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Friends of Amador County, Bea Crabtree, June Geary v. Kenneth Salazar

September 29, 2011

FRIENDS OF AMADOR COUNTY, BEA CRABTREE, JUNE GEARY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KENNETH SALAZAR, SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, THE NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING COMMISSION, GEORGE SKIBINE, ACTING CHAIRMAN OF THE NATIONAL INDIAN GAMING COMMISSION, THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, DEFENDANTS.



MEMORANDUM AND ORDER RE: MOTION TO DISMISS

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. The State Defendants have previously been dismissed from the suit. Presently before the court is the Tribe's special appearance as a non-party to present a motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to join the Tribe and State as necessary parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19.

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 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.)

Following the court's dismissal of the State Defendants, the Complaint retains two causes of action. The first claim alleges that the Federal Defendants violated IGRA by approving class III gaming on ineligible lands.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiffs' second 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. (Compl. ¶ 2.) 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 to create a constructive trust over funds currently being paid to the Tribe. The Tribe now moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Rule 19.

II. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss

On a motion to dismiss, the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Scherer, 468 U.S. 183 (1984); Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319, 322 (1972). To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). This "plausibility standard," however, "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully," Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ------ U.S. --------, --------, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009), and "[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 governs the joinder of persons necessary for a suit's just adjudication. Under Rule 19, a court must dismiss an action if: (1) an absent party is required, (2) it is not feasible to join the absent party and (3) it is determined "in equity and good conscience" that the action should not proceed among the existing parties.*fn1 Republic of Philippines v. Pimentel, 553 U.S. 851, ---, 128 S. Ct. 2180, 2188 (2008); Confederated Tribes of Chehalis Indian Reservation v. Lujan, 928 F.2d 1496, 1498 (9th Cir. 1991).

1. Rule 19(a) -- Required Party

A person is a required party under Rule 19(a)(1) if (A) in that person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief among existing parties; or (B), the person claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and is so situated that disposing of the action in the person's absence may: (i) as a practical matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect the interest, or (ii) leave an existing party subject to a substantial risk of incurring double, multiple, or otherwise inconsistent obligations because of the interest. Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(1). If the Tribe satisfies either test, it is a required party under Rule 19.

First, the court cannot provide the litigation parties complete relief where the requested remedy, if granted, would fail to bind all absent parties who are in a position to act in direct contravention of that remedy. In Dawavendewa v. Salt River Project Agricultural Improvement & Power District, 276 F.3d 1150 (9th Cir. 2002), the Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a suit because the absent Navajo Nation was a necessary and indispensable party where an applicant for employment at a non-Indian-operated power facility located on the Navajo Nation reservation challenged an employment preference contained in the operator's lease with the Nation. The plaintiff requested injunctive relief as to the lease provision at issue, and the Ninth Circuit held that complete relief could not be afforded because the absent Navajo Nation would not be bound by such relief and could still attempt to enforce the lease provision. Id. at 1155.

Similarly, in Pit River Home & Agricultural Cooperative Ass'n v. United States, 30 F.3d 1088 (9th Cir. 1994), a group of Indians sued the United States to challenge Pit River Council's beneficial ownership of Indian lands. The Ninth Circuit upheld the dismissal of suit and held that the absent Pit River Council was a necessary and indispensable party because "even if the Association obtained its requested relief in this action, it would not have complete relief, since judgment against the government would not bind the Council, which could assert its right to possess the Ranch." Id. at 1099.

In this case, the Tribe is not a party to the lawsuit, so it would not be bound by any judgment in favor of plaintiffs. See E.E.O.C. v. Peabody W. Coal Co., 400 F.3d 774, 780 (9th Cir. 2005) ("The [proposed] judgment will not bind the Navajo Nation in the sense that it will directly order the Nation to perform, or refrain from performing, certain acts."). The Tribe could ...


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