Federal Court Vacates Trump-Era Repeal of Obama-Era Navigable Waters Protection Rule

Here are the materials in Pascua Yaqui Tribe v. EPA (D. Ariz.):

1 Complaint

48 Tribes Motion for Summary J

72 EPA Motion to Remand

74 Tribes Response

83 EPA Reply

99 DCT Order

Washington COA Rejects Makah Challenge to State Land Exchange (and Three Tribes’ Effort to Stop the Whole Thing)

Here are the materials in Makah Indian Tribe v. Commissioner of Public Lands (Wash. Ct. App.):

D2 54945-0-II Unpublished Opinion

Makah Reply

State Response to Hoh-Quiluete-Quinault Amicus Brief

Makah Answer to Hoh-Quiluete-Quinault Amicus Brief

[missing from the court’s website are the initial briefs of the tribe and state, and the Hoh-Quiluete-Quinault amicus brief]

An excerpt:

The Makah Indian Tribe appeals the superior court’s order denying a constitutional writ to block a land exchange proposed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and approved by the Board of Natural Resources. The land exchange, called the “Peninsula Exchange,” would exchange state forestlands with forestlands owned by a private timber company, Merrill & Ring. The Peninsula Exchange parcels border tribal lands of a number of Indian tribes, including the Makah, the Hoh, the Quileute, and the Quinault. The Makah argue that DNR violated (1) the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) by failing to conduct a SEPA environmental review prior to approval of the proposal and (2) the public lands management statute, Title 79 RCW, by insufficiently addressing the Makah’s concerns.
The Hoh, Quileute, and Quinault Tribes (the Amici Tribes) filed a joint amicus curiae brief requesting dismissal under CR 19, arguing that they are necessary and indispensable parties who cannot be joined due to their sovereign immunity. The Amici Tribes claim that the Peninsula Exchange parcels are part of their respective treaty hunting areas. The Makah argue that the Amici Tribes are not necessary and indispensable parties under CR 19 because this appeal can be decided without a determination of treaty rights of various tribes as the Makah’s claims are procedural challenges to DNR’s Peninsula Exchange.
Because we resolve this appeal without implicating the treaty rights of the various interested tribes, we hold that the Amici Tribes are not necessary or indispensable parties. Accordingly, dismissal of this appeal under CR 19 is not appropriate.
DNR’s interpretation of the SEPA categorical exemption is entitled to substantial weight and its determination that a land exchange is categorically exempt from SEPA review will be overturned only if it is clearly erroneous. We hold that DNR properly interpreted and applied the SEPA categorical exemption for state land exchanges to determine that the Peninsula Exchange was categorially exempt from SEPA review and that DNR’s finding that the Peninsula Exchange was exempt from SEPA was not clearly erroneous. Additionally, DNR complied with the public lands management statute by adequately consulting with the Makah prior to the Board’s approval of the Peninsula Exchange. Because the superior court’s decision was not manifestly unreasonable, or exercised on untenable grounds or for untenable reasons, we hold that the superior court did not abuse its discretion by denying the Makah a constitutional writ. We affirm.

Tribes and States Sue to Block Sale and Removal of National Archives in Seattle

Here is the complaint in State of Washington v. Vought (W.D. Wash.):

1 Complaint

15 Motion for Preliminary Injunction

30 Amended Complaint

32 Opposition

37 Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Proposed Form of Injunctive Relief

40 Reply

News coverage:

Washington AG press release: https://www.atg.wa.gov/news/news-releases/ag-ferguson-announces-coalition-lawsuit-save-national-archives

Indian Country Today: https://indiancountrytoday.com/news/tribes-sue-to-stop-relocation-of-rare-documents-3wsWTPg0fka-vOAV1Uoj2g

Seattle Times: https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ag-ferguson-with-tribes-and-historic-groups-sues-feds-over-seattle-national-archives-closure/

Spokesman Review: https://www.spokesman.com/stories/2021/jan/04/ag-bob-ferguson-sues-to-stop-sale-of-seattle-natio/

Yakama Nation press release:

Press Release_YN_OMB_Seattle Archives Lawsuit (1.4.21) (002)

Federal Court Dismisses Fourth Suit Challenging Federal/Tribal Ownership of Lake Quinault

Here are the materials in Landreth v. United States (W.D. Wash.):

1 Complaint

25 Quinault Motion to Dismiss

26 US Motion to Dismiss

27 Response to Quinault

28 Response to US

29 DCT Order

Most recent suit here.

Tribes Sue EPA over Clean Water Act Rules

Here is the complaint in Pascua Yaqui Tribe v. EPA (D. Ariz.):

1 Complaint

Here is the complaint in Navajo Nation v. Wheeler (D. N.M.):

1 Complaint

Reflections on Oral Argument in Brackeen v. Bernhardt

IMG_9734
Four Intervening Tribes Leadership and Attorneys

On Wednesday, an en banc panel of 16 judges in the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in Brackeen v. Bernhardt. Judges Davis and Ho were not a part of the panel. The other judges, from the left side of the bench around to the right were:

Oldham
Duncan
Willett
Higginson
Haynes
Elrod
Stewart
Smith
Owen
Jones
Wiener
Dennis
Southwick
Graves Jr.
Costa
Englehart

The rest of the information is from my notes during the hearing, and I’m sure contain some mistakes that we will see when a transcript is released.

Of the 16 judges, 5 of them asked a vast majority of the questions–more than 5 questions each. Duncan asked 19, Dennis and Jones asked 11, Smith asked 7 and Costa asked 5. The federal government received 11 questions, Navajo Nation 7, and the Four Intervening Tribes 7. Texas received 19, and the Individual Plaintiffs 16. The Four Intervening Tribes received 4 additional questions on rebuttal (totals are 25 for the pro-ICWA side before rebuttal and 36 for the anti-ICWA side).

If you are trying to follow along to the audio recording, Duncan was most concerned with commandeering and recent Supreme Court commandeering questions. He also pressed Navajo Nation closely on blood quantum. Smith was the one particularly trying to understand the “exclusive” part of plenary power, and later expressed the belief that Texas dedicates scores of social workers to each child in care. And Jones asked the questions on rebuttal that has led to the most number of texts from attorneys asking me “what the [heck]?!” (which I personally thought Adam Charnes handled admirably, given all the oxygen was completely sucked out of the courtroom in that minute by a collective intake of breath).

Dennis, the judge who wrote the lower panel opinion, was the one the plaintiffs had most difficulty hearing, and was the most supportive of the law. Costa also asked skeptical questions of the plaintiffs, and wanted to know more about redressability.

Given the silence or relative silence of so many judges, it is impossible to make any predictions about the eventual opinion. We heard very little from judges who voted against en banc review in Dollar General (the pro-tribe vote), except Dennis. Elrod and Higginson both asked one question each.

Finally, in a very unscientific scroll through Westlaw, the Fifth Circuit has taken anywhere from 3 months (Moore v. Quarterman) from the granting of en banc review to the opinion to 10 months (Alvarez v. Brownsville). The granting of en banc review of Brackeen was in 11/19, so feel free to speculate amongst yourselves when you think the opinion will come out.

IMG_9034
Déjà vu all over again

Swinomish/Quinault/Suquamish Amicus Brief in Climate Change Litigation in Washington State

Here is the brief in Aji P. v. State of Washington (Wash Ct. App.):

Tribal Amicus Brief

More details on this case here.