Articles Posted in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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JAC filed suit contending that the NIGC violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321-4370h, when it approved the Tribe's gaming ordinance without first conducting a NEPA environmental review. The district court denied JAC's petition for a writ of mandamus under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 706, holding that NIGC’s approval of the 2013 gaming ordinance was not “major federal action” within the meaning of NEPA. Even if NIGC's approval of the ordinance was a major Federal action, the court held that an agency need not adhere to NEPA where doing so would create an irreconcilable and fundamental conflict with the substantive statute at issue. In this case, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701–2721, requires NIGC to approve a gaming ordinance or resolution pursuant to a mandatory deadline. There is no question that it would be impossible for NIGC to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) in the ninety days it has to approve a gaming ordinance. Contrary to JAC’s arguments, NIGC’s approval of the Tribe’s gaming ordinance without conducting a NEPA environmental review did not violate NIGC’s obligations under NEPA because "where a clear and unavoidable conflict in statutory authority exists, NEPA must give way.” Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of plaintiff's requested writ of mandamus. View "Jamul Action Comm. v. Chaudhuri" on Justia Law

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The Nation and the State executed a gaming compact in 2002 pursuant to the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2701-2721. After the Compact was approved by the Secretary of the Interior and became effective in 2003, the Nation purchased an unincorporated parcel of land within the outer boundaries of Glendale, Arizona, pursuant to the federal Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act (LRA). Plaintiffs filed suit against the Nation seeking to enjoin the Nation's plan to conduct Class III gaming on Parcel 2. The district court granted summary judgment to the Nation. The court concluded that, under the ordinary meaning of the words used in the statutory text, the Nation plainly had “land claims” for damage to its reservation lands; were the court to find the term “land claim” to be ambiguous, and proceeded under Chevron to apply the DOI’s definition of the term, then the court would find that the Nation also had a claim concerning the impairment of title or other real property interest or loss of possession of its reservation land; and the district court did not err in determining that the LRA was a “settlement” of the Nation’s land claims. The court also concluded that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' claims of judicial estoppel and waiver; the duly-executed Compact negotiated at length by sophisticated parties expressly authorizes the Nation to conduct gaming on its “Indian Lands,” subject to the requirements of section 2719 of IGRA; because Parcel 2 complies with the requirements of section 2719, and the Compact expressly allows the Nation to conduct Class III gaming there, the district court correctly entered summary judgment in favor of the Nation on plaintiffs’ breach of Compact claim; the Nation's choice to conduct Class III gaming in accordance with the express terms of the Compact does not deviate from the agreed common purpose of the Compact, and therefore does not breach the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; and the district court correctly concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ non-Compact claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Gila River Indian Cmty. v. Tohono O'odham Nation" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a dispute between Pauma and the State over Tribal-State Gaming Compacts. Pauma filed suit against the State based on the court's prior decision in Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community v. California (Colusa II). The district court granted summary judgment to Pauma on its misrepresentation claim. The court held that once a court’s judgment interpreting an ambiguous contract provision becomes final, that is and has always been the correct interpretation from its inception. Therefore, the court concluded that Colusa II's interpretation of the Compacts’ license pool provision applies retroactively, such that the State would be deemed to have misrepresented a material fact as to how many gaming licenses were available when negotiating with Pauma to amend its Compact; the district court awarded the proper remedy to Pauma by refunding $36.2 million in overpayments; and the State has waived its sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. The court agreed with the district court's finding that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2710, is inapplicable in this case and therefore Pauma's argument that the State acted in bad faith is irrelevant. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians v. California" on Justia Law