PTA Improvements on Tribal Trust Land
Question: May state and local governments assess property tax on permanent improvements built on land owned by the United States and held in trust for an Indian tribe?
Answer: No. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined in Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation v. Thurston County Board of Equalization, 724 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2013) that where the United States owns land covered by 25 U.S.C. § 465 and holds it in trust for the use of a tribe, permanent improvements on that land are exempt from state and local property taxation.
Here is the motion in Confederated Chehalis Tribes v. Thurston County Board of Equalization:
Chehalis Motion to Take Judicial Notice
The federal regs are here. 25 CFR 162.017 reads:
Subject only to applicable Federal law, permanent improvements on the leased land, without regard to ownership of those improvements, are not subject to any fee, tax, assessment, levy or other charge imposed by any State or political subdivision of a State. Improvements may be subject to taxation by the Indian tribe with jurisdiction.
Briefs are here. Lower court materials here.
Interesting case, in that the parties were diverse citizens, but the other party to the relevant contract (not a party to the case, however) was a tribe (Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation), so that defeated diversity jurisdiction.
CTGW v GSBS
This civil action for monetary relief brought by plaintiff CTGW, LLC against defendants GSBS, PC, Colvin Engineering Associates, Inc. and Spectrum Engineers, Inc. arises out of a dispute regarding the design and construction of Great Wolf Lodge resort and water park in Grand Mound, Washington. Plaintiff alleges that this court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1), which applies to actions in which the plaintiff and the defendants are “citizens of different States” and the amount in controversy is more than $ 75,000. Plaintiff alleges that the parties are completely diverse and the matter in controversy exceeds $ 75,000. However, I conclude that because one of the members of plaintiff CTGW, LLC is an Indian tribe, diversity is destroyed. Therefore, I am dismissing this case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Here are those briefs:
Chehalis Motion for Summary J
Thurston County Motion for Summary J
Prior materials on this important case are here.
The court has ordered Chehalis to show cause as to this question (our earlier post with the briefings on the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment is here):
Plaintiffs have alleged a new claim in their complaint that Defendants’ failure to follow Revenue’s opinion is a violation of both state and federal law. See supra. The original complaint, however, involved claims based only on issues of federal law. See Dkt. 1. Thus, before reaching the merits of Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion, the Court orders Plaintiffs to show cause, if any they have, why this Court should exert jurisdiction over this new claim. Although Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ failure to follow Revenue’s decision is also a violation of “federal preemption law,” there has been no showing that a county assessor violates federal preemption law solely by failing to follow a state agency’s opinion as to the imposition of a tax. In other words, if Revenue had opined that the tax was not preempted and the assessor refused to impose the tax, it is questionable whether the assessor’s action in conflict with Revenue’s opinion would raise a federal question invoking this Court’s jurisdiction. Therefore, the new claim seems to be purely a matter of state law regarding the authority of the state agency, Revenue, over the Thurston County Assessor.
Plaintiffs bear the burden to show why the Court should assert jurisdiction over this state law claim and why the Court (1) should not abstain from this matter, (2) is not divested from jurisdiction over this matter, or (3) should not decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the new claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(1).
Here is the order — DCT Order to Show Cause re State Law Claims
Chehalis has filed a motion for summary judgment against Thurston County on the question of whether the county may tax the non-Indian-owned portion of a Great Wolf Lodge located on tribal trust lands. The Western District of Washington previously denied the Tribe’s motion for a preliminary injunction (materials here). Here is the news coverage of the instant motion (Indianz and local).
And here are the briefs for the summary judgment motion:
The Western District of Washington denied a motion for a preliminary injunction brought by the Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation to prevent Thurston County, Washington from taxing a business (a Great Wolf Lodge) jointly owned by a non-native corporation and the tribes.