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Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota v. Zinke

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 9, 2017

MDEWAKANTON SIOUX INDIANS OF MINNESOTA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
RYAN ZINKE, [1] Secretary, United States Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants. Re Document No. 17

          MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER AND A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs are currently engaged in litigation to compel various federal entities to recognize them as an American Indian tribe. Plaintiffs now seek a temporary restraining order, followed by a preliminary injunction, barring an election to amend the constitution of a different tribe, because Plaintiffs assert the amendments would impair their rights. Because Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate an irreparable injury, neither a temporary restraining order nor a preliminary injunction is appropriate.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are several individuals and the Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota, which they allege is an American Indian tribe to which they belong. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs brought suit in this Court to compel the United States defendants “to acknowledge [the tribe's] existence and to enjoin the United States from continuing arbitrary decisions without informing the [tribe] that have the consequence of adversely affecting the rights or potential rights of the [tribe].” Compl. at 2. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on several grounds, see generally Fed. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 10, and that motion remains pending.

         Plaintiffs now seek a temporary restraining order, followed by a preliminary injunction, to stop the June 14, 2017 Secretarial election of the Prairie Island Indian Community.[2] See generally Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Temp. Restraining Order & Prelim. Inj. (Pl.'s Mot.), ECF No. 17. Plaintiffs assert that the amendments to the Prairie Island Indian Community's constitution at issue in the election would impair Plaintiffs' tribal rights. Pl.'s Mot. at 7-9; see also Pl.'s Mot. at 3 (asserting that the proposed amendments, if passed, would “effectively terminate [Plaintiffs' tribe] without congressional Act”).

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         “Preliminary injunctive relief, whether in the form of a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction, provides an ‘extraordinary remedy' that is ‘never awarded as of right.'” Paleteria La Michoacana, Inc. v. Productos Lacteos Tocumbo S.A. de C.V., 901 F.Supp.2d 54, 55-56 (D.D.C. 2012) (quoting Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008)). Because a temporary restraining order is “an extraordinary and drastic remedy, ” it should not be granted “unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Nat'l Head Start Ass'n v. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 297 F.Supp.2d 242, 246 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997)).

         In order to receive preliminary injunctive relief, the movant must demonstrate “(1) that it has a strong likelihood of success on the merits, (2) that it will suffer irreparable injury if injunctive relief is denied, (3) that other interested parties will not suffer substantial harm if injunctive relief is granted, and (4) that the public interest favors the granting of injunctive relief, (or at least, that the granting of injunctive relief is not adverse to the public interest).” Paleteria La Michoacana, 901 F.Supp.2d at 56 (citing Wash. Metro. Area Transit Comm'n v. Holiday Tours, Inc., 559 F.2d 841, 843 (D.C. Cir. 1977) and Federation Internationale de Football Ass'n v. Nike, Inc., 285 F.Supp.2d 64, 68 (D.D.C. 2003)).

         Regardless of how the other three factors are analyzed, [3] it is required that the movant demonstrate an irreparable injury. See, e.g., Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches v. England, 454 F.3d 290, 297 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (“A movant's failure to show any irreparable harm is therefore grounds for refusing to issue a preliminary injunction, even if the other three factors entering the calculus merit such relief.”).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         The Court considers if Plaintiffs have demonstrated that they will suffer an irreparable harm absent the issuance of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction, and concludes that they have not. Because showing an irreparable injury is mandatory, the Court does not consider the remaining factors.

         Plaintiffs' motion devotes only a single paragraph to discussing the irreparable injury requirement. Pl.'s Mot. at 43-44. Plaintiffs argue that preliminary injunctive relief is necessary to avoid increased litigation expenses, specifically, that:

Due to the actions of the federal guardian leaving the [Plaintiffs] without resources, the cost of the litigation is being borne by the Plaintiffs. The Plaintiffs' resources are limited. If the Plaintiffs' resources are exhausted by litigation expense, the litigation will end-an irreparable injury. Preserving the legal status quo reduces the cost of ...

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