SCOTUSBlog Lists Seminole Tribe v. Florida as Petition to Watch for Friday’s Conference

Here. And the cert stage briefs here.

I predict a decent chance for a CVSG but the Court ultimately will deny this one.

Lower court materials and my commentary here.

Cert Stage Briefs in Seminole Tribe v. Florida Dept. of Revenue

Here:

Seminole Cert Petition

Florida Cert Opp

Seminole Reply Brief

Question presented:

The question presented is whether sovereign immunity bars an American Indian tribe from seeking Ex parte Young relief from the unconstitutional enforcement of a state tax scheme merely because that relief might require refunds for taxes unlawfully collected in the future.

Lower court materials and my commentary here.

Cert Petition in Seminole Tribe of Florida v. State of Florida Dept. of Revenue

Here:

Seminole Cert Petition

Here is the question presented:

This Court established in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), that a plaintiff may sue state officials for prospective injunctive relief against the enforcement of an unconstitutional state law. In the intervening years, this Court and most courts of appeals have repeatedly held that Ex parte Young allows federal courts to enjoin the future enforcement of state tax schemes that violate federal law or the Constitution. This Court has also observed that an injunction requiring a state’s future compliance with federal law does not violate state sovereign immunity, even if it has a “substantial ancillary effect on the state treasury.” Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 278 (1986).
In this case, however, the Eleventh Circuit concluded otherwise. It departed from this Court’s precedent, and “create[d] a circuit split,” Pet. App. 24a (Jordan, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part), when it held that Ex parte Young does not permit the Seminole Tribe of Florida to seek injunctive or declaratory relief against the future unconstitutional enforcement of Florida’s fuel tax scheme. The court’s holding turned on the fact that Florida precollects this tax from a third party, which means that an order barring future enforcement against the tribes might require the state to issue tribal consumers refunds “from state coffers,” supposedly in violation of the Eleventh Amendment. Pet. App. 12a.
The question presented is whether sovereign immunity bars an American Indian tribe from seeking Ex parte Young relief from the unconstitutional enforcement of a state tax scheme merely because that relief might require refunds for taxes unlawfully collected in the future.

 

Lower court materials and my commentary here.

Seminole Tribe Complaint Dismissed by 11th Circuit in Revenue Case

Decision here.

Briefs here.

Lower court briefs and decision here.

For various reasons, this might be a good case for en banc review by the 11th Circuit. First, one of the three judges deciding this was from the D.C. district court, sitting by designation. Second, the decision is based on an issue not briefed (which leads to a broader research question we have about federal Indian law generally–how often this happens). Third, and perhaps most importantly, the Court’s analysis of Ex Parte Young an issue of broader, national, concern.

The Court’s issues with equitable relief, and characterizing the relief should the Tribe win as a continued “damages” against the state because of the state’s collection regime is strange.

A declaratory judgment exempting the Tribe from the tax is the functional equivalent of ordering recurring payments of money damages. The Tribe points to no other way around the alleged constitutional violation other than a recurring refund paid to the Tribe from the Department after it precollects the tax from the fuel suppliers.

***

Unlike the tax regimes in those appeals, the only relief available to the Tribe under Florida law is a refund of taxes it will already have paid, and state sovereign immunity bars that relief. See Ford Motor Co., 323 U.S. at 463–64, 65 S. Ct. at 350.

As Judge Jordan in the dissent writes:

The majority’s opinion, as I read it, apparently would allow a state to shield the enforcement of any tax, no matter how constitutionally untenable, from challenge in federal court simply by enacting a precollection procedure.

 

Ninth Circuit Rejects Another Matheson Objection to Tribal-State Tax Compact

Here are the materials in Matheson v. Smith:

CA9 Unpublished Memorandum

Matheson Opening Brief

Washington Brief

Matheson Reply Brief

Lower court materials here.

Eleventh Circuit Briefs in Seminole Tribe v. State of Florida Tax Dispute

Here:

Seminole Tribe Opening Brief

Florida Appellee Brief

Reply Brief TK

Lower court materials here.

Federal Court Dismisses Seminole Challenge to Florida Fuel Tax

Here are the materials in Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida Dept. of Revenue (S.D. Fla.):

DCT Order Granting Florida Motion

Seminole Complaint

Florida Dept. of Revenue Motion to Dismiss

Seminole Response

Florida Dept. of Revenue Reply

An excerpt:

The Court will dismiss the Complaint for two reasons. First, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this Court of subject-matter jurisdiction over any claims that essentially seek review of the previous state-court action. Second, because the fuel tax applies only to off-reservation activity, Plaintiff’s claims are barred by the Tax Injunction Act.

The Florida courts previously ruled in a similar claim a few years back; hence, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Federal Court Dismisses Effort by Puyallup Woman to Avoid State Wholesale Cigarette Taxes

Here are the materials in Matheson v. Smith (W.D. Wash.):

DCT Order Dismissing Matheson Complaint

Matheson Motion for PI

State Motion to Dismiss

Second Update on Chehalis Great Wolf Tax Case

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