The Settlement Act has several provisions that are dispositive of claims before the court. In Section 2(7), the act provides that "the [Interior] Secretary has acknowledged the existence of the Wampanoag Tribal Council of Gay Head, Inc., and Congress hereby ratifies and confirms that existence as an Indian tribe with a government to government relationship with the United States." In Section 8(2), Congress recognized the Tribal Council as the "sole and legitimate tribal entity" with a claim to land in Gay Head. Finally, Section 10 bars any challenge to the Settlement Act itself "unless the complaint is filed within thirty days after the date of enactment," and confers "exclusive, original jurisdiction" over any such action on the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
The ratification and confirmation of the government defendants' decision to recognize the Tribal Council transforms the plaintiffs' challenge to that decision into a challenge of the Settlement Act itself.
The challenge to the refusal to recognize the dissenting faction as a tribe, which arguably is a distinct claim, also implicates the Settlement Act because Congress explicitly designated the Tribal Council as the "sole and legitimate entity" to represent Indians in the area. Once Congress has thus ratified agency action by statute, even if that action had been arbitrary and capricious, judicial review requires a challenge to the statute itself.
The court is not entitled to consider whether the plaintiffs have any basis for such a challenge, because the United States District Court for Massachusetts has exclusive jurisdiction over challenges to the Settlement Act.
In opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, plaintiffs argue that the "focus" in this case "is on the propriety of Interior's action," and assert on this basis that the case is properly maintained in this court. The Settlement Act does not preempt the challenge to the Interior Department's decision, plaintiffs say, because the Settlement Act is under challenge in the Massachusetts court and "therefore is not final and could be set aside."
The possibility that the Settlement Act might be invalidated, however, does not entitle this court to disregard the jurisdictional restriction contained in Section 10 until there has been a final adjudication of validity. Accepting plaintiff's argument to the contrary would require a conclusion by this court that the Settlement Act is presumptively invalid. Nor is the court persuaded by the plaintiffs' argument that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit "preapproved the format [or forum] of the instant case,"
by affirming this court's dismissal of an earlier complaint.
That case antedated the Settlement Act, and thus has no bearing on the issues before the court.
The passage of the Settlement Act has mooted the claims against the government defendants; an action against these defendants could go forward only if enforcement of the Settlement Act were enjoined, a remedy which this court is now without jurisdiction to consider. Congress' explicit recognition of the Tribal Council also bars the claims against the nongovernment defendants, claims which generally challenge the Tribal Council's continued conduct as the governing entity of the Gay Head Indians. It is conceivable, though not argued by the plaintiffs, that some of their claims against the nongovernment defendants for their conduct in representing the dissenting faction are not mooted by the Settlement Act; any such claims would necessarily depend on a challenge to the defendant's legitimacy as the exclusive representative of the Gay Head Indians, however, and this issue has been conclusively decided in favor of the defendants by a final judgment of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts court.
The plaintiffs have purposefully distinguished their claims in this case from a related and pending challenge to the Settlement Act which they have brought in federal court in Massachusetts.
This court has reviewed the plaintiffs allegations in that action,
and has determined that there are no justiciable and substantial claims remaining in this case that have not been presented to the United States District Court for Massachusetts already. Dismissal, rather than transfer, therefore is appropriate.
For these reasons, it is by the court this 2nd day of September, 1988,
ORDERED that the defendants' Motions to Dismiss are granted; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk is directed to dismiss this case with prejudice.