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Tillie Hardwick, et al v. United States of

November 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeremy Fogel United States District Judge

**E-Filed 12/13/2012**


Mona Bragdon ("Bragdon") and Anthony Ramirez ("Ramirez") (collectively, "Plaintiffs") 20 move to enforce a stipulation and judgment entered in this case in 1983. The motion is opposed by 21 the United States of America and the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians ("the Chukchansi 22 Tribe" or "the Tribe"), both of which were parties to the stipulation and judgment. The Court has 23 considered both the written briefing and the oral argument presented at the hearing on October 16, 24 2012. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be denied. 25


The California Rancheria Act of 1958 terminated many Indian tribes, including the Chukchansi Tribe. Tribal property was distributed to individual tribe members ("distributees"). See 28 Hardwick v. United States, No. C 79-1710 JF (PVT), 2006 WL 3533029, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 7, 2006). "Upon distribution of tribal property, the tribes ceased to exist and members of the former 2 tribes were stripped of their status as Indians." Id. In 1979, individuals from a number of 3 terminated tribes filed the Hardwick action seeking "restoration of their status as Indians and 4 entitlement to federal Indian benefits, as well as the right to re-establish their tribes as formal 5 government entities." Id. In July 1983, the United States entered into a stipulation for entry of 6 judgment ("1983 Stipulation") with respect to members of seventeen former tribes, including the 7 Chukchansi Tribe. Dkt. Entry 343, Req. for Jud. Notice, Ex. A.*fn1 Final judgment was entered 8 pursuant to that stipulation in December 1983. Dkt. Entry 343, Req. for Jud. Notice, Ex. F. 9

Tribe was terminated pursuant to the Rancheria Act, its former lands were distributed to two individuals, Maryan Ramirez*fn2 ("Maryan") and her brother, Gordon Wyatt ("Wyatt"). Dkt. Entry 342, Bragdon Decl., ¶ 3. Wyatt died in 1966. Id. ¶ 5. Following the 1983 Stipulation, the Bureau 13 of Indian Affairs ("BIA") began working with Maryan to reorganize the Tribe. Id. ¶ 7. Maryan 14 died in 1985 before the reorganization was completed, at which point the BIA offered to work with 15 Lawhon ("Lawhon"), a descendant of Wyatt. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Lawhon and other Wyatt descendants 17 gained control of the tribal leadership, adopted a constitution in 1988, and subsequently obtained 18 Tribe to hundreds of individuals and in 1992 disenrolled the Ramirez descendants. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. 20

It is undisputed that the BIA has recognized and worked with the Tribe's governing body

22 since 1989, and that the Ramirez family never has sought review of the BIA's decision to certify the 23

Tribe's election and recognize leadership of the Wyatt group. Instead, the Ramirez family now 24 seeks to unwind more than twenty years of tribal governance by asserting that under the terms of the 25

The present motion arises out of an internal political dispute within the Tribe. When the Maryan's daughter, Bragdon. ¶¶ 12-13. When Bragdon declined, the BIA began working with Jane 16 BIA recognition of that constitution. Id. ¶¶ 16-19. The Wyatt descendants opened enrollment of the 19 Some but not all Ramirez family members were re-enrolled in 2003. Id. ¶ 21. 21 1983 Stipulation and a later stipulation entered in 1987 ("1987 Stipulation"), restored recognition was available only to individuals who still possessed Indian lands at the time of the 1983 and 1987 2 Stipulations. Plaintiffs argue that because the Wyatt family sold its Indian lands prior to 3 commencement of the Hardwick litigation, Dkt. Entry 342, Bragdon Decl., ¶¶ 4-6, and because 4 Maryan thus was the only individual still in possession of Indian lands, id. ¶ 6, Maryan and her 5 descendants were the only individuals who ever had authority to reorganize the Tribe. Plaintiffs 6 seek an order that would "enforce" the judgment by declaring that "the 1983 and 1987 Stipulations 7 for Entry of Judgment limited restored recognition to those individuals still in possession of Indian 8 lands at the time of their execution and that Maryan Ramirez and her descendants were 9 consequently the only individuals with authority to formally organize the Chukchansi Indian Tribe 10 and establish tribal leadership." Dkt. Entry 340-1, Prop. Order. Both the United States and the Tribe oppose the motion, arguing inter alia that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction, that the motion is untimely, and that Plaintiffs' construction of the Stipulations is incorrect.


A. Jurisdiction

The United States and the Tribe argue that although Plaintiffs have styled their motion as a motion to enforce a stipulated judgment, Plaintiffs actually are challenging the legitimacy of the Tribe's governing body, which to date has been controlled by their rivals, the Wyatt family. As 18 noted above, the BIA has recognized and dealt with the Tribe's governing body since 1989. A 19 challenge to the BIA's recognition of a tribe's governing body is subject to the provisions of the 20 Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., which provides for judicial review 21 of "final agency action" and "[a]gency action made reviewable by statute." 5 U.S.C. § 704. An 22 agency action is "final" for purposes of the APA if it "mark[s] the consummation of the agency's 23 decision-making process . . . it must not be of a merely tentative or interlocutory nature." Western 24 Radio Services Co. v. Glickman, 123 F.3d 1189, 1196 (9th Cir. 1997) (internal quotation marks and 25 citation omitted). "Since 1975, regulations governing challenges to decisions of the Bureau of 26 Indian Affairs have required an administrative appeal from most BIA decisions before judicial 27 review of such decisions can be obtained." Stock West Corp. v. Lujan, 982 F.2d 1389, 1393 (9th 28 Cir. 1993). "There is a series of agency procedures mandated for exhaustion of administrative appeals." White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Hodel, 840 F.2d 675, 677 (9th Cir. 1988). A decision 2 made by a lower-level BIA official must be appealed to the BIA Area Director; the Director's 3 decision may be appealed directly to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals ("IBIA"). Id.; Lujan, 982

Tribe's governing body. Accordingly, the United States and the Tribe take the position that this Plaintiffs assert that they do not seek resolution of an intra-tribal dispute and do not challenge the BIA's recognition of the Wyatt-controlled governing body. Mot. at 5-6. Claiming 9 that they merely "are seeking enforcement of the plain meaning of the 1983 Stipulated Judgment," 10 id. at 7, Plaintiffs cite this Court's decision in Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California v. Salazar, No. 5:10-cv-605 JF/PVT, 2011 WL 1883196 (May 17, 2011), as authority that a motion to enforce judgment is the proper means to do so. In Cloverdale, the plaintiffs asserted an APA 13 challenge based in part upon the BIA's alleged failure to comply with the Hardwick judgment's 14 requirement that the BIA assist the Cloverdale Rancheria to reorganize. Cloverdale, 2011 WL 1883196, at *5. The Court concluded that an agency's failure to comply with a stipulated judgment 16 does not give rise to a claim under the APA, and that "the proper claim for relief would appear to be 17 one for enforcement of" the stipulated judgment. Id. failed to comply with an obligation to assist in reorganization, while Plaintiffs here claim that ...

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