Articles Posted in Native American Law

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Plaintiffs filed these lawsuits challenging the federal government's decision in 2008 to give the Oneida Indian Nation of New York over approximately 13,000 acres of land in central New York. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants, rejecting plaintiffs' claims that the land‐into‐trust procedures are unconstitutional and that certain provisions of the Indian Land Consolidation Act (ILCA), 25 U.S.C. 2201 et seq., bar the United States from taking land into trust for the Tribe. The court agreed with the district court that the entrustment procedure generally, and this entrustment in particular, lie within the federal government’s long‐recognized “plenary” power over Indian tribes: Neither principles of state sovereignty nor the Constitution’s Enclave Clause—which requires state consent for the broadest federal assertions of jurisdiction over land within a state—prevents the federal government from conferring on the Tribe jurisdiction over these trust lands. The court further held that the Oneida Nation of New York is eligible as a “tribe” within the meaning of 25 U.S.C. 465 and 2201(1) for land to be taken into trust on its behalf. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgments. View "Upstate Citizens for Equality v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Nation filed suit against defendants contending that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701‐2721, preempts the application of a local anti‐gambling ordinance to a Nation‐owned gaming facility located on land owned by the tribe (the Lakeside facility). The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and, following a motion for reconsideration, concluded that the individual plaintiffs lacked standing. The court concluded that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction, as it was not required to resolve questions of tribal law to hear the lawsuit. The court held that it was entitled to defer to the BIA's recognition of an individual as authorized to act on behalf of the Nation, notwithstanding the limited issue that occasioned that recognition. The court also concluded that the individual plaintiffs have standing to sue because they will suffer an injury distinct from any felt by the Nation. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Cayuga Nation v. Tanner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Gaming Commission and others, alleging that the Commission did not act in accordance with federal law in approving an ordinance and subsequent amendments to that ordinance that permitted the Seneca Nation to operate a class III gaming facility - a casino - on land owned by the Seneca Nation in Buffalo. The court held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiffs’ complaint in CACGEC III because the DOI and the NIGC’s determination that the Buffalo Parcel is eligible for class III gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701–2721, was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of discretion, or in violation of law; Congress intended the Buffalo Parcel to be subject to tribal jurisdiction, as required for the land to be eligible for gaming under IGRA; and IGRA Section 20’s prohibition of gaming on trust lands acquired after IGRA’s enactment in 1988, 25 U.S.C. 2719(a), does not apply to the Buffalo Parcel. Because the gaming ordinances at issue in the first two lawsuits (CACGEC I and CACGEC II) have been superseded by the most recent amended ordinance, the appeals of CACGEC I and CACGEC II are moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court in CACGEC III and dismissed the appeals of CACGEC I and CACGEC II. View "Citizens Against Casino Gambling in Erie Cnty. v. Chaudhuri" on Justia Law

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The County appealed the district court's order preliminarily enjoining it from foreclosing upon certain real property owned by the Cayuga Nation in order to recover uncollected ad valorem property taxes. The court affirmed the district court's injunction where the court declined, as has the Supreme Court, to read a "commercial activity" exception into the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity from suit. In the absence of a waiver of immunity by the tribe, unless Congress has authorized the suit, precedents demand that the court affirm the district court's injunction of the County's foreclosure proceedings against the Cayuga Nation's property. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County, New York" on Justia Law

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Stockbridge, a recognized Indian tribe, appealed from the district court's dismissal of its claims asserting title of a tract of land in upstate New York. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court, concluding that it was well-settled that claims by an Indian tribe alleging that it was unlawfully dispossessed of land early in America's history were barred by the equitable principles of laches, acquiescence, and impossibility. View "Stockbridge-Munsee v. State of New York, et al." on Justia Law

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The Town and the State appealed from the district court's adverse summary judgment ruling in a suit where the Tribe challenged the Town's imposition of the State's personal property tax on the lessors of slot machines used by the Tribe at Foxwoods Casino. The court held that the district court properly exercised jurisdiction; the Tribe had standing; neither the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., nor the Indian Trader Statutes, 25 U.S.C. 261-64, expressly barred the tax; and, under the White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker test, federal law did not implicitly bar the tax because the State and Town interests in the integrity and uniform application of their tax system outweighed the federal and tribal interests reflected in IGRA. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court erred in granting summary judgment for the Tribe and in denying summary judgment for the Town and State. View "Mashantucket Pequot Tribe v. Town of Ledyard" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant of conspiracy, (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(d)), and being a felon in possession of a firearm, (18 U.S.C. 922(g)). The district court upheld the firearm conviction, but vacated the RICO conviction and dismissed the conspiracy count from his indictment. The court stated that the attempt to prosecute conspiracy to violate the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act, 18 U.S.C. 2341, failed for unconstitutional vagueness in New York Tax Law, 471, which delineated the parameters of a CCTA violation. The Second Circuit reversed, holding that a prior decision to certify questions regarding Section 471 to the state’s highest court did not indicate that that statute was unconstitutionally vague. The court rejected a claim that the CCTA was inapplicable to defendant given New York’s “forbearance policy,” under which the state refrained from collecting taxes on cigarette sales transacted on Native American reservations. The forbearance policy did not signal a choice not to enforce tax laws when enforcement would be possible, but represented a concession to the difficulty of state enforcement, complex jurisdictional issues surrounding reservation-based cigarette sales, and the politically combustible nature of bootlegging prosecutions. Congress enacted the CCTA to provide federal support to states struggling with those circumstances. View "United States v. Morrison" on Justia Law

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In 2003, the Shinnecock Indian Nation entered began construction of a 61,000-square-foot casino on 80 acres in Southampton, New York. The Tribe did not obtain permits from the state or the town, but began bulldozing trees and brush. The state sued in state court, alleging that the planned casino violates state law, and is outside the scope of the IGRA (a federal act authorizing tribal gaming under certain conditions) because the Tribe is not federally recognized and the site is not “Indian lands” and that construction would violate state environmental laws. The Shinnecock removed the case to federal court on the basis that the complaint pleaded issues of federal law. The State moved to remand the action to state court, arguing that its complaint is based entirely on violations of New York state law, that removal was based on the complaint’s anticipation of defenses, and that the its reference to the IGRA asserts only that the IGRA does not apply. The district court denied remand, conducted a bench trial, and granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the Shinnecock from building a casino without complying with state and local law. The Second Circuit vacated, holding that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "State of New York v. Shinnecock Indian Nation" on Justia Law

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These consolidated appeals, which have been returned to the court on remand from the United States Supreme Court, once again called upon the court to consider whether - and, if so, on what grounds - the Oneida Indian Nation of New York (OIN) was entitled to restrain the Counties from foreclosing upon certain fee-title properties, acquired on the open market by the OIN in the 1990's, for which the OIN had refused to pay property tax. The court held that the OIN had abandoned its claims premised on tribal sovereign immunity from suit as well as its claims based upon the Nonintercourse Act, 25 U.S.C. 177. The court also held that the district court erred in ruling that the Counties' redemption-notice procedures failed to comport with due process. The court further held that the district court should not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the OIN's state-law claims. The court finally affirmed as to several ancillary matters.

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The government appealed from an order of the district court granting a preliminary injunction to stay enforcement of provisions of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act), Pub. L. No. 111-154, section 2(a), 124 Stat. 1087, 1088, requiring mail-order cigarette sellers to pay state excise taxes. The government argued that the district court erred in concluding that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the PACT Act's provision requiring out-of-state tobacco sellers to pay state excise taxes, regardless of their contact with that state, violated the Due Process Clause. The court held that because the district court's entry of the preliminary injunction was not an abuse of discretion, the court affirmed the judgment.