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Villa v. Jewell

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 22, 2017

SALLY JEWELL, in her capacity as the Secretary of the DEPARTMENT of the INTERIOR, the DEPARTMENT of the INTERIOR, the BUREAU of INDIAN AFFAIRS, AMY DUTCHSKE, in her capacity as the Pacific Regional Director of the BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, and JOHN DOE and MARY ROE, unknown BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS employees in their official capacities, Defendants.


         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion to dismiss. ECF No. 16. Plaintiffs oppose defendants' motion. ECF No. 19. The court heard arguments on September 23, 2016; Mark Kallenback appeared on behalf of plaintiffs, and Victoria Boesch appeared on behalf of defendants. ECF No. 25. For the following reasons, the court GRANTS defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         Nicholas Villa, Jr. is the tribal leader of the Historic Ione Band of Miwok Indians Tribe (the “Tribe”). Second Am. Compl. (“SAC”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 14. The Department of the Interior is a Cabinet-level agency that manages America's natural and cultural resources through a number of government agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”). Id. ¶ 5. The BIA provides services to federally recognized American Indian Tribes directly and through contracts, grants and compacts. Id. ¶ 8. The Tribe is a federally recognized tribe located in Ione, California. Id. ¶¶ 17, 31-32, 37-38.

         The Tribe maintains a membership roll composed of descendants of the Tribe based upon historic membership lists. Id. ¶ 46. In the 1990s there was an internal power struggle within the Tribe concerning the Tribe's leadership and membership rolls. See generally Id. In 1994, in accordance with its new constitution and membership ordinance, plaintiff Villa was the leader of the thirty-two member Tribe. Id. ¶¶ 47-48. However, some Tribe members contested Villa's leadership. Id. ¶ 49. Mediation between the Tribe members, including Villa, failed in 1995. Id. ¶ 51. Thereafter, the BIA established Enrollment and Election Committees, id. ¶ 60, and in 1996 held the election of an Interim Tribal Council. Id. ¶ 62. Many of the individuals the BIA allowed to vote for the Interim Tribal Council were not members and had no affiliation with the Tribe, see Id. ¶ 63, and the majority of the Tribe's genuine members were excluded from the membership rolls, id. ¶ 57.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiffs filed their first complaint in this case on March 9, 2016. ECF No. 1. They filed their first amended complaint on July 1, 2016, ECF No. 12, and their second amended complaint on August 1, 2016. In their second amended complaint, plaintiffs plead three claims: (1) Declaratory Judgment; (2) Injunctive Relief; and (3) Voting Rights. SAC at 25-28. Within these “claims, ” plaintiffs allege violations of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”), 25 U.S.C. § 476(f), (g), and (h). Id.

         On August 5, 2016, defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing, among other reasons, lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, failure to join a party, and the applicable statute of limitations bars plaintiffs' claims. Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 16. Plaintiffs oppose defendants' motion, Pls.' Opp'n, ECF No. 19, and defendants replied, Defs.' Reply, ECF No. 23.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Rule 12(b)(1): Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         Defendants' motion relies in part on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), contending plaintiffs' complaint “fails to allege facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction.” Defs.' Mot. at 4. Plaintiffs respond by arguing only that their second amended complaint “sets out in significant detail the factual bases . . . that implores [sic] the Court to declare that the Historic Ione Band of Miwok Indians is a federally recognized Indian Tribe . . . . Defendants' argument that [p]laintiffs' [complaint] fails to allege facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction [ ] must be rejected given the extensive facts pled.” Pls.' Opp'n at 12.

         It is black-letter law that “[f]ederal courts are courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction.” Kelly v. Wengler, 822 F.3d 1085, 1094 (9th Cir. 2016). As the Supreme Court has explained, “[federal courts] possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree. It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994).

         Plaintiffs' first two claims are for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. Pls.' Opp'n at 25-27. However, as defendants correctly observe, see Defs.' Mot. at 4, claims for declaratory and injunctive relief are not properly styled as claims but rather are requests for specific remedies. See, e.g., Countrywide Home Loans, Inc., v. Mortgage Guar. Ins. Corp., 642 F.3d 849, 853 (9th Cir. 2011) (observing that Declaratory Judgment Act “in no way modifies the district court's jurisdiction, which must properly exist independent of the Declaratory Judgment Act”); see also Birdman v. Office of the Governor, 677 F.3d 167, 172 (3d Cir. 2012) (injunction is remedy, not cause of action); Klay v. United Healthgroup, Inc., 376 F.3d 1092, 1098 (11th Cir. 2004) (same). Plaintiffs' first two claims do not confer upon this court subject matter jurisdiction.

         Plaintiffs' third claim alleges defendants violated the IRA “when they encouraged, promoted and permitted non-tribal parties to become members of the Mock Tribe under the guise of a federally recognized Tribe.” SAC ¶ 105 (citing 25 U.S.C. § 476 (f) (g) and (h)). Defendants argue violations of the IRA “do not create any private right of action.” Defs.' Mot. at 5. By way of response, plaintiffs say they “have not pled 25 U.S.C. § 476 (f), (g), and (h) as a private cause of action.” Pls.' Opp'n at 13:17. They suggest they instead simply “ask the Court to order the BIA to be law abiding and not to violate 25 U.S.C. § 476(f), (g) and (h).” Id. at 13:18-20. In the Second Amended Complaint, in the pleadings making up this third claim, plaintiffs request an order enjoining those who are not legal members of ...

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