The opinion of the court was delivered by: Armstrong, District Judge.
In accordance with the Court's Order Granting Defendant's and
Intervenor's Motions to Dismiss,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT final judgment in entered in favor of the
Defendant and Intervenor.
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S AND INTERVENOR'S MOTIONS TO DISMISS
FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION
Plaintiffs are the owners of an easement previously granted to
defendant United States ("the Government") by plaintiffs'
predecessor-in-interest in 1965. The Government obtained the easement to
provide access to a Reservation occupied by the Dry Creek Rancheria Band
of Pomo Indians of California ("the Tribe"). Plaintiffs bring the instant
action against the Government under the Quiet Title Act ("QTA"),
28 U.S.C. § 2409a, seeking a judicial determination concerning the
permissible scope of use of the easement. Their concern arises from the
Tribes' construction of a casino on the Reservation and the attendant
increased traffic over the easement.
The parties are presently before the Court on the Government and the
Tribe's separate motions to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1). Both motions contend that the Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction over the instant action based on a provision in the
QTA which excepts Indian property and property held in trust for Indians
from the QTA's waiver of sovereign immunity. Having read and considered
the papers filed in connection with the motions, and being fully
informed, the Court GRANTS the motions and dismisses the action for lack
In the early 1900's, Margaret Drake owned a parcel of property ("the
Drake property") located in a rural area of Sonoma County, approximately
three miles from the town of Geyserville. The Drake property is adjacent
to an Indian Reservation known as the Dry Creek Rancheria, where a small
number of Tribe members resided. There are two access roads on different
sides of the Reservation. One of the roads was largely unusable during
the Winter. However, the Drakes permitted the Tribe to use a road which
ran through the Drake property as an alternative means of ingress and
egress to the Reservation.*fn2
On March 8, 1965, after discussions with a representative from the
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mrs. Drake granted to the Government, for
consideration in the amount of $1.00, a permanent easement and right of
way across her property for the purpose of formally allowing the Tribe
access to the Reservation. The easement was granted
West Page1 1029
solely to the
Government and its successors and assigns, and made no reference to the
Tribe. Throughout the time period the road was used by the Tribe, no more
than forty-five members resided at the Reservation. However, in the last
five years, the Tribe population has dwindled to five members.
In early 1999, plaintiffs, successors-in-interest to the Drake
property, learned of the Tribe's intention to build a casino on the
Reservation and to use the easement as the means for accessing that
facility. Alarmed by this prospect, plaintiffs attempted to address the
matter informally with the Tribe. After those negotiations proved
unsuccessful, plaintiffs commenced the instant action under the QTA
against the Government, as owner of the easement. On July 17, 2001,
plaintiffs filed a First Amended Complaint for declaratory relief.
Plaintiffs contend that the purpose of the easement is to allow access to
the Reservation for residential purposes only. They further allege that
permitting the easement to be used to accommodate access to the casino
exceeds the scope of the easement and would overburden the servient
estate (i.e., the property from which the easement was created).
On February 19, 2002, the parties stipulated to the intervention of the
Tribe. Both the United States and the Tribe now move to dismiss the
action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. They contend that the
QTA's waiver of sovereign immunity, by its terms, does not apply to
"trust or restricted Indian lands . . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(a). The
Tribe also presents several alternative arguments for dismissal.
Plaintiffs oppose the motions.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) authorizes a party to seek
dismissal of an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. "When
subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Federal Rule of Procedure
12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order
to survive the motion." Tosco Corp. v. Communities for a Better Env't,
236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001). The court presumes lack of
jurisdiction until the plaintiff proves otherwise. See Stock West, Inc.
v. Confederated Tribes, 873 F.2d 1221, 1225 (9th Cir. 1989). In
adjudicating a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the court is
not limited to the pleadings, and may properly consider extrinsic
evidence. See Association of Am. Med. Colleges v. United States,
217 F.3d 770, 778 (9th Cir. 2000) (citations and quotations ...