Federal Court Dismisses Town of Browning v. Sharp, States Town Has Tribal Court Remedy

Here are the materials in Town of Browning v. Sharp (D. Mont.):

71 Sharp 12b1 Motion to Dismiss

73 Sharp 12b6 Motion to Dismiss

75 Sharp 12b7 Motion to Dismiss

95 Town Response to 71

96 Town Response to 73

97 Town Response to 75

115 Sharp Reply in Support of 75

156 Magistrate Recommendation

162 DCT Order

An excerpt:

No adequate alternative forum exists to address the Town of Browning’s ex Parte Young action. The Blackfeet Tribal Court appears to represent an adequate alternative forum, however, to address the ongoing dispute between the Blackfeet Tribe and the Town of Browning. Indeed, in the Blackfeet Tribal Court, the Town of Browning can litigate against the Blackfeet Tribe directly rather than through an ex Parte Young action. Further, the Town of Browning appears to have moderated its position regarding the relief that it seeks. (Doc. 159). The Town of Browning appears to seek some reasonable compensation from the Blackfeet Tribe for use of the Town of Browning’s water main to deliver water to utility customers. The Town of Browning can seek and obtain this relief as a counterclaim in the breach of contract claim currently pending in the Blackfeet Tribal Court. Although the Town of Browning has challenged the Blackfeet Tribal Court’s jurisdiction over it on the grounds of sovereign immunity, the existence of a contract between the parties appears to confer jurisdiction on the Blackfeet Tribal Court. Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544, 565 (1981). An alternative forum exists for the Town of Browning to obtain the relief it seeks.

After weighing the factors listed in Rule 19(b), this Court has determined that this case should not proceed in the absence of the Blackfeet Tribe, a required party. The potential prejudice to the Blackfeet Tribe far outweighs the harm to the Town of Browning. The Blackfeet Tribal Court represents an alternative forum for the Town of Browning to address its underlying dispute with the Blackfeet Tribe.

Materials on the preliminary injunction stage of this litigation are here.