Kate Fort on “The New Laches” in the George Mason Law Review

Kathryn E. Fort (MSU) has published “The New Laches: Creating Title Where None Existed” in the George Mason Law Review.  From the introduction:

Recent legal decisions dealing with Indian land claims have been cre-ating title for private property owners where no title previously existed. As has been explored by others, various areas of property law have been turned upside down in order to defeat tribes in court. However, one area, equity, has received special attention from the courts. Specifically, the equitable defenses of laches, acquiescence, and impossibility were used by the United States Supreme Court in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation to hand defeat to the Oneida Indian Nation on a tax issue. Since then, lower courts in the Second Circuit have used this precedent to deny Indian land claims altogether. But is the use of these three defenses based on precedent them-selves? A careful examination of City of Sherrill and its progeny reveals that these defenses have in fact been combined to create a new defense, what I will call the “new laches” defense.

Kate Fort on The New Laches

Kate Fort of MSU College of Law has posted “The New Laches” on SSRN. This is the first comprehensive and historical study of the application of laches doctrine to sovereigns, federal, state, and tribal. Here is the abstract:

Tribal land claims are facing a new challenge from an old area of law. Courts have been paying special attention to the law of equity and how it can defeat tribal land claims. Specifically, the equitable defenses of laches, acquiescence, and impossibility were used by the Supreme Court to hand defeat to the Oneida Indian Nation on a tax issue. Since then, lower courts in the Second Circuit have used this precedent to deny Indian land claims. But are these three defenses based on precedent themselves? Rarely. Instead, they have been combined to create a new defense, what I will call the “new laches.” This new defense, so far used successfully in Indian land cases in New York state and unsuccessfully elsewhere, has been so broadly construed by the Second Circuit that, if this view is adopted nationwide, it could apply to any treaty-based claim brought by Indians or Indian tribes.