Justia U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Native American Law
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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York and the district court's permanent injunction enjoining the County from foreclosing on the Cayuga Indian Nation's real property for nonpayment of taxes. The court agreed with the district court that tribal sovereign immunity from suit bars the County from pursuing tax enforcement actions under Article 11 of the New York Real Property Tax Law against the Cayuga Indian Nation. The court explained that the County's foreclosure proceedings are not permitted by the traditional common law exception to sovereign immunity that covers certain actions related to immovable property. In this case, the foreclosure actions fall outside the purview of the common law version of the immovable-property exception. The court also rejected the County's reading of City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197 (2005), as abrogating a tribe's immunity from suit. View "Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County" on Justia Law

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Neither the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua nor the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca Nation create an individualized exemption from federal income taxes for income "derived from" Seneca land. In this case, petitioners filed suit in tax court seeking a redetermination of their 2008 and 2009 joint individual tax returns, in which they sought an exemption for income derived from their gravel operation, contending that their gravel sales during 2008 and 2009 were exempt from federal income taxes pursuant to the two treaties.The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's determination that neither treaty created an exemption and rejected petitioners' argument suggesting otherwise because petitioners' view is premised upon the erroneous presumption that an exemption from federal taxes for income derived from land held in trust for American Indians extends to land that remains in the possession of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The court also noted that, to the extent the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca creates an exemption from taxes on Seneca land, that exemption does not cover income derived from Seneca land by individual enrolled members of the Seneca Nation. View "Perkins v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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King Mountain appealed the district court's judgment granting partial summary judgment for the State on its claims that King Mountain violated state laws on cigarette sales, and enjoining future violations. The State cross-appealed from the district court's dismissal of its claims under the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) and the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act).The Second Circuit reversed with respect to the district court's grant of summary judgment for King Mountain and the denial of summary judgment for the State on the PACT Act claim. The court agreed with the State that Congress's decision to separately define "Indian country" and "State" in the PACT Act evidenced Congressional intent to expand the traditional understanding of "interstate commerce" rather than narrow it. The court held that the definition of "commerce between a State and any place outside the State," encompassed King Mountain's sales from the Yakama reservation in Washington State to Indian reservations in New York. The court agreed with the district court's holding that King Mountain, which was organized under the laws of the Yakama Nation, wholly owned by a member of the Yakama Nation, and located on the Yakama reservation, qualified as an "Indian in Indian Country," and thus was exempt from the CCTA.The court held that King Mountain failed to establish a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause; there was no error in the district court's determination that the State's third claim for relief was not barred by res judicata; the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the State on its third claim for relief; and, to the extent King Mountain's argument related to trade, there was no right to trade in the Yakama Treaty. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "New York v. Mountain Tobacco Co." on Justia 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