Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Native American Law
Brackeen v. Haaland
In this case, the en banc court considered the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq., and the validity of implementing regulations promulgated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in its 2016 Final Rule (Final Rule). The district court granted plaintiffs summary judgment in part, declaring that the ICWA and the Final Rule contravene multiple constitutional provisions and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). After defendants appealed, a panel of this court reversed and rendered judgment for defendants. The en banc court then reconsidered the case.The en banc court unanimously held that at least one plaintiff has standing to challenge Congress's authority under Article I of the Constitution to enact ICWA and to press anticommandeering and nondelegation challenges to specific ICWA provisions, and that plaintiffs have standing to challenge the Final Rule as unlawful under the APA. The en banc court is equally divided as to whether plaintiffs have standing to challenge two provisions of ICWA, 25 U.S.C. 1913 and 1914, on equal protection grounds, and the district court's conclusion that plaintiffs can assert this claim is therefore affirmed without a precedential opinion. An en banc majority also held that plaintiffs have standing to assert their equal protection challenges to other provisions of ICWA.On the merits, the en banc majority agrees that, as a general proposition, Congress had the authority to enact ICWA under Article I of the Constitution, and that the ICWA's "Indian child" classification does not violate equal protection. The en banc court is equally divided, however, as to whether plaintiffs prevail on their equal protection challenge to ICWA's adoptive placement preference for "other Indian families," and its foster care placement preference for a licensed "Indian foster home." An en banc majority held that ICWA's "active efforts," section 1912(d), expert witness, section 1912(e) and (f), and recordkeeping requirements, section 1915(e), unconstitutionally commandeer state actors. However, the en banc court is equally divided on whether the placement preferences, section 1915(a)–(b), violate anticommandeering to the extent they direct action by state agencies and officials; on whether the notice provision, section 1912(a), unconstitutionally commandeers state agencies; and on whether the placement record provision, section 1951(a), unconstitutionally commandeers state courts.Furthermore, an en banc majority held that several challenged ICWA provisions validly preempt state law and so do not commandeer states, and that section 1915(c) does not violate the non-delegation doctrine. Finally, an en banc majority held that the BIA did not violate the APA by concluding in the Final Rule that it may issue regulations binding on state courts. However, an en banc majority also held that the Final Rule violated the APA to the extent it implemented these unconstitutional provisions and that 25 C.F.R. 23.132(b) violated the APA. An en banc majority held that the Final Rule did not violate the APA in any other respect. Accordingly, the en banc court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and rendered judgment accordingly. View "Brackeen v. Haaland" on Justia Law
Mitchell v. Bailey
Plaintiff filed suit against defendant and the Hoopa Valley Tribe for violations of state tort and contract law. The district court, ruling on a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss, found sovereign immunity barred suit against defendant, in his official capacity, and the Hoopa Valley Tribe, dismissing the claims with prejudice.The Fifth Circuit held that it lacked original jurisdiction, concluding that the district court did not have federal-question jurisdiction over this case; the Hoopa Valley's presence as a party to the suit destroyed complete diversity and thus the district court did not have diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1332; and the district court did not have supplemental jurisdiction over this case under 28 U.S.C. 1367. The court also held that the district court erred when it dismissed claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) with prejudice. Accordingly, the court vacated in part, affirmed the dismissal in part, reversed in part, and remanded with instructions to dismiss without prejudice. View "Mitchell v. Bailey" on Justia Law
Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
The Fifth Circuit held that the Restoration Act governs the legality of the Tribe's gaming operations, which bars gaming that violates Texas law, rather than the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which establishes federal standards for gaming on Indian lands. The court also held that the district court correctly enjoined the Tribe's gaming operations because the Tribe's operations run contrary to Texas's gaming law and the balance of the equities weighed in favor of the State. Finally, the court held that the Texas Attorney General had authority to bring suit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo" on Justia Law
Brackeen v. Bernhardt
Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana, and seven individuals seeking to adopt Indian children filed suit against the United States, several federal agencies and officials, and five intervening Tribes, raising facial constitutional challenges to the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and statutory and constitutional challenges to the 2016 administrative rule (the Final Rule) that was promulgated by the Department of the Interior to clarify provisions of ICWA.The Fifth Circuit held that plaintiffs had standing to bring all claims; the ICWA and the Final Rule are constitutional because they are based on a political classification that is rationally related to the fulfillment of Congress's unique obligation toward Indians; ICWA preempts conflicting state laws and does not violate the Tenth Amendment anticommandeering doctrine; and ICWA and the Final Rule do not violate the nondelegation doctrine. The court also held that the Final Rule implementing the ICWA is valid because the ICWA is constitutional, the BIA did not exceed its authority when it issued the Final Rule, and the agency's interpretation of ICWA section 1915 is reasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and rendered judgment in favor of defendants on all claims. View "Brackeen v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law
Texas v. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas
The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act restored the Tribe's status as a federally-recognized tribe and limited its gaming operations according to state law. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) broadly established federal standards for gaming on Indian lands.After IGRA was enacted, the Fifth Circuit determined that the Restoration Act and IGRA conflict and that the Restoration Act governs the Tribe's gaming activities. (Ysleta I). When the Tribe conducted gaming operations in violation of Texas law, the district court permanently enjoined that activity as a violation of the Restoration Act.The court affirmed the district court's refusal to dissolve the permanent injunction and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief from the permanent injunction. The court held that the Restoration Act and the Texas law it invokes—and not IGRA—governed the permissibility of gaming operations on the Tribe's lands. The court held that IGRA did not apply to the Tribe, and the National Indian Gaming Commission did not have jurisdiction over the Tribe. View "Texas v. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas" on Justia Law
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of TX v. United States, et al.
The Tribe filed suit against the United States and others alleging, inter alia, violations of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. 500 et seq., and federal common law. The Tribe claimed that the Government breached its fiduciary duties under federal law to protect the land and natural resources subject to the aboriginal title of the Tribe. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction because the Tribe failed to allege "agency action" sufficient to meet the requirements of the sovereign immunity waiver in section 702, which is necessary to maintain its claims against the federal government and its agencies.View "Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of TX v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
Dolgencorp, Inc., et al. v. MS Band of Choctaw Indians, et al.
Dolgencorp, operator of a Dollar General store on the Choctaw reservation, filed suit seeking to enjoin John Doe and the tribal defendants from adjudicating tort claims against Dolgencorp in the Choctaw tribal court. The underlying tort claims stemmed from Doe's suit alleging that a manager sexually molested him while he was working at the Dollar General store. The court affirmed the district court's denial of Dolgencorp's motion for summary judgment and grant of summary judgment in favor of the tribal defendants because Dolgencorp's consensual relationship with Doe gave rise to tribal court jurisdiction over Doe's claims under Montana v. United States. View "Dolgencorp, Inc., et al. v. MS Band of Choctaw Indians, et al." on Justia Law