SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Four businesses that operate casinos in California lost their bid to supplement the administrative record March 4 in their federal lawsuit against the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) authorization to an Indian tribe to conduct gaming on land held in trust for the tribe by the United States (Cal-Pac Rancho Cordova, LLC, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 2:16-cv-2982, E.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34216).
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A Native Alaskan village and several environmental groups sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on March 1 in federal court, alleging that the agency violated the law in approving an oil company’s winter exploration activities in a designated “Special Area” of the Western Arctic (Native Village of Nuiqsut, Alaska v. Bureau of Land Management, et al., No. 3:19-cv-00056, D. Alaska).
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A South Dakota federal judge on March 1 denied a request by federal prosecutors to exclude from an Indian’s sexual assault trial any reference to the accused’s acquittal in tribal court of attempted rape, saying any confusion caused by allowing the evidence can be cured with a jury instruction (United States v. Xavier Zephier, No. 4:18-CR-40023, D. S.D., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32977).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge on Feb. 28 mostly declined to dismiss claims for recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act leveled by the Navajo Nation, New Mexico and Utah against the U.S. government for damages caused by the 2015 Gold King Mine explosion and acid mine drainage spill (In Re: Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824, D. N.M., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33321).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 27 affirmed dismissal of a father’s bid for judicial review in a child custody dispute, finding in part that the dispute does not belong in tribal court because the tribe the child is allegedly a member of is not recognized by the federal government for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (Thomas L. Thomas v. Dorene Disanto, et al., No. 17-13404, 11th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 5886).
CINCINNATI — The question of whether Congress clearly abrogated tribal sovereign immunity in the U.S. Bankruptcy Code divided a Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel Feb. 26, with the majority finding no unequivocal intent to remove tribal immunity and no waiver of the immunity by the filing of a bankruptcy petition in affirming dismissal of fraudulent transfer claims against a Michigan Indian tribe and its gaming business (Buchwald Capital Advisors, LLC v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, et al., Nos. 18-1165, 18-1166, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 5584).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 22 affirmed the dismissal of civil rights claims filed in federal court against an Indian tribe by a man who claims that he was assaulted and robbed by tribal law enforcement officers when he was taken to jail for not paying a speeding ticket, based on sovereign immunity and failure to exhaust tribal court remedies (Rudy Butch Stanko v. Oglala Sioux Tribe, et al., No. 17-3176, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 5276).
SAN FRANCISCO — On rehearing, a California appeals court panel on Feb. 25 affirmed a summary adjudication order and a permanent injunction entered in favor of the state attorney general halting the on-reservation sale of untaxed cigarettes to the public by a member of an Indian tribe (The People ex rel. Xavier Becerra v. Ardith Huber, No. A144214, Calif. App., 1st Dist., 4th Div., 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 149).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred in finding that a patron of an Indian casino whose vehicle was confiscated by the tribe after marijuana was found inside must pursue his conversion claims against a tribal police officer and a towing company to the tribal court based on comity, the patron tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a petition docketed Feb. 21 (Curtiss Wilson v. Horton’s Towing, et al., No. 18-1081, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 622 ).
ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 20 declined to rehear its affirmance of dismissal of a Florida Indian tribe’s attempt to avoid paying the state’s utility tax based on claim preclusion (Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Leon Biegalski, No. 18-12094, 11th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 4967).
MISSOULA, Mont. — A Montana federal judge on Feb. 20 allowed qui tam plaintiffs to pursue claims that board members of a Native American tribal college submitted false claims to receive federal funding (Fawn Cain, et al. v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc., et al., No. 12-181, D. Mont., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26955).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Connecticut and an Indian tribe can amend their complaint against the federal government in the tribe’s bid to operate an off-reservation casino, a District of Columbia federal judge held Feb. 15 (Connecticut, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 1:17-cv-2564, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24576).
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A federal judge in Arizona on Feb. 19 ruled that an expert for a gas company seeking contribution and cost recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act from the federal government, U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the cleanup of 19 uranium mines on the Navajo Reservation can proffer testimony based on aerial photographs of the site, ruling that his methodology was reliable and that any challenges to the weight of his testimony can be challenged at trial (El Paso Natural Gas Co. LLC v. United States, No. CV-14-08165-PCT-DGC, D. Ariz., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26054).
LOS ANGELES — A Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) official unlawfully issued a decision in favor of a tribe seeking to have land taken into trust by the United States for a tribal housing development, a California federal judge ruled Feb. 13, vacating the decision and remanding to the BIA for a final agency action (Anne Crawford-Hall, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 2:17-cv-01616, C.D. Calif.).
EL PASO, Texas — Texas’ bingo law does not violate the U.S. Constitution and is not enforced against Indian tribes in a discriminatory manner, a federal judge ruled Feb. 11 in awarding the Texas attorney general summary judgment on a tribe’s counterclaims in a long-running battle over the tribe’s gambling operations (Texas v. Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo, et al., No. 3:17-cv-179, W.D. Texas, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21295).
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A New York federal judge on Feb. 11 held that the state of New York plausibly alleges that two Indian enterprises are running a contraband cigarette ring that illegally brings millions of dollars’ worth of cigarettes into New York from Canada, rejecting a magistrate judge’s recommendation to dismiss the state’s claims (New York v. Grand River Enterprises Six Nations, Ltd., et al., No. 14-cv-910, W.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21558).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — San Juan County, Utah, which is an intervenor in the consolidated litigation brought by Native American tribes against the Trump administration regarding its decision to reduce the size of two national monuments, on Jan. 29 filed a brief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia contending that the court should approve the county’s proposed briefing schedule (Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, D. D.C., Hopi Tribe, et al. v. Donald Trump, et al., No. 17-2590, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. — A couple’s false arrest and racial profiling claims against an Indian casino fail for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because Indian tribes are sovereign entities not subject to constitutional tort allegations, a New York federal judge ruled Feb. 7 in dismissing the couple’s complaint (Curtis Edwards, et al. v. Foxwoods Resort Casino, et al., No. 17-cv-05869, E.D. N.Y., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20115).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of the Interior (DOI) on Jan. 31 released a report in which it found that there was no evidence that a Utah state legislator who owns property along the border of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) influenced, or benefitted from, the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of the monument.
SEATTLE — A Washington federal judge on Feb. 6 allowed a commercial shellfish operation to intervene as a defendant in an Indian tribe’s lawsuit alleging that the federal government’s permitting process for farming shellfish in North Puget Sound fails to protect endangered native eelgrass beds (Swinomish Indian Tribal Community v. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., No. 2:18-cv-598, W.D. Wash., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19394).