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Shinnecock Indian Nation v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

April 7, 2015

SHINNECOCK INDIAN NATION, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

Page 1346

Appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims in No. 1:12-cv-00836-ECH, Chief Judge Emily C. Hewitt.

STEVEN J. BLOXHAM, Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP, Sacramento, CA, argued for plaintiff-appellant. Also represented by TIM HENNESSY, JOHN M. PEEBLES, DARCIE LYNN HOUCK.

JENNIFER SCHELLER NEUMANN, Environment and Natural Resources Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by SAM HIRSCH.

Before DYK, MAYER, and CLEVENGER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 1347

Mayer, Circuit Judge.

The Shinnecock Indian Nation (the " Nation" ) appeals a final judgment of the United States Court of Federal Claims dismissing its suit for lack of jurisdiction. See Shinnecock Indian Nation v. United States, 112 Fed.Cl. 369 (2013) (" Court of Federal Claims Decision " ). We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.

Background

In June 2005, the Nation filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York " seek[ing] to vindicate its rights to certain lands located in the Town of Southampton in Suffolk County, New York." Shinnecock Indian Nation v. New York, No. 05-CV-2887, 2006 WL 3501099, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 28, 2006) (" Land Reclamation Suit " ). The Nation asserted that in 1859 the State of New York enacted legislation allowing thousands of acres of the Nation's land to be wrongfully conveyed to the government of the Town of Southampton. Id. at *2. The Nation sought " broad relief," including damages and possessory rights in the disputed lands. Id. at *1.

In November 2006, the district court dismissed the Nation's suit. Id. at *6. Relying on City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation, 544 U.S. 197, 217--21, 125 S.Ct. 1478, 161 L.Ed.2d 386 (2005), and Cayuga Indian Nation v. Pataki, 413 F.3d 266, 273--78 (2d Cir. 2005), the court held that laches barred the Nation's claims. See Land Reclamation Suit, 2006 WL 3501099, at *3--5. Although the court acknowledged that the " wrongs" alleged by the Nation were " grave," it emphasized that the Nation had not occupied the disputed lands since 1859. Id. at *6. In the court's view, the " disruptive nature" of the Nation's land claims was sufficient to " tip[] the equity scale in favor of dismissal." Id. The Nation then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (" Second Circuit" ). That appeal remains pending.

On December 5, 2012, the Nation filed an action in the Court of Federal Claims, seeking $1,105,000,000 in money damages, as well as costs, attorney's fees, and " [s]uch other and further relief" as the court " deem[ed] just and proper." Court of Federal Claims Decision, 112 Fed.Cl. at 375. The Nation alleged that the United States, " acting through the federal court system . . . denied any and all judicial means of effective redress for the unlawful taking of lands from [the Nation] and its members." Id. at 372 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). In its complaint, the Nation asserted that in failing to provide it with a remedy for the misappropriation of its tribal lands, the United States violated trust obligations arising under both the Non-Intercourse Act, 25 U.S.C. § 177, and the " federal common law (informed by international law norms)." 112 Fed.Cl. at 378.

Page 1348

The government moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, arguing both that the Nation's claims were not ripe for review and that they fell outside the waiver of sovereign immunity provided by the Indian Tucker Act.[1]Id. The Nation thereafter sought to amend its complaint to add a " judicial takings" claim alleging that the district court's decision to dismiss ...


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