United States District Court, D. Columbia.
SISSETON WAHPETON OYATE OF THE LAKE TRAVERSE RESERVATION, et al., Plaintiffs,
THE HONORABLE SALLY JEWELL, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants
SISSETON WAHPETON OYATE OF THE LAKE TRAVERSE RESERVATION,
QUINAULT INDIAN NATION, Plaintiffs: John Ernest Echohawk, PRO
HAC VICE, Melody L. McCoy, NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND,
WHITE EARTH NATION, KICKAPOO TRIBE OF OKLAHOMA, PENOBSCOT
INDIAN NATION, PUEBLO OF ACOMA, SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA,
SOUTHERN UTE INDIAN TRIBE, COMANCHE NATION, CONFEDERATED
TRIBES OF THE UMATILLA INDIAN RESERVATION, Plaintiffs: Melody
L. McCoy, LEAD ATTORNEY, NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND,
Boulder, CO; John Ernest Echohawk, PRO HAC VICE, NATIVE
AMERICAN RIGHTS FUND, Boulder, CO.
SALLY JEWELL, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, JACOB J. LEW,
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, Defendants: Anthony P. Hoang,
Stephen R. Terrell, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE, Environment & Natural Resources Division,
F. Hogan, Senior United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF
No. 19], which seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) based on
lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because the Court finds
that it has jurisdiction over this matter, the
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss will be denied.
AND PROCEDURAL POSTURE
April 30, 2013, this lawsuit was filed by four
federally-recognized American Indian tribes seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief against the Secretary of
the Interior and the Secretary of the Treasury (hereinafter
" Defendants" ) for their alleged breaches of
fiduciary duties relating to tribal trust accounts.
See Compl. [ECF No. 1]. On November 15, 2013 and
November 19, 2013, Plaintiffs amended their Complaint to add
additional American Indian tribes, bringing the total number
of Plaintiff-tribes to ten. See First Am. Compl. &
Second Am. Compl. [ECF Nos. 17 & 20]. On November 22, 2013,
Defendants moved to dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint
based on lack of jurisdiction. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss
[ECF No. 19]. Defendants contend that the Court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction because the government has not waived its
sovereign immunity from the Plaintiffs' claims.
underlying facts related to this case are not unfamiliar to
the Court. The federal government has held funds and assets
in trust for American Indian tribe beneficiaries for well
over a century. Unfortunately, the federal government has
failed to discharge its fiduciary duties in its role as
trustee for the tribes, and those trust accounts have been
mismanaged for almost as long as they have been in existence.
See Cobell v. Norton, 240 F.3d 1081, 1086,
345 U.S. App.D.C. 141 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Plaintiffs now seek
declaratory relief that certain previous attempts to
reconcile the trust accounts did not satisfy the
government's responsibility to provide a complete and
accurate accounting of those accounts. Second Am. Compl.
¶ 62 [ECF No. 20]. Plaintiffs also seek injunctive
relief compelling Defendants to perform their duties to
provide complete and accurate accountings, preserve any and
all documents concerning Plaintiffs' trust accounts, and
make their accounts whole. Id. ¶ ¶ 67-69.
Finally, Plaintiffs seek judicial review of the agencies'
actions under the Administrative Procedures Act ("
APA" ). Id. ¶ ¶ 71-75.
argue that Plaintiffs' claims are improperly based on the
" inherent fiduciary duty" between the federal
government and Plaintiff-tribes, and that Plaintiffs have
failed to properly identify the statute or regulation on
which their claims are based. Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 13
[ECF No. 19]. Defendants also argue that Plaintiffs have not
sufficiently alleged that the " complete and accurate
trust accounting" they seek is demanded by law, which
means that Plaintiffs have failed to properly invoke the
APA's waiver of sovereign immunity. Id. at 14.
Defendants further contend that (1) Plaintiffs seek broad
structural relief which is not proper under the APA, (2)
Plaintiffs' claims are impermissible programmatic
challenges, (3) Plaintiffs' claims related to
recordkeeping should be dismissed because there is no private
right of action, and (4) Plaintiffs' claims for
injunctive relief are actually seeking monetary damages which
is outside the scope of the waiver of sovereign immunity and
not within the Court's jurisdiction. Id. at
16-19, 22-23. Finally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs'
claims are time-barred under the applicable statute of
limitations. Id. at 19-21.
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They
possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of
Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391
(1994) (internal citations omitted). When the Court's
subject-matter jurisdiction is challenged, the party
asserting jurisdiction bears the burden of establishing that
the court does, in fact, have subject-matter jurisdiction
over the dispute. Moms Against Mercury v. FDA, 483
F.3d 824, 828, 376 U.S. App.D.C. 18 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Because
sovereign immunity " is a jurisdictional issue" it
" may be raised in a Rule 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss . .
. ." Royer v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 933
F.Supp.2d 170, 180 (D.D.C. 2013). In deciding a motion ...