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).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 4 declined to rehear its ruling that the federal government correctly determined that a California Indian tribe’s reorganization effort was invalid, that its membership is not limited to five individuals in one faction and that the United States does not recognize the leadership of the tribal government (California Valley Miwok Tribe, et al. v. Ryan K. Zinke, et al., No. 17-16321, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3468).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on Feb. 5 sent an Indian tribe’s challenge to the federal government’s approvals of hydraulic fracturing wells on the tribe’s reservation to North Dakota federal court at the request of the drilling company, rejecting the tribe’s assertion that its choice of venue deserved “substantial deference” (Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 18-1462, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17975).
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The sovereignty of the Navajo Nation would be jeopardized by not allowing child sex abuse allegations against the Mormon Church to proceed in tribal court to at least produce a factual record, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court held Dec. 28 in denying a bid by the church to have the case dismissed (Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, et al. v. Window Rock District Court, et al., No. SC-CV-42-18, Navajo Nation Sup., 2018 Navajo Sup. LEXIS 5).
FORT MYERS, Fla. — While the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s hunting and fishing rights are not abrogated by two federal environmental laws, its right to sell alligator eggs is subject to “reasonable and necessary conservation measures” by the government, a federal judge decided Feb. 4 in denying a tribal member’s motion to dismiss a criminal action against him for selling thousands of alligator eggs (United States v. Jack W. Turtle, No. 2:18-cr-88, M.D. Fla., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17331).
GREEN BAY, Wis. — A Wisconsin federal judge on Jan. 31 dismissed an Oneida tribal member’s civil rights claims against the tribe’s business committee over her failed petition for tribal per capita payments, finding no federal jurisdiction or valid allegations for the claims (Gladys D. Dallas v. Tehassi Hill, et al., No. 18-C-1657, E.D. Wis., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15166).
PASADENA, Calif. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 28 affirmed a California county’s collection of a state tax on U.S. trust lands leased by an Indian tribe after 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 2791).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Communications Commission trampled on federal law when it adopted rules in 2017 limiting Congress’ mandate to provide affordable broadband and telecommunications services to low-income Native Americans living on tribal land, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Feb. 1 (National Lifeline Association, et al. v. Federal Communications Commission, et al., Nos. 18-1026, 18-1080, D.C. Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 3278).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior needs to do a better job providing Native Americans with information on its tribal funding decisions and tracking how the funds are disbursed, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Jan. 29 in a Senate subcommittee report on tribal self-governance.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Whether an Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products hinges on the interpretation of an 1855 treaty, which is the U.S. Supreme Court’s task in another case that awaits a decision, so the company’s petition for a writ of certiorari in its fight against a $57.9 million judgment against it should be held until the other case is decided, the company says in its petition, which was docketed Jan. 29 (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup.).
PHOENIX — An Arizona court did not abuse its discretion in recognizing a tribal court’s award of attorney fees to a tribe in a former casino worker’s losing suit against casino management over his firing, an Arizona appellate panel determined Jan. 22, saying the tribal court’s decision is entitled to comity by the state courts (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, et al. v. Gregory F. Mullally, No. CV 18-0175, Ariz. App., Div. 1, 2019 Ariz. App. Unpub. LEXIS 72).
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah federal judge on Jan. 24 denied the Ute Indian Tribe’s request to recuse another judge from a water rights case, rejecting the tribe’s claim that the judge “is heavily biased against both the Ute Tribe and the fundamental tenets of Federal Indian law and policy” (Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation v. Gregory D. McKee, et al., No. 2:18-cv-314, D. Utah, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12472).