Second Circuit Affirms Cuyuga Nation Immunity from County Taxes even under Immovable Property Exception

Here are the materials in Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Seneca County, New York:

CA2 Opinion

Seneca County Brief

Cayuga Tribe Brief


Lower court materials here.

Federal Circuit Rejects Shinnecock Nation’s Judicial Takings Claims re: Dismissal of Land Claims under Sherrill

Here is the opinion in Shinnecock Indian Nation v. United States.

An excerpt:

Accordingly, we affirm the United States Court of Federal Claims’ determination that the Nation’s breach of trust claims are not yet ripe for review, vacate its ruling that it lacked jurisdiction over those claims, and remand the case with instructions to dismiss the breach of trust claims without prejudice.


A similar analysis applies here. The Nation alleges that in applying the doctrine of laches to bar its land claim, the district court improperly “took away the Nation’s legal right to sue for compensation for its stolen land.” The Court of Federal Claims, however, is without authority to adjudicate the Nation’s claim that it suffered a compensable taking at the hands of the district court. See Allustiarte, 256 F.3d at 1352; Joshua, 17 F.3d at 380. The court has no jurisdiction to review the decisions “of district courts and cannot entertain a taking[s] claim that requires the court to scrutinize the actions of another tribunal.” Innovair, 632 F.3d at 1344 (alteration in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). As the government correctly notes, “[d]eciding whether the district court’s judgment resulted in an unconstitutional taking of the Nation’s property would require the Court of Federal Claims to review the judgment and pass on its correctness.” Just as the plaintiffs’ takings claim in Allustiarte was an improper collateral attack on the judgment of the bankruptcy courts, the Nation’s proposed judicial takings claim is an attempt to mount an improper collateral attack on the judgment of the district court.

Briefs here. Lower court materials here.

Laches Does Not Apply to an Action in Law, Unless it Does

Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on the copyright of the Raging Bull screenplay involved both copyright law and laches. At issue was how long the screenwriter’s heir could wait to sue MGM for permission to renew the copyright. Copyright was originally sold to a company in 1976, and the heir waited until 2009 to sue for copyright infringement. She did communicate with MGM her displeasure during this time, but did not sue. The lower courts dismissed her claim on laches (as a refresher, laches is an affirmative defense used when the plaintiff waits an “unreasonable” amount of time to bring a claim and the defendant is injured by that delay).

In reversing the 9th Circuit, Justice Ginsburg cites to Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida 470 U.S. 226, 244, n.16 (1985) “(“[A]pplication of the equitable defense of laches in an action at law would be novel indeed.”).” It would be! But wait! That’s exactly what the Second Circuit did in Cayuga Indian Nation v. New York (relying on City of Sherrill v. OIN), as Justice Breyer points out in his dissent: “Lower courts have come to similar holdings in a wide array of circumstances—often approving not only of the availability of the laches defense, but of its application to the case at hand. E.g., Cayuga Indian Nation of N. Y. v. Pataki, 413 F. 3d 266, 274–277 (CA2 2005) (laches available in a “possessory land claim” in which the District Court awarded damages, whether “characterized as an action at law or in equity,” and dismissing the action due to laches);”. No one cited to City of Sherrill, perhaps because that case only “evokes” the doctrine of laches.

And in a majority footnote:

“13 Assuming Petrella had a winning case on the merits, the Court of Appeals’ ruling on laches would effectively give MGM a cost-free license to exploit Raging Bull throughout the long term of the copyright. The value to MGM of such a free, compulsory license could exceed by far MGM’s expenditures on the film.”

Because we wouldn’t want laches to be used to achieve THAT to result.

UCLA American Indian Studies Conference — March 7, 2014

Here. Fletcher et al. papers to be discussed (“Tribal Disruption and Indian Claims“; “(Re)Solving the Tribal No-Forum Conundrum: Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community“; and “Tribal Disruption and Labor Relations“), and panel:

Plenary 1: Innovations in Law

  • Kristen A. Carpenter, Associate Professor of Law, Co-Director of American Indian Law Program, University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Carole E. Goldberg, Vice Chancellor, UCLA Academic Personnel, and Jonathan D. Varat Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
  • Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Professor of Law, Director of the Indigenous Law & Policy Center, Michigan State University
  • Moderator: Angela R. Riley, Professor, UCLA School of Law, and Director, UCLA American Indian Studies Center

Federal Court Issues Clarified Order in St. Regis Mohawk Land Claims (Fort Covington Area Claim)

In short, no dice. Here are the updated materials:

St. Regis Mohawk Motion for Clarification

US Motion for Clarification

USDC NDNY Canadian St. Regis v. New York – Corrected & Clarified Memorandum Decision & Order 7-23-2013

Prior order here.

Federal Court Dismisses Most St. Regis Mohawk Land Claims; Hogansburg Triangle Claims Survive

Here is the opinion in the case captioned Canadian St. Regis Band Mohawk Indians v. State of New York (N.D. N.Y.):

DCT Order July 9, 2013

News coverage here.

Magistrate report and recommendation here.

Objections and responses here:

St. Regis Mohawk Opening Brief

Akwesasne Mohawk Opening Brief

United States Opening Brief

Defendants’ Opening Brief

US Response

Canadian St. Regis Mohawk Response

NY Power Authority Response

St. Regis Mohawk Response

State and Municipal Defendants Response

NY Power Authority Reply

St. Regis Mohawk Reply

Canadian St. Regis Mohawk Reply

Municipal Defendants Surreply

NY Power Authority & State Surreply


Complete Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation Cert Stage Briefs


11-12-12 Madison v. NY Oneida Cert Petition

New York Amicus Brief in Support of Petition

Oneida Indian Nation of New York  Brief in Opposition

Madison County Cert Stage Reply Brief

Oneida Indian Nation Cert Opposition Brief in Reservation Boundaries Case


1-16-13 12-604 — Madison Countyv. Oneida Indian Nation of New York — S. Ct. Brief in Opposition-

Petition here.


Madison County v. Oneida Indian Nation Cert Petition

As expected, Madison and Oneida Counties filed a cert petition over the Second Circuit’s affirmation of the Oneida reservation boundaries. Here:

11-12-12 Madison v. NY Oneida Cert Petition

Question presented:

Does the 300,000-acre ancient Oneida reservation in New York still exist, neither disestablished nor diminished, despite (1) the federal government’s actions taken in furtherance of disestablishment (including, but not limited to, the 1838 Treaty of Buffalo Creek); (2) this Court’s holding in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 544 U.S. 197, 214 (2005) (“Sherrill”) that the Oneida Indian Nation of New York cannot exercise sovereignty over lands it purchases in the ancient reservation area; and (3) this Court’s finding in that case that land in the ancient reservation area has not been treated as an Indian reservation by the federal, state or local governments for nearly two centuries?

Lower court materials here.

Ironies of the Patchak Decision

Here are some interesting ironies of the reasoning and outcome in Patchak.

First, the prudential standing of David Patchak to sue the federal government to protect the rural character of his community (and related objections) — under Michigan law (I think) Patchak would have a much more difficult proof than he does under the conglomeration of statutes Patchak is using (APA, QTA, and I guess IGRA). Just a few weeks ago, the Michigan Court of Appeals (Tobin v City of Frankfort — thanks to B.A. for pointing this one out for me) rejected the standing of a landowner to challenge a development in Benzie County. Here were the injuries complained of:

Intervenor argues that it has established through its members’ affidavits that it has standing to intervene and pursue its member’s claims. The relevant declarations by FOBB members in their September 2000 affidavits primarily detail concerns about (1) increases in population, traffic, noise levels, lights, air pollution, and property taxes; (2) decreases in home values, aesthetics of the neighborhood, and environmental value caused by tree and vegetation removal attributable to the development; and (3) the potential presence of commercial establishments. The generalized concerns relating to environmental impacts, population increases, aesthetics, and pecuniary harm do not suffice to demonstrate “special damages . . . different in kind from those suffered by the community, so as to qualify [intervenor] as an aggrieved party.” Joseph, 5 Mich App at 571. Alternately phrased, development-related aesthetic changes, population increases, environmental impacts, and pecuniary harm will be experienced by other community members to the same extent as affiants.

But that’s not prudential standing, you say. True, but what an irony. This is Patchak’s list of alleged injuries in a nutshell:

To establish his standing to bring suit, Patchak contended that he lived “in close proximity to” the Bradley Property and that a casino there would “destroy the lifestyle he has enjoyed” by causing “increased traffic,” “increased crime,” “decreased property values,” “an irreversible change in the rural character of the area,” and “other aesthetic, socioeconomic, and environmental problems.”

Justice Kagan’s majority opinion then uses the Cohen Handbook as support for the proposition that since Interior takes land into trust for the benefit of Indian tribes (often economic benefit), then anyone seemingly opposed to tribal economies has standing (sorry for the long block quote):

Patchak’s suit satisfies that standard, because §465 has far more to do with land use than the Government and Band acknowledge. Start with what we and others have said about §465’s context and purpose. As the leading treatise on federal Indian law notes, §465 is “the capstone” of the IRA’s land provisions. F. Cohen, Handbook of Federal Indian Law §15.07[1][a], p. 1010 (2005 ed.) (hereinafter Cohen). And those provisions play a key role in the IRA’s overall effort “to rehabilitate the Indian’s economic life,” Mescalero Apache Tribe v. Jones, 411 U. S. 145, 152 (1973) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Land forms the basis” of that “economic life,” providing the foundation for “tourism, manufacturing, mining, logging, . . . and gaming.” Cohen §15.01, at 965. Section 465 thus functions as a primary mechanism to foster Indian tribes’ economic development. As the D. C. Circuit explained in the MichGO litigation, the section “provid[es] lands sufficient to enable Indians to achieve self-support.” Michigan Gambling, 525 F. 3d, at 31 (internal quotation marks omitted); see Morton v. Mancari, 417 U. S. 535, 542 (1974) (noting the IRA’s economic aspect). So when the Secretary obtains land for Indians under §465, she does not do so in a vacuum. Rather, she takes title to properties with at least one eye directed toward how tribes will use those lands to support economic development.

So in Michigan, someone who objects to development can’t sue because no one has adopted a statute specifically authorizing such development. In Indian law, someone who objects to tribal development can sue because Congress specifically did adopt a statute authorizing land purchases. The fact that Section 5 exists to remedy incredible tribal land dispossession and poverty is irrelevant.

Second, the land development question — Gun Lake Casino is up and running, and the State of Michigan and the local units of government (well, and the Tribe), are raking in millions upon millions. Patchak wants that to end (because apparently he didn’t care that Wayland’s football players were under a pay-to-play arrangement; more details here).

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