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Friends of Amador County v. Salazar

October 15, 2010



Plaintiffs Friends of Amador County, Bea Crabtree, and June Geary brought this action against defendants Kenneth Salazar in his capacity as the Secretary of the United States Department of Interior ("Secretary"), the National Indian Gaming Commission ("NIGC"), and George Skibine (collectively the "Federal Defendants"), as well as the State of California ("State") and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ("Governor," collectively the "State Defendants") arising out of plaintiffs' objections to a tribal-state compact allowing the construction of a casino by the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians ("Tribe") in Amador County. Presently before the court is the State Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and Rule 19 for failure to join a required party.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

In 1999, then-California Governor Gray Davis entered into a series of tribal-state compacts with fifty-nine different Indian tribes, including the Tribe, allowing class III gaming*fn1 on tribal land pursuant to the compacting requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA"), 25 U.S.C. §§ 2701-2721. (Compl. ¶ 22.) These compacts were subsequently ratified by the California legislature. (Id.) In August 2004, the Tribe and the Governor negotiated and completed an amended compact (the "Compact"), which was ratified by the California legislature and submitted to the Secretary as required by IGRA in September 2004. See Cal. Gov't Code § 12012.45. The Secretary then approved the Compact, which became effective as a matter of law. Notice of Approved Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact, 69 Fed. Reg. 76004-01 (Dec. 20, 2004).

Plaintiffs allege that the Compact between the State and the Tribe is illegal under IGRA. The Complaint alleges that the Tribe's land is not eligible for class III gaming because it is owned in fee simple, not in trust by the federal government, and accordingly is not "Indian land" as required under the statute. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-9.) The Complaint further claims that the Tribe's federal recognition is invalid because it was established by individuals who were not true descendants of the Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians and alleges that plaintiffs Crabtree and Geary are true descendants of the peoples who lived on the Buena Vista Rancheria land. (Id. ¶¶ 16-18.) Plaintiffs accordingly allege that the Federal Defendants' approval of class III gaming on the Tribe's land was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to IGRA and that the State Defendants acted unlawfully when they determined that the Tribe was eligible for class III gaming and entered into the Compact. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 22-27.)

The Complaint alleges four causes of action. The first claim alleges that both the Federal and State Defendants violated IGRA by approving class III gaming on ineligible lands. (Id. ¶ 34.) The second claim alleges that the State Defendants violated article IV, section 19 of the California Constitution*fn2 by approving an illegal tribal-state compact because the Tribe is ineligible for class III gaming under IGRA. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiffs' third claim alleges that the approval of the Tribe's gaming ordinance and the Compact violated the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 500-596, because such approval was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of IGRA. (Id. ¶ 42.) The fourth claim alleges that the Governor failed to make the necessary determination required by § 2719 of IGRA that the proposed gaming would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. (Id. ¶¶ 50-52.) The Complaint requests the court to declare that the Tribe's land is not eligible for gaming under IGRA, that the Compact is invalid under IGRA and APA, and that the environmental assessment of the land was inadequate. The Complaint also asks the court to enjoin the Tribe from further pursuit of class III gaming on its land and create a constructive trust over funds currently being paid to the Tribe. The State Defendants now move to dismiss plaintiffs' first, second, and fourth causes of action*fn3 pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), 12(b)(6), and 19.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction.

They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The court is presumed to lack jurisdiction unless the contrary appears affirmatively from the record. DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 n.3 (2006). Consistent with these basic jurisdictional precepts, the Ninth Circuit has articulated the standard for surviving a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction as follows:

When subject matter jurisdiction is challenged under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), the plaintiff has the burden of proving jurisdiction in order to survive the motion. A plaintiff suing in a federal court must show in his pleading, affirmatively and distinctly, the existence of whatever is essential to federal jurisdiction, and, if he does not do so, the court, on having the defect called to its attention or on discovering the same, must dismiss the case, unless the defect be corrected by amendment.

Tosco Corp. v. Cmtys. for a Better Env't, 236 F.3d 495, 499 (9th Cir. 2001), abrogated on other grounds by Hertz Corp. v. Friend, ----- U.S. ----, 130 S.Ct. 1181 (2010) (internal citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, "[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

The Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides: "The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State."

Eleventh Amendment immunity poses "a bar to federal jurisdiction over suits against non-consenting States." Alden v. Maine, 527 U.S. 706, 730 (1999). Sovereign immunity extends to suits in federal court against a state by its own citizens as well as by citizens of another state. Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974). This jurisdictional bar applies to suits "in which the State or one of its agencies or departments is named as the defendant" and "applies regardless of the nature of the relief sought," Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984), including suits for equitable relief. Cory v. White, 457 U.S. 85, 91 (1982).

"The Eleventh Amendment immunity is designed to allow a state to be free to carry out its functions without judicial interference directed at the sovereign or its agents." V. O. Motors, Inc. v. Cal. State Bd. of Equalization, 691 F.2d 871, 872 (9th Cir. 1982). While California has waived its immunity from suit by tribes asserting claims related to tribal-state compacts, Cal. Gov't Code ยง 98005, the State has not waived its immunity from suit by individuals claiming a Compact violates IGRA or the California Constitution. Accordingly, any such claims alleged directly against the State are barred. ...

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