Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Native American Law
by
The Oneida Nation’s Big Apple Fest is held, annually, on land partially located in the Village of Hobart. In 2016 Hobart demanded that the Nation obtain a permit and submit to some of its s laws. The Nation filed suit and held the festival without a permit.The Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the Nation. The Oneida Reservation, established by treaty in 1838, remains intact, so federal law treats the land at issue as Indian country not subject to most state and local regulation. The Reservation was not diminished piece-by-piece when Congress allotted the Reservation among individual tribe members and allowed the land to be sold eventually to non‐Indians but can be diminished or disestablished only by Congress. The court noted the Supreme Court’s 2020 "McGirt" decision as “making it even more difficult to establish the requisite congressional intent to dis‐establish or diminish a reservation.” The statutory texts provide no clear indication that Congress intended to eliminate all tribal interests in allotted Oneida land; diminishment cannot be the result of Congress’s general expectation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that its actions would eventually end the reservation system. Hobart has not shown “exceptional circumstances” that could justify imposing its ordinance on the Nation within the boundaries of the Reservation. View "Oneida Nation v. Village of Hobart" on Justia Law

by
The Menominee River runs between Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. According to its origin story, the Menominee Indian Tribe came into existence along the River's banks thousands of years ago. This birthplace contains artifacts and sacred sites of historic and cultural importance to the Tribe. The Tribe learned that Aquila planned a mining project alongside the River, close to Wisconsin’s northeast border. Aquila obtained Michigan permits. The Tribe contacted the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers asking for reconsideration of a 1984 decision to allow Michigan, instead of the federal government, to issue permits under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1344. The agencies responded that Michigan would decide whether to issue a “dredge-and-fill” permit to authorize Aquila’s project. The Tribe commenced an administrative proceeding in Michigan and filed suit.The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that it did not challenge any final action taken by the EPA or Army Corps. The Seventh Circuit affirmed while expressing “reservations about how the federal agencies responded to the Tribe’s concerns.” The court noted that the agency letters did not reflect any final agency decisions and that the Tribe can receive a full and fair review in a Michigan court. The Preservation Act does not require the agencies to consult with the Tribe about the project but applies only to undertakings that are “[f]ederal or federally assisted.” View "Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. Environmental Protection Agency" on Justia Law

by
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701–21, allows some gambling on land held in trust for tribes, in every state, without prior approval. Class III gambling, which includes slot machines and table games such as blackjack, may be offered only in certain states if the tribe and state enter into a contract. Since 199,2 Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a federally-recognized tribe, has conducted gaming in Shawano County, Wisconsin. In 2008 Ho-Chunk, another federally-recognized tribe, opened a casino in Shawano County. Both feature class III gaming, authorized by contracts. In 2016 Ho-Chunk announced plans to add more slot machines and gaming tables, plus a restaurant, a bar, and a hotel. The Community sought an injunction, arguing that the Ho-Chunk land was not held in trust for the tribe on October 17, 1988. The parcel was conveyed to the tribe in 1969, but with a condition that was not lifted until 1989; in 1986, the Department of the Interior declared the parcel to be Ho-Chunk’s trust land. The Community argued that Ho-Chunk’s state contract treats its casino as an “ancillary” gaming facility and that the state has not enforced that limitation. The court dismissed the suit as untimely, reasoning that the Community knew or could have learned of both issues by 2008. The Act does not contain a statute of limitations, so the court looked to the Wisconsin limitations period for breach of contract or the Administrative Procedure Act's limitations period—each set a six-year limit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, applying Wisconsin law. View "Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. Wisconsin" on Justia Law

by
Meyers used his credit card to make purchases at the Green Bay are Oneida Travel Center and Oneida One Stop retail locations, owned and operated by the federally‐recognized Oneida Indian tribe. He received electronically printed receipts that included more than the last five digits of his credit card and the card’s expiration date. He alleged, in a putative class action, that the Tribe issued these receipts in violation of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, which states: [n]o person that accepts credit cards or debit cards for the transaction of business shall print more than the last 5 digits of the card number or the expiration date upon any receipt provided to the cardholder at the point of the sale or transaction, 15 U.S.C. 1681c(g)(1). FACTA defines a person as “any individual, partnership, corporation, trust, estate, cooperative, association, government or governmental subdivision or agency, or other entity.” The district court concluded that the Tribe was immune from suit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that whether a tribe is subject to a statute and whether the tribe may be sued for violating the statute are two different questions. Any ambiguity must be resolved in favor of immunity; “government or governmental subdivision or agency” does not unambiguously refer to tribes. View "Meyers v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wis." on Justia Law

by
This appeal was the most recent appeal in a series of lawsuits that have arisen over the sale of bonds by a corporation wholly owned by the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians (collectively, “the Tribal Entities”). In a prior action, the Seventh Circuit held that a bond indenture constituted an unapproved management contract under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) and was therefore void. Following more than three years of litigating the validity of other bond-related documents in federal and state court, the Tribal Entities instituted a tribal court action seeking a declaration that the bonds are invalid under the IGRA as well as tribal law. Certain “Financial Entities” and Godfrey & Kahn S.C. sought an injunction in the Western District of Wisconsin to preclude the Tribal Entities from pursuing their tribal court action. The district court preliminarily enjoined the Tribal Entities from proceeding against the Financial Entities but allowed the tribal action to proceed against Godfrey. The Seventh Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the district court (1) did not abuse its discretion in enjoining the tribal court action against the Financial Entities; but (2) made several errors of law in assessing whether Godfrey had established a likelihood of success on the merits. Remanded. View "Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc. v. Lac Du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians" on Justia Law

by
Wisconsin’s Governor has entered into gaming compacts with all of the state’s tribes (Wis. Stat. 14.035). The HoChunk Nation adopted an ordinance, authorizing Class I and Class II gaming on its lands. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. 2703(6), (7), (8), defines Class I gaming as social games and traditional Indian gaming, regulated exclusively by tribes; Class II gaming includes bingo and certain nonbanked card games (players compete against one another rather than against the house) that are authorized by state laws. Class III gaming is a residual category, regulated under tribal-state compacts. A 2008 agreement between the state and the Nation does not restrict Class II gaming. Since 2010, the Nation has offered nonbanked electronic poker at Ho-Chunk Madison. Wisconsin sought an injunction to stop the poker, which, if classified as Class III would violate the Nation’s compact with the state. The district court ruled that the poker was a Class III game. The Seventh Circuit reversed. States may not prohibit a tribe from offering gaming that is roughly equivalent to what the state allows for its residents. A state must criminalize a gambling activity in order to prohibit the tribe from engaging in it. Wisconsin decriminalized nonbanked poker in 1999. IGRA does not permit interference with Class II poker on tribal land. View "Wisconsin v. Ho-Chunk Nation" on Justia Law

by
Schlemm, a member of the Navajo Tribe, and a prisoner, sought an order requiring the prison to accommodate his religious practices under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc. Members of the Tribe honor the dead through dancing, praying, and eating traditional foods. Wisconsin concedes that this celebration is religious and that Schlemm sincerely believes that “traditional foods” should include game meat. The prison rejected his request for game meat or ground beef and his offer to secure a sealed platter from an outside vendor. The prison permits Jewish inmates to have outside vendors supply sealed Seder platters. Defendants maintain that serving venison would be too expensive, would exceed the capacity of institutional kitchens, and would violate a rule limiting prison foods to those certified by the USDA. The district court granted summary judgment, ruling that the denial does not impose a “substantial burden” on Schlemm’s religious exercise; the state has a “compelling governmental interest” in costs and using USDA-inspected meats; and that the denial is the “least restrictive means” of furthering those interests. The Seventh Circuit remanded, holding that the state was not entitled to summary judgment and ordering a preliminary injunction allowing Schlemm to order venison and to wear a multicolored headband while praying in his cell and during group ceremonies. View "Schlemm v. Frank" on Justia Law

by
A 1991 judgment, not appealed, upheld a state statute prohibiting members of the Indian tribes from hunting deer at night outside the tribes’ reservations. Wisconsin Indians had hunted deer at night since before they had electricity. Tribe members sought relief from the judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(5) on the ground that its continued enforcement would be “no longer equitable” and asserting that “tribal members need to hunt for subsistence purposes. Between 25% and 93% of Tribal members are unemployed. They also claimed that “tribal members need to hunt at night for cultural and religious reasons.” The district court denied the motion, precipitating this appeal. The Seventh Circuit reversed, noting that neighboring states allow night hunting; that the state has stringent regulations; and concerns about Indian cultural and dietary practices relating to deer hunting, poverty, and unemployment. Evidence presented by the tribes indicated that night hunting for deer in the identified territory is unlikely to create a serious safety problem.View "Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. WI" on Justia Law

by
The Plaintiffs sued Payday Financial, Webb, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and other entities associated with Webb, alleging violations of civil and criminal statutes related to loans that they had received from the defendants. The businesses maintain several websites that offer small, high-interest loans to customers. The entire transaction is completed online; a potential customer applies for, and agrees to, the loan terms from his computer. The district court dismissed for improper venue, finding that the loan agreements required that all disputes be resolved through arbitration conducted by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe on their Reservation in South Dakota. Following a limited remand, the district court concluded that, although the tribal law could be ascertained, the arbitral mechanism detailed in the agreement did not exist. The Seventh Circuit held that the action should not have been dismissed because the arbitral mechanism specified in the agreement is illusory. Rejecting an alternative argument that the loan documents require that any litigation be conducted by a tribal court on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, the court stated that tribal courts have a unique, limited jurisdiction that does not extend generally to the regulation of nontribal members whose actions do not implicate the sovereignty of the tribe or the regulation of tribal lands. View "Jackson v. Payday Fin., LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Ho-Chunk Nation, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, operates casinos in Wisconsin and nets more than $200 million annually from its gambling operations. Cash Systems, one of three businesses involved in this case, engaged in issuing cash to casino customers via automated teller machines and kiosks, check-cashing, and credit- and debit-card advances. Whiteagle, a member of the Nation, held himself out as an insider and offered vendors an entrée into the tribe’s governance and gaming operations. Cash Systems engaged Whiteagle in 2002 as a confidential consultant. Cash Systems served as the Nation’s cash-access services vendor for the next six years, earning more than seven million dollars, while it paid Whiteagle just under two million dollars. Whiteagles’s “in” was his relationship with Pettibone, who had been serving in the Ho-Chunk legislature since 1995. Ultimately, Whiteagle, Pettibone, and another were charged with conspiracy (18 U.S.C. 371) to commit bribery in connection with the contracts with the Ho-Chunk Nation and substantive bribery (18 U.S.C. 666). Whiteagle was also charged with tax evasion and witness tampering. Pettibone pleaded guilty to corruptly accepting a car with the intent to be influenced in connection with a contract. Whiteagle admitted that he had solicited money and other things of value for Pettibone from three companies, but denied actually paying bribes to Pettibone and insisted that he and Pettibone had advocated for Whiteagle’s clients based on what they believed to be the genuine merits of those clients. Convicted on all counts, Whiteagle was sentenced, below-guidelines, to 120 months. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence on the bribery charges, the loss calculation, and admission of certain evidence.View "United States v. Whiteagle" on Justia Law