SAN FRANCISCO — The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) denial of federal recognition to a California tribe was neither arbitrary nor an abuse of discretion, a federal judge in that state ruled March 12 in awarding the agency summary judgment on the tribe’s bid for declaratory relief (Tolowa Nation v. United States, et al., No. 3:17-cv-6478, N.D. Calif.).
SEATTLE — The Department of the Interior (DOI) correctly determined that a Washington Indian tribe is not eligible to run a gambling operation under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held March 12 in affirming summary judgment for the federal government (Frank’s Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission, et al., No. 17-35368, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 7216).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A case in which a drugmaker is trying to use an Indian tribe’s sovereign immunity to shield it from inter partes review (IPR) of its patents is a poor vehicle for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the issue of tribal immunity for IPRs, respondent generic drugmakers tell the high court in a March 6 brief in opposition to a certiorari petition (Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, et al. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., et al., No. 18-899, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 837).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court should reverse a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals finding that the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are entitled to recover more than $8.25 million in response costs from a Canadian industrial polluter of the Columbia River for enforcement actions taken under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), the company liable for the pollution says in a petition for certiorari docketed March 6 (Teck Metals Ltd. v. The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, et al., No. 18-1160, U.S. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — Two Native American tribes on March 6 filed an amicus curiae brief in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals arguing that it should deny a motion to stay an injunction filed by a pipeline company that wants to proceed with construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which the tribes say would threaten their land and water because it would transport hydraulically fractured oil (Indigenous Environmental Network, et al. v. United States Department of State, et al., No. 18-36068, 9th Cir.).
PASADENA, Calif. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 6 declined to review its affirmance of a California county’s collection of a state tax on U.S. trust lands leased by an Indian tribe and finding that the tax is not preempted by federal law (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Riverside County, et al., No. 17-56003, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 6767).
ATLANTA — Three Native American tribes that saw their claims against Equifax Inc. transferred and centralized in Georgia federal court along with hundreds of other similar suits filed a motion March 1 asking the court to establish a separate track in the litigation for tribal governments’ claims against the company, citing unique issues of law and sovereignty (In Re: Equifax Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, No. 1:17-md-2800, N.D. Ga.).
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).