Ninth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Challenge to Tribal Leasing Regs

Here is the opinion in Desert Water Agency v. Dept. of the Interior.

An excerpt from the court’s summary:

The panel affirmed the district court’s dismissal for lack of standing and ripeness of a complaint brought by the Desert Water Agency (“DWA”), a political subdivision of the State of California, against the United States Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Indian Affairs, challenging a federal regulation that DWA believed might preempt certain taxes and fees DWA assessed against non-Indians who leased lands within an Indian reservation.

New federal regulation 25 C.F.R. § 162.017 concerns taxes applied to leases approved on Indian lands to third parties. DWA provides water supplies and water services to businesses and residences in Riverside County, California, and charges fees and taxes to non-Indians who lease land from the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians within the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation.

The panel held that § 162.017 did not purport to change existing law, and therefore, did not itself operate to preempt DWA’s charges, and did not command DWA to modify its behavior by doing or refraining from doing anything. The panel concluded that DWA lacked standing because it had not suffered a cognizable injury at the hands of the Department of the Interior.


Opening Brief

Federal Brief

Reply Brief

Lower court materials here.