SEATTLE — A federal judge in Washington on Aug. 13 ruled that four people who were unsuccessful in their attempts to get elected to the council for the Nooksack Indian Tribe did not show that the federal government changed the policy for how elections to the council were conducted (Robert Doucette, et al. v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-859, W.D. Wash., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136494).
SEATTLE — A Washington federal judge on Aug. 29 awarded summary judgment to the remaining individual defendants on a former employee’s qui tam false claims lawsuit against tribal health clinic officials and then slapped the ex-worker with sanctions and directed his attorney to show cause why he should not be sanctioned as well for the suit’s “scurrilous and unsupported statements” (United States, ex rel. Raju Dahlstrom v. Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe of Washington, et al., No. 2:16-cv-52, W.D. Wash., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147714).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 28 denied mandamus relief to a California Indian tribe and its gaming agencies, allowing discovery to continue into a casino development company’s claims that it is owed millions of dollars because of the tribe’s breach of contract, fraud and racketeering (Pinoleville Gaming Authority, et al. v. U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, et al., No. 19-71522, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 26032).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation Aug. 16 aimed at funding and promoting “the preservation, revitalization, relevancy, and use of Native American languages.”
YAKIMA, Wash. — A Washington federal judge on Aug. 28 declared that a disputed 121,000-acre tract of land in the state “is located within the exterior boundaries of the Yakama Reservation established by the Treaty of 1855,” that the state’s juvenile delinquency laws no longer apply to Indians within the reservation and that traffic offenses committed by Indians are governed by federal and tribal law, not state law (Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Klickitat County, et al., No. 1:17-cv-03192, E.D. Wash.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Members of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma are back in federal court over their rights to royalty payments from oil and gas operations on tribal land, filing a class complaint Aug. 21 in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims seeking more than $100 million in damages from the government (William S. Fletcher, et al. v. United States, No. 1:19-cv-01246, Fed. Clms.).
FRESNO, Calif. — A California magistrate judge on Aug. 26 recommended awarding summary judgment to the remaining two defendants in a prisoner’s civil rights action alleging that he was unconstitutionally denied items for use in Native American religious ceremonies (Richard S. Kindred v. Cliff Allenby, et al., No. 1:14-cv-01652, E.D. Calif., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 144821).
CINCINNATI — An Indian tribe has the authority under federal law to issue a civil protection order against a nonmember of the tribe, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Aug. 26 in affirming dismissal of an action by a nonmember against a Michigan tribe, the tribe’s Supreme Court and a tribal court judge (Joy Spurr v. Melissa Lopez Pope, et al., No. 18-2174, 6th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 25526).
NORMAN, Okla. — An Oklahoma state court judge on Aug. 26 ordered Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. to pay $572.1 million to fund the first year of the state’s opioid crisis abatement plan (Oklahoma, ex rel., Mike Hunter, et al. v. Purdue Pharma L.P., et al., No. CJ-2017-816, Okla. Dist., Cleveland Co.). VIDEO OF JUDGMENT SUMMARY AVAILABLE.
BOSTON — A Massachusetts federal judge made clear in a recent third amended judgment on remand that while an Indian tribe is not subject to state or local gaming laws, it still must comply with general regulatory laws when building a gaming facility. On Aug. 23, the tribe appealed the ruling to the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals once more (Massachusetts, et al. v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head [Aquinnah], et al., No. 13-13286, D. Mass.).
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A teacher at an Indian high school in Arizona cannot pursue federal civil rights claims against two school officials because they are not “federal actors” for liability purposes under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided Aug. 20 (Miles Beam v. Alban Naha, et al., No. 18-15968, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24787).
NEW YORK — The Cayuga Nation in New York and one of its council members sued the pay cable channel Showtime in state court on Aug. 13, alleging that it defamed them by identifying them by name and portraying them taking part in criminal activities involving their gambling operations (Cayuga Nation, et al. v. Showtime Networks Inc., et al., No. 157902/2019, N.Y. Sup., New York Co.).
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.).