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Akiachak Native Community v. Jewell

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 30, 2013

AKIACHAK NATIVE COMMUNITY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SALLY JEWELL, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants, and THE STATE OF ALASKA, Intervenor

Page 2

For AKIACHAK NATIVE COMMUNITY, Plaintiff: Hollis L. Handler, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, ALASKA LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION, Juneaau, AK; Richard A. Guest, LEAD ATTORNEY, Heather Kendall Miller, NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND, Washington, DC.

For CHALKYITSIK VILLAGE, CHILKOOT INDIAN ASSOCIATION, TULUKSAK NATIVE COMMUNITY (IRA), Plaintiffs: Richard A. Guest, LEAD ATTORNEY, Heather Kendall Miller, NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND, Washington, DC.

For ALICE KAVAIRLOOK, from Case No. 06-1405, Plaintiff: Heather Kendall Miller, Richard A. Guest, LEAD ATTORNEYS, NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND, Washington, DC; Andrew R. Harrington, ALASKA LEGAL SERVICES CORPORATION, Fairbanks, AK.

For UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, Defendant: Maureen Elizabeth Rudolph, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ENRD/NRS, Washington, DC; Daniel G. Steele, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC.

For DIRK KEMPTHORNE, Secretary of the Interior, from Case No. 06-1405, Defendant: Daniel G. Steele, LEAD ATTORNEY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Environment and Natural Resources, Washington, DC; Maureen Elizabeth Rudolph, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, ENRD/NRS, Washington, DC.

For STATE OF ALASKA, Intervenor Defendant: Elizabeth Jeanne Barry, J. Anne Nelson, LEAD ATTORNEYS, STATE OF ALASKA DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Anchorage, AK.

OPINION

Page 3

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Rudolph Contreras, United States District Judge.

On March 31, 2013, the court found that the regulations governing the taking of land into trust under Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. § 465. which " do not cover the acquisition of land in trust status in the State of Alaska, except acquisitions for the Metlakatla Indian Community of the Annette Island Reserve or it[s] members," 25 C.F.R. § 151.1, thereby violate the anti-discrimination provision codified at 25 U.S.C. § 476(g). The court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, but withheld a ruling on the appropriate remedy. The parties have now briefed that issue; the State of Alaska and the Secretary of the Interior have also moved the court to reconsider its earlier opinion. Turning first to the motions for reconsideration, the court assumes familiarity with that opinion and the posture of this case.

Although " [m]otions for reconsideration are not specifically provided for under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure," United Mine Workers of Am. 1974 Pension Trust v. Pittston Co., 793 F.Supp. 339, 344 (D.D.C. 1992), aff'd 984 F.2d 469, 299 U.S.App. D.C. 339 (D.C. Cir. 1993), " [i]nterlocutory orders . . . may always be reconsidered prior to final judgment." [1] Langevine v. District of Columbia, 106 F.3d 1018, 1023, 323 U.S.App. D.C. 210 (D.C. Cir. 1997); see also Schoen v. Washington Post, 246 F.2d 670, 673, 100 U.S.App. D.C. 389 (D.C. Cir. 1957) (Burger, J.) (" [W]here the interests of justice require it, [a trial] court has plenary powers to set aside or otherwise modify its interlocutory orders at any time before final judgment." ); Muwekma Tribe v. Babbitt, 133 F.Supp.2d 42, 48 n.6 (D.D.C. 2001) (" [I]nterlocutory judgments are not brought within the restrictions of [Rule 60(b)], but rather they are left subject to the complete power of the court rendering them to afford such relief from them as justice requires." ) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 60(b) Advisory Comm. Notes (1946)). " [S]o long as the court has jurisdiction over an action, it should have complete power over interlocutory orders made therein and should be able to revise them when it is consonant with equity to do so." Schoen, 246 F.2d at 673 (emphasis and internal quotation marks omitted); accord Moses H. Cone Mem'l Hosp. v. Mercury Constr. Corp., 460 U.S. 1, 12, 103 S.Ct. 927, 74 L.Ed.2d 765 (1983) (" [E]very order short of a final decree is subject to reopening at the discretion of the district judge." ) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b)).

The State's motion for reconsideration argues that the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Pub. L. No. 92-203, 85 Stat. 688, implicitly repealed the Secretary's authority to take most Alaska land into trust; from this premise it concludes that the Alaska exception to the land-into-trust regulations is mandated by statute and does not violate 25 U.S.C. ยง 476(g). The State thoroughly briefed this position in its motion for summary judgment, and merely reprises those arguments here. Because " a motion for reconsideration is 'not simply an opportunity to reargue facts ...


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