, so the justices can decide once and for all the reach of Native American courts over non-Indians, the ex-administrator says in a July 23 petition for certiorari (Duanna Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria of Northern Paiute Indians, et al., No. 19-131, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2772).
ST. LOUIS — A divided Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on July 31vacated an injunction enjoining North Dakota from implementing its new voter ID regulations after the majority found that “the alleged burdens” on Native American voters “do not justify a statewide injunction” (Richard Brakebill, et al. v. Alvin Jaeger, No. 18-1725, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 22766).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California Indian tribe joined two commercial fishing groups July 31 in suing federal agencies over their finding in a recent study and biological opinion that future water withdrawals from the Klamath River will not jeopardize the recover and survival of salmon and killer whale populations (Yurok Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, et al., No. 3:19-cv-04405, N.D. Calif.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A tribal-owned cigarette company sued the U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in District of Columbia federal court July 24 seeking a permanent injunction and enforcement of a purported settlement agreement that would maintain its permit to manufacture tobacco products (Azuma Corp. v. United States Department of the Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco and Tax Trade Bureau, et al., No. 1:19-cv-02209, D. D.C.).
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan federal judge on July 30 declined to reconsider her decision to allow a Native American tribe’s claim against its health care plan administrator under the state’s Health Care False Claims Act (HCFCA) to proceed, finding that the administrator “does not identify a palpable defect in the Court’s opinion denying its motion to dismiss” (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan v. Munson Medical Center, No. 5:14-cv-11349, E.D. Mich., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 126780).
PHOENIX — Tribal and conservation groups cannot challenge the federal government’s approvals of coal mining activities by an Indian company on Indian land because the company cannot be joined to the action as an indispensable party due to its sovereign immunity as an arm of the tribe, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined July 29 (Dine Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Bureau of Indian Affairs, et al., No. 17-17320, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 22407).
TULSA, Okla. — The Trump administration on July 26 filed a brief in an Oklahoma federal court arguing that none of the claims raised by Native Americans who oppose federal permits for hydraulic fracturing on tribal land has merit and that their claim that the administration violated federal law should be denied (Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 16-cv-697, N.D. Okla.).