Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Reservation v. McKenna Cert Petition


cert petition

Question presented:

Whether federal courts called upon to enforce Indian treaty protections in tribal challenges to State regulation may enter judgment against the Indian Tribe without considering evidence and entering findings of fact on the Indians’ understanding of the United States’ treaty promises.

Lower court materials here.

Ninth Circuit Rejects Treaty Argument in King Mountain Tobacco v. McKenna

Here is the opinion.

The court’s syllabus:

Affirming the district court’s summary judgment, the panel held that the Yakama Treaty of 1855 did not preclude enforcement of the State of Washington’s escrow statute, which requires tobacco companies to place money from cigarette sales into escrow to reimburse the State for health care costs related to the use of tobacco products.

The panel held that Washington’s escrow statute was a nondiscriminatory law and that the activities of King Mountain Tobacco Co., a company owned and operated by an enrolled member of the Yakama Indian Nation, were largely off-reservation. Accordingly, absent express federal law to the contrary, King Mountain was subject to the escrow statute. The panel held that the plain text of the Yakama Treaty did not create a federal exemption from the escrow statute. Specifically, Article II of the Treaty, which established the boundaries of the Yakama reservation and reserved it for Yakama use and benefit, was not an express federal law that exempted King Mountain from the escrow statute. Nor was Article III, which reserved to the tribe the right to travel on public highways and the right to hunt and fish. The panel held that the district court did not err by declining to make findings regarding the Treaty’s meaning to the Yakama people at the time of its signing because the meaning to the Yakama people could not overcome the clear words of the Treaty.

Briefs here.

Ninth Circuit Materials in King Mountain Tobacco v. McKenna

Here are the briefs:

King Mountain Opening Brief 

Washington Answer Brief

King Mtn Reply Brief

Oral argument link here.

Lower court materials here.

Federal Court Rules Against King Mountain Tobacco in Dispute with Washington State

Here are the materials in King Mt. Tobacco Co. v. McKenna (E.D. Wash.):

DCT Order

Washington AG Motion for Summary J

King Mountain Opposition

Washington AG Reply

King Mountain Tobacco Motion for Summary J

Washington AG Opposition

King Mountain Reply

An excerpt:

Based on the finding above that the finished cigarettes and roll-your-own tobacco [24] are not directly derived from trust land, King Mountain can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that Washington’s escrow statutes are in conflict with the Treaty or federal law which would entitle Plaintiffs to relief. Escrow is required for all non-exempt sales subject to the State’s cigarette taxes, regardless whether those sales occur on or off the reservation. Escrow isnotrequired for tax exempt King Mountain sales of cigarettes purchased directly by enrolled members of federally recognized Indian tribes from an Indian tribal jurisdiction of the member’s tribe for the member’s own use. If there were any past sales that were exempt from state excise tax, but for which King Mountain has deposited money into escrow anyway, King Mountain has failed to offer evidence in support of a refund claim and the court expresses no opinion concerning the same. Accordingly, King Mountain, a NPM, is required to comply with the escrow statute for all past and future sales deemed “units sold.”

Ninth Circuit Rejects Yakama Indian Nation Challenge to Washington Taxes: “Economic Reality” Continues to Be Foreclosed in Indian Tax Cases

Here is today’s opinion in Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation v. Gregoire.

Here are the briefs (lower court materials here):

Opening Brief of Plaintiff-Appellant

Washington Answer Brief

Yakama Indian Nation Reply

An excerpt from the majority:

In 1978, a three-judge district court held that the legal incidence of the Washington cigarette tax did not fall on the Tribes. Confederated Tribes of Colville Indian Reservation v. Washington, 446 F. Supp. 1339 (E.D. Wash. 1978). In 1980, the Supreme Court agreed with the three-judge court and upheld the validity of Washington’s cigarette tax and its requirement that tribal retailers collect the tax from nonIndian cigarette purchasers. Washington v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, 447 U.S. 134, 159-61 (1980). Although some elements of Washington’s cigarette tax law have been modified over the past thirty years, we conclude, as did the district court in awarding summary judgment to the State, that none of those changes has materially altered the legal incidence of the cigarette tax approved of in Colville, and we affirm.

And from District Judge Guilford’s concurrence:

Indians in the Tribes of the Yakama Nation might well wonder how the analysis of what courts call “legal incidence” can be done without reviewing the economic reality of the tax burden on them. And here, a review of these economic realities likely would reveal that the tax at issue imposes an economic burden on Indians in the Yakama Nation. But the law requires an analysis through a prism that blocks economic reality. Thus, following Supreme Court authority, without the guidance of economic reality, I must concur with the majority’s opinion. Apart from economic reality, the provisions of the Revised Code of Washington §§ 82.24 et seq. are not materially different from those upheld in Washington v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation, 447 U.S. 134 (1980), and they follow established principles of Indian tax immunity. Thus, I concur in the judgment.