Split Utah SCT Affirms Tribal Immunity, Adopts Tribal Court Exhaustion Doctrine

Here is the opinion in Harvey v. Ute Indian Tribe.

UPDATE (11/10/17) Briefs:

Appellant’s Brief

Appellant’s Reply Brief

Appellee’s Brief-LaRose

Appellee’s Brief-Newfield

Appellee’s Brief-Ute Indian Tribe

Joinder in Brief

Response to Supplemental Authority-Appellee 1

Response to Supplemental Authority-Appellee 2

Supplemental Authority-Appellant

An excerpt:

The oil and gas industry is a major economic force in the Uintah Basin. This industry relies, to some extent, on access to the Uintah and Ouray Reservation of the Ute Indian Tribe. The plaintiffs allege that, through its ability to restrict the industry’s access to tribal lands, the tribe has held hostage the economy of the non-Indian population.

Ryan Harvey, a plaintiff and part owner of the two corporations that are the other plaintiffs in this case, alleges that tribal officials from the Ute Tribe attempted to extort him by threatening to shut down his businesses if he did not acquiesce to their demands, despite the fact that his businesses do not operate directly on tribal land. After his refusal to make certain payments, the tribal officials sent a letter to the oil and gas companies operating on tribal land informing them that they would be subject to sanctions if they used any of Harvey’s businesses. The tribal official’s letter dried up a large portion of Harvey’s business, and Harvey brought claims against the tribe, the tribal officials, various companies owned by the tribal officials, oil and gas companies, and other private companies he alleges are complicit in this extortionate behavior. Most of the defendants filed motions to dismiss on various grounds and the district court dismissed Harvey’s claims against all of the defendants. On direct appeal, Harvey seeks to set aside the dismissals. We affirm the dismissal of the Ute Tribe under sovereign immunity and the dismissal of Newfield, LaRose Construction, and D. Ray C. Enterprises for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. But we vacate the dismissal of the remaining defendants and remand for further proceedings consistent with the tribal exhaustion doctrine.

If anyone has the briefs in this fascinating case, please send them along.

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