Justia U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries
Articles Posted in Native American Law
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint filed by the Narragansett Indian Tribe against federal and Rhode Island agencies concerning a highway bridge reconstruction over historic tribal land, holding that the Tribe’s claim was not the type of claim federal courts may adjudicate. The Tribe filed suit in federal district court alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The heart of the Tribe’s claim contended that the state of Rhode Island broke a promise made to the Tribe. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss, concluding (1) as to the federal defendants, none of the three statutes identified in the complaint waived the federal government’s sovereign immunity as to the Tribe’s claims; and (2) as to the state defendants, the Tribe alleged no basis to support the court’s exercise of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the National Historic Preservation Act does not waive the federal government’s sovereign immunity in connection with the bringing of this suit; and (2) as to the state agencies, the complaint lacked any basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction. View "Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Rhode Island Department of Transportation" on Justia Law
The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) (the Tribe) decided to pursue gaming pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) on its trust lands in Dukes County, Massachusetts (the Settlement Lands). The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Town of Aquinnah, and the Aquinnah/Gay Head Community Association (collectively, Appellees) argued that any gaming on the Settlement Lands should be subject to state, rather than federal, laws and regulations. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellees, ruling that the Settlement Lands were not covered by IGRA and hence were subject to the Commonwealth’s gaming regulations. The court found that the Tribe had failed to exercise sufficient governmental power over those lands, as required for IGRA to apply, and even if the Tribe had exercised sufficient governmental power the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc., Indian Claims Settlement Act of 1987 (the Federal Act), which provides that the Settlement Lands are subject to state laws and regulations, governed. The First Circuit reversed, holding (1) IGRA applies to the Settlement Lands; and (2) the Federal Act has been impliedly repealed by IGRA in relevant part. View "Commonwealth v. Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head" on Justia Law
In 2012, a grand jury in the District of Rhode Island served the Narragansett Indian Tribal Historic Preservation Office (NITHPO) with a subpoena duces tecum directing NITHPO to appear before the grand jury with a series of documents. NITHPO refused to produce the subpoenaed records. The sitting grand jury was subsequently discharged, and in 2013, a new grand jury was empanelled. Thereafter, the government filed a motion to compel NITHPO’s compliance with the 2012 subpoena. The district court granted the government’s motion to compel and ordered NITHPO to comply with the 2012 grand jury subpoena. After NITHPO failed to appear on the agreed-upon date, the district court adjudged NITHPO in civil contempt and imposed a fine for noncompliance. On appeal, the First Circuit Court of Appeals (1) vacated the district court’s order holding NITHPO in civil contempt, holding that a subpoena duces tecum compelling the production of documents to a now-defunct grand jury cannot be enforced by civil contempt sanctions before a successor grand jury; and (2) rejected NITHPO’s contentions that tribal sovereign immunity shielded it from subpoena and that the subpoena was unreasonably broad in scope. View "In re Grand Jury Proceedings" on Justia Law
The federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701-2721, establishes a cooperative federal-state-tribal regime for regulating gaming by federally recognized Indian tribes on Indian lands. The Massachusetts Gaming Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 23K, sect. 3(a), establishes a licensing scheme and other standards for gaming. KG, a potential applicant for a gaming license, argued that the state Act provides unauthorized preferences to Indian tribes and on that basis treats the southeast section of the state differently, and this constitutes a classification on the basis of race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and is inconsistent with congressional intent in the federal Indian gaming statute. The district court dismissed. The First Circuit vacated with respect to the equal protection claim and otherwise affirmed. Whether the tribal provisions are "authorized" by the IGRA such that is subject to only rational basis review is far from clear, presents a difficult question of statutory interpretation, and implicates a practice of the Secretary of the Interior not challenged in this suit. There is apparently no judicial authority addressing the question of whether a state may negotiate a tribal-state compact with a federally recognized tribe that does not presently possess Indian lands. View "KG Urban Enters., LLC v. Patrick" on Justia Law
The former governor and former financial director of the Tribe were convicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and of violations of 18 U.S.C. 287, 666 and 669, involving misuse of federal grant and tribal monies at the Passamaquoddy Tribe Indian Township Reservation in Maine. The First Circuit vacated the conviction of the financial director for making material misstatements about how grant money intended for HIV and substance abuse prevention was spent, but otherwise affirmed. The evidence that the director knew that his statements were false was insufficient. The district court had jurisdiction; several counts involved mismanagement of federal grants and contracts, which are subject to regulations that the Tribe is not free to ignore, and do not constitute internal tribal matters.
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts, Native American Law, Public Benefits, U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals