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PROSCHOLD v. U.S.

August 13, 2002

TERRANCE C. PROSCHOLD, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, DEFENDANT. DRY CREEK RANCHERIA BAND OF POMO INDIANS OF CALIFORNIA, INTERVENOR.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Armstrong, District Judge.

JUDGMENT

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.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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 of jurisdiction.*fn1

BACKGROUND

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.

LEGAL STANDARD

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 ...


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