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ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK v. THE CITY OF SHERRILL
June 4, 2001
ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF, NEW YORK, DEFENDANT. THE STATE OF NEW YORK, AMICUS CURIAE, MADISON COUNTY, AMICUS CURIAE, ONEIDA COUNTY, AMICUS CURIAE, ONEIDA LTD., AMICUS CURIAE. THE CITY OF SHERRILL, NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF,
ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK, DEFENDANT. THE CITY OF SHERRILL, NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF, V. RAY HALBRITTER; KELLER GEORGE; CHUCK FOUGNIER; BRIAN PATTERSON; MARILYN JOHN; CLINT HILL; DALE ROOD; DICK LYNCH; KEN PHILLIPS; IVA RODGERS; BEULAH GREEN; RUTH BURR, DEFENDANTS. ONEIDA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF, V. MADISON COUNTY, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: HURD,United States District Judge
I. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
II. FACTS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
A. City of Sherrill Properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
B. Madison County Properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
C. Historical Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
III. CLAIMS, COUNTERCLAIMS, AND DEFENSES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
A. Lead Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
B. Eviction Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
C. Member Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
D. Related Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
IV. DISCUSSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
A. Summary Judgment Standard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
B. Indian Country . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
C. Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
D. Application of Indian Country Finding . . . . . . . . . . . .49
1. Lead Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49
a. Sherrill's Motion for Summary Judgment or
Alternative Injunctive Relief . . . . . . . . . . . 49
b. Nation's Cross-motion for Summary Judgment . . . 51
(1) Taxation Claim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
(2) Due Process Claim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
(3) Counterclaims . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
c. Sherrill's Motion to Amend its Answer . . . . . . . 58
2. Eviction Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
3. Member Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
a. Failure to State a Claim . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
b. Failure to Join an Indispensable Party . . . . . . . 65
4. Related Case . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
E. Attorneys Fees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69
V. CONCLUSION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER
"This litigation makes abundantly clear the necessity for
So said the United States Supreme Court in 1985 in reference to the
Oneida Indian Nation land claim. County of Oneida, New York v. Oneida
Indian Nation of New York State, 470 U.S. 226, 253, 105 S.Ct. 1245, 1261
(1985) (emphasis added)[hereinafter "Oneida II"].
Rather than heed the advice of our highest Court, Congress has not
enacted legislation to extinguish or resolve Indian title and land claims
in New York State. It has turned a deaf ear to the Court and remained
silent for over sixteen (16) years.
Further, heroic efforts over many years on the part of Senior District
Judge Neal P. McCurn and Settlement Master Ronald J. Riccio to achieve a
global settlement of the Oneida Indian Nation claims were met with
resistance and ultimate failure. See Oneida Indian Nation v. County of
Oneida, 199 F.R.D. 61, ¶¶ (N.D.N.Y. 2000). A political resolution by
legislation or agreement has apparently been rejected by Federal, State,
and Local governments and by the Oneida Indian Nation. See id. at 66.
Instead, the parties have increasingly turned to the courts to settle
their disputes. These cases are examples. Unlike the executive and
legislative branches of government, the judiciary cannot turn a deaf ear
in the face of disputes such as these. Rather, a judge must put aside any
personal opinions or ideas and apply the Constitution, Treaties, and laws
of this great country. This is the result.
The Oneida Indian Nation of New York ("the Nation" or "the Oneidas")
filed a complaint on February 4, 2000, in the lead case, 00-CV-223,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, seeking to prevent attempts by the City
of Sherrill, New York ("Sherrill") to enforce property tax laws against
properties owned by the Nation [hereinafter "Lead Case"]. Sherrill moved
for summary judgment, or, in the alternative, for a preliminary
injunction. The Nation opposed Sherrill's motion and cross-moved for
summary judgment. Additionally, Sherrill has moved for permission to
amend its answer to add certain affirmative defenses. The Nation opposes
the motion to amend.
On February 22, 2000, the Nation removed to this court, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1441, a petition for eviction filed by Sherrill in New
York State Supreme Court, Oneida County, on February 15,
[hereinafter "Eviction Case"]. In the Eviction Case, 00-CV-327, Sherrill
sought to evict the Nation from the properties that are the subject of
the Nation's February 4, 2000, complaint. Therefore, the Eviction Case
was consolidated with the Lead Case on June 14, 2000.
Sherrill filed a complaint on July 17, 2000, pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1362, seeking declaratory relief and damages from
individually named representatives of the Nation's Men's Council and Clan
Mothers relating to the taxation of the properties at issue in the two
aforementioned actions [hereinafter "Member Case"]. An amended complaint
was filed as of right on August 7, 2000. The Member Case, 00-CV-1106,
was thereafter consolidated with the Lead and Eviction Cases. The
individually named Nation representatives, Ray Halbritter, Keller
George, Chuck Fougnier, Brian Patterson, Marilyn John, Clint Hill, Dale
Rood, Dick Lynch, Ken Phillips, Iva Rodgers, Beulah Green, and Ruth Burr
(collectively "Nation representatives") moved to stay this action and to
dismiss. Sherrill opposed the motion.
On November 13, 2000, Madison County and Oneida County ("the Counties"),
New York State, and Oneida Ltd. filed, with permission, briefs as amici
curiae in support of Sherrill's motion for summary judgment or
alternatively for injunctive relief and in opposition to the Nation's
motion for summary judgment. The Nation did not object to the filing of
the amici curiae briefs, but did submit a responsive brief.
Also currently pending is a related case, 00-CV-506, filed by the Nation
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, against Madison County seeking to
prevent enforcement of the County's property tax laws [hereinafter
"Related Case"]. A motion to dismiss is pending in that action.
Oral argument was heard regarding all motions on March 9, 2001, in
Utica, New York. Decision was reserved.
A. City of Sherrill Properties
In 1997 and 1998 the Nation purchased, in open market transactions, fee
simple title to certain parcels of land within the municipality of
Sherrill. These parcels are designated by Sherrill as 322.014-1-23,
322.014-1-24, 322.014-1-25, 322.014-1-26, 322.015-2-1, 322.015-2-64,
322.015-2-65, 322.015-2-40.3, 322.015-2-45.1, 322.015-2-47. The Nation
operates a gasoline filling station with convenience store and a textile
manufacturing and distribution facility on the properties. Sherrill
assessed property taxes against these parcels. The Nation did not pay
the assessed taxes, asserting that the properties are contained within
the Oneida Indian Reservation ("the Reservation") and therefore are
nontaxable by state municipalities.
The Nation has a Silver Covenant Chain Grant program under which it makes
ad valorem grants to schools and municipalities in which repossessed
aboriginal lands are located. In order to participate in this program
the municipality must remove such lands from its tax rolls pending
resolution of the Nation's land claims. Sherrill and Madison County have
not participated in the Nation's Silver Covenant Chain Grant program.
On August 7, 1997, Sherrill sent the Nation notices of tax delinquency.
(Carmen Aff. sworn Sept. 11, 2000, Ex. 17 [hereinafter "First Carmen
Aff."].) One notice set forth a total delinquency of $2,239.23,
including overdue tax, penalties, and interest. A second and third
notice each set forth a total delinquency of $22.59, including overdue
tax, penalties, and interest. Thus, the total delinquency at that time
was $2,284.71. None of the
three notices identified a parcel or
parcels. The notices each warned, "If you do not wish to have your name
and property advertised for tax sale, payment of the unpaid taxes must be
received by September 2, 1997." Id. In keeping with its assertion that
the properties were nontaxable Reservation land, the Nation did not
respond to the notices.
In September and October 1997 Sherrill advertised, in a local newspaper,
that three Nation parcels would be sold for 1997 unpaid taxes on November
5, 1997. These parcels were identified as 322.014-1-26, 322.014-1-23,
and 322.014-1-25. Sherrill did not serve the Nation with notice of the
tax sale. The tax sale was held on that date and Sherrill purchased the
properties. Pursuant to the Sherrill City Charter, a property owner may
redeem a property sold at tax sale within two years of the sale. In
November 1999 Sherrill published a notice in a local newspaper that the
redemption period for the three parcels would expire on February 8,
2000. On January 10, 2000, Sherrill personally served notice on the
Nation that the expiration period to redeem the properties was February
8, 2000. On February 9, 2000, Sherrill recorded deeds for the
properties. On February 17, 2000, Sherrill initiated eviction proceedings
in New York State Supreme Court, Oneida County.
Meanwhile, Sherrill assessed property taxes and initiated enforcement
proceedings against several other Nation properties. Sherrill purchased
four parcels, 322.015-2-1, 322.014-1-24, 322.015-2-65, and 322-015-2-64,
at a tax sale on November 5, 1998. On March 6, 2000, Sherrill notified
the Nation of the impending expiration of the redemption period of
November 5, 2000, for these four parcels.
On November 10, 1999, Sherrill purchased an additional three parcels,
322-015-2-40.3, 322-015-2-45.1, 322-015-2-47 at tax sale. On March 6,
2000, Sherrill notified the Nation that the redemption period for these
three parcels would expire on November 10, 2001.
Sherrill alleges a total tax liability for all of these parcels of
approximately $15,000. The above-captioned actions followed.
B. Madison County Properties
In the 1990s the Nation acquired thirteen parcels of land located within
Madison County. These parcels are identified as 28.-2-13.11,
28.-2-13.2, 36.5-1-20, 36.38-1-34, 36.6-1-4, 36.38-1-33, 36.38-1-32,
36.62-2-21, 91.-1-51, 36.6-1-1, 36.6-1-3, 36.-1-2, and 28.-2-13.12. The
county assessed property taxes against these parcels. The Nation again
asserted that these properties were within the Reservation and therefore
were nontaxable. On December 1, 1999, the county initiated an in rem
foreclosure action, for nonpayment of taxes, against these parcels in New
York State Supreme Court, Madison County. The Nation alleges that
Madison County never provided it with notice or a redemption period, as
required by New York State law.
A brief discussion of the historical background of the Nation and its
lands, as well as the federal policy toward the Indians lends perspective
to the claims and the arguments. From before the Revolutionary War
colonists' interaction with the Indians was in the spirit of cooperation
and good faith. The Indians' right to the possession of their aboriginal
lands was assumed, and termination of such title was restricted. Oneida
II, 470 U.S. at 234, 105 S.Ct. at 1251. The Oneidas*fn1 claimed
aboriginal lands of six million acres in Central New York, from Lake
Ontario to the Adirondack foothills and from Pennsylvania north to the
St. Lawrence River. Id. at 230, 105 S.Ct. at 1249. In 1784, shortly
after the Revolutionary War ended, the first treaty between the United
States and the Indians was executed, at Fort Stanwix, New York (present
day Rome, New York). The United States, in recognition for the Oneidas'
support during the war, guaranteed the Oneidas security "`in the
possession of the lands on which they are settled.'" Id. at 231, 105
S.Ct. at 1249-50 (quoting the Treaty of Fort Stanwix, 7 Stat. 15 (Oct.
In 1790 Congress passed, in keeping with the policy of protecting the
Indians and their lands, the first Indian Trade and Intercourse Act, ch.
33, 1 Stat. 137. Id. Commonly referred to as the Non-intercourse Act,
now codified at 25 U.S.C. § 177, this legislation prohibited
conveyance of Indian lands except by treaty with the federal government.
Id. at 231, 105 S.Ct. at 1251. Later amendments continue the prohibition
on alienation of Indian land without congressional action. See
25 U.S.C. § 177.
In 1788 New York State purchased most of the Nation's remaining land,
reserving 300,000 acres to the Nation. Oneida II, 470 U.S. at 231, 105
S.Ct. at 1250. Other treaties, such as the Treaty of Harmar, 7 Stat. 33
(Jan. 9, 1789), and the Treaty of Canandaigua, 7 Stat. 44 (Nov. 11,
1794), reaffirmed the federal government's promise of security to the
Oneidas in the possession of their lands. Oneida II, 470 U.S. at 231,
105 S.Ct. at 1250. The Sherrill parcels are among the lands reserved to
the Nation in 1788 and confirmed as reservation land in the Treaty of
Canandaigua.*fn2 (Thomas Decl. ¶ 10.) In 1795 New York State
purchased the majority of the Oneidas' remaining 300,000 acres. Oneida
II, 470 U.S. at 231, 105 S.Ct. at 1250. Thereafter, fee title to the land
has passed in free market transactions.*fn3
Beginning in the early 1800's the federal policy toward the Indians
shifted toward removing Indians from the east into the western
territories. Felix S. Cohen, Handbook on Federal Indian Law 78-79 (1982
ed.)[hereinafter "Cohen"]. Treaties during this period provided for the
relinquishment of Indian land in the east and set apart reservation land
for the Indians in the west. See generally id. at 78-92. Movement of
the eastern tribes to the west freed the eastern land for white
Between 1820 and 1822 some Oneidas and other New York Indians relocated
to land purchased on their behalf from the Menominee and Winnebago
nations in Wisconsin.*fn4 New York Indians, 170
U.S. at 12-14, 18 S.Ct.
at 533. Some disagreement about the land ensued, and approximately
500,000 acres in Wisconsin were reserved for the use of the Oneidas and
other New York Indians. Id. at 14, 18 S.Ct. at 533. Other Oneidas
relocated to Ontario, Canada. Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida,
434 F. Supp. 527, 536 (N.D.N.Y. 1977) (Port, J.), aff'd, 719 F.2d 525 (2d
Cir. 1983), aff'd in part & rev'd in part, 470 U.S. 226 (1985). The
Oneida Nation thus splintered into three distinct bands, the New York
Oneidas, the Wisconsin Oneidas, and the Thames Oneidas. See id.
In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, ch. 148, 4 Stat. 411,
authorizing the exchange of eastern land for land west of the Mississippi
River. Cohen at 81. Among the removal treaties into which the Indians
and the federal government entered was the Treaty of Buffalo Creek, 7
Stat. 550 (Jan. 15, 1838). New York Indians, 170 U.S. at 1, 18 S.Ct. at
531. Pursuant to the Treaty of Buffalo Creek the New York Indians,
including Oneidas, ceded Wisconsin reservation lands in exchange for
reservation lands west of the Mississippi River in what is now Kansas.
Id. at 15, 18 S.Ct. at 533. The Treaty of Buffalo Creek further provided
that New York Oneidas "hereby agree to remove to their new homes in the
Indian territory, as soon as they can make satisfactory arrangements with
the Governor of the State of New York for the purchase of their lands at
Oneida." 7 Stat. § 550 Art. 13. However, the Indians did not remove
to Kansas. New York Indians, 170 U.S. at 9-10, 18 S.Ct. at 532-33.
Moreover, there is no evidence that "satisfactory arrangements with the
Governor of the State of New York" were ever made for the purchase of the
Oneidas' New York lands.
Toward the latter 1800's the federal policy shifted toward assimilating
the Indians into the white culture. Solem v. Bartlett, 465 U.S. 463,
466, 104 S.Ct. 1161, 1164 (1984). This assimilation policy was carried
out through allotment. See id. at 467, 104 S.Ct. at 1164; see generally
Cohen at 128-132. The Dawes Act, ch. 119, 24 Stat. 388, and subsequent
surplus land acts,*fn5 furthered this policy. See Cohen at 130-32. The
surplus land acts provided for the allotment of set amounts of acreage to
individual Indians, with the land held in severalty. Id. at 130-31. The
allotments made to individual Indians were inalienable for twenty-five
years, in keeping with the federal policy of protecting the Indians and
their lands, after which it was thought that the Indians would assimilate
into the culture of the white settlers who by then would surround the
allotted land. Small amounts of land were reserved for tribal ownership
to be used for common purposes, such as education. Unallotted, or
surplus, lands were then opened for homesteading by white settlers. More
than 90 million acres of tribal land were opened for settlement in this
Allotment resulted in a checkerboard pattern of Indian and non-Indian
ownership of reservation lands. Depending upon Congressional intent in
opening the lands, some surplus lands have been found to continue to
constitute reservation land, see, e.g., Solem, 465 U.S. at 481, 104
S.Ct. at 1171, and in some cases not, see, e.g., South Dakota v. Yankton
Sioux Tribe, 522 U.S. 329, 358, 118 S.Ct. 789, 805 (1998).
The termination policy was repudiated in 1958, and an era of Indian
self-determination began. Id. at 180. This policy shift reflected the
overall rise in concern for the civil rights of all ethnic minorities.
Id. at 180-81. Beginning in 1973 Congress restored the sovereignty of
several of the tribes previously terminated. Id. at 186-87. Programs
were funded to improve Indian housing, education, economic development,
health, and culture. Id. at 189-96. Moreover, a policy toward the
development of reservations and return of aboriginal lands to the Indians
arose. Id. at 196-200.
From the late 1700s until the middle 1960s the Oneidas attempted, in
vain, to obtain redress for land claims and other grievances. Oneida
Indian Nation of New York State v. County of Oneida, 719 F.2d 525, 529
(2d Cir. 1983) (noting that the Oneidas perceived their treatment by the
State during this period as "improper, deceitful, and overreaching"). In
1970 the Nation brought a lawsuit seeking damages for the "illegal use
and occupancy of a part of their aboriginal land" during 1968 and 1969.
Id. at 532. The suit was originally dismissed at the trial court level
for lack of jurisdiction. Id. at 530. On appeal, the United States
Supreme Court found that federal question jurisdiction existed. Oneida
Indian Nation v. County of Oneida, New York, 414 U.S. 661, 678, 94 S.Ct.
772, 782-83 (1974). After a finding of liability and the assessment of
damages in the trial court,*fn6 the United States Supreme Court affirmed
the Oneidas' federal common law right of action for unlawful possession
of their lands. Oneida II, 470 U.S. at 233, 105 S.Ct. at 1251.
In 1974 the New York and Wisconsin Oneidas filed an additional land claim
action. See Oneida Indian Nation, 199 F.R.D. at 66. At issue in that
action is approximately 250,000 to 300,000 acres that the Oneidas claim
was illegally alienated by some thirty agreements. Id. at ¶¶ & n. 3.
In the 1990s the Nation began reacquisition of lands within the
Reservation. These reacquisitions have taken place in free market
transactions, and the Nation received fee simple title to the
III. CLAIMS, COUNTERCLAIMS, AND DEFENSES
The Nation first claims that the properties constitute Reservation land
and therefore are Indian Country within the meaning of
18 U.S.C. § 1151. According to the Nation, under Article I, Section
8 of the United States Constitution authority over this property is
exclusive to the federal government, precluding the state and its
political subdivisions from imposing their taxes. Imposition of such
taxes by the states and its political subdivisions also violates the
Nation's tribal sovereign immunity. The Nation seeks redress from the
aforesaid violations of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and
laws of the United States pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
For its second claim the Nation avers that the process by which Sherrill
purported to deprive the Nation of its properties and evict it from the
properties failed to provide due notice. The Nation therefore seeks
redress under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for this alleged violation of its due
process rights as secured by the Constitution and laws of the United
States and the laws of New York.
The Nation seeks a declaration that Sherrill may not impose or attempt to
collect property taxes based upon lands owned and possessed by the Nation
within Sherrill, that the Nation and its lands are not subject to
taxation by Sherrill, that Sherrill's purported conveyances of the
properties for delinquency of taxes are null and void, and that Sherrill
may not evict the Nation from its lands and any attempt to do so are null
and void. The Nation further seeks an injunction prohibiting Sherrill
and any other person in active concert or participation with Sherrill
from subjecting the Nation and its lands to property taxation,
prohibiting it from interfering with the Nation's ownership and possession
of its lands and from any effort to evict the Nation from such lands, and
mandating that they void and rescind all notices, liens, sales,
auctions, conveyances and other official documents or acts taken with
respect to enforcement of the property tax laws as against the Nation and
its lands. Finally, the Nation seeks attorneys' fees and costs pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Sherrill answered, denying the material allegations of the complaint.
Sherrill also brings counterclaims. Sherrill avers that despite wrongful
nonpayment of taxes, and in some cases foreclosure, the Nation remains in
possession of the properties. Sherrill claims that the Nation has been
and is being unjustly enriched by receipt of valuable municipal benefits
including police and fire protection, garbage removal, road maintenance,
and zoning enforcement and planning. First Sherrill seeks a
that it may properly assess property taxes against these properties and
any other properties that may come into the Nation's possession in the
future. Second, Sherrill seeks a judgment evicting the Nation from the
foreclosed property. Third, Sherrill seeks damages for the unjust
enrichment of the Nation for services provided by the municipality.
Fourth, Sherrill requests a preliminary and permanent injunction
prohibiting the Nation from purchasing additional properties, any part of
which are located within Sherrill's boundaries. Finally, Sherrill seeks
an order enjoining the Nation from building and/or expanding upon the
existing building structure, or erecting new structures, on the
The Nation denies the material allegations of the counterclaims,
including Sherrill's right to tax the properties. The Nation also
asserts the affirmative defenses of failure to state a claim; sovereign
immunity; violation of federal law; federal law preemption; the Supremacy
Clause of the United States Constitution; due process violation;
violation of the Non-intercourse Act; violation of the Equal Protection
Clause of the United States Constitution; violation of the Due Process
Clause of the United States Constitution; violation of the Takings Clause
of the United States Constitution; violation of the Privileges and
Immunities Clauses of the United States Constitution; prohibition of the
relief requested by the Indian Commerce Clause, the Fifth Amendment, and
the Fourteenth Amendment; failure of the Congress to authorize taxation
or alienation of the lands in dispute; entitlement to set-off for funds
paid to Oneida County pursuant to the Silver Covenant Chain Grant
program; non-justiciability; and estoppel due to Sherrill's refusal to
accept the Silver Covenant Chain Grant payments.
Sherrill petitioned New York State Supreme Court, Oneida County, to order
an eviction of the Nation from the properties designated as
322.014-1-23, 322.014-1-25, and 322.014-1-26. The petition asserts that
Sherrill acquired the title to these properties through foreclosure and
sale for nonpayment of taxes. The Nation removed the action to this
court asserting that federal law completely preempts Sherrill's claim
that it has title to and the right to possess this land and the eviction
action is a compulsory counterclaim to the Lead Case. In answer the
Nation denies that Sherrill has the right to assess taxes against the
properties or that it holds valid title to the properties. The Nation
asserts the affirmative defenses of failure to state a claim; sovereign
immunity; federal law protection of reservation land; federal preemption
of state and local law; the Supremacy Clause of the United States
Constitution; insufficient process and service of process; violation of
due process as set forth in the Lead Case; and the petition is
duplicative of a compulsory counterclaim in the Lead Case.
In lieu of an answer the Nation representatives move for a stay pending a
decision on summary judgment in the Lead Case, which may moot this
action, or to dismiss. The motion to dismiss is based upon failure to
state a claim because the Nation representatives are not the owners of
the properties; Sherrill lacks authority to enforce property taxes due to
federal law; Sherrill lacks authority to enforce the state sales tax law
and the property tax as set forth in the Sherrill City Charter under the
property and sales tax laws of New York State; Sherrill has failed to name
indispensable parties the Nation, New York State, and all other owners of
land in Sherrill; and tribal sovereign immunity.
The Nation brings this action to prevent Madison County from pursuing
further efforts to enforce its ad valorem property tax laws with respect
to Nation lands located within the County. The Nation avers that the
properties at issue are located within and are part of the Reservation
recognized in the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. The Nation further avers
that the federal government has never modified the reservation status of
these properties nor made them subject to taxation by a state or local
government. One of the properties at issue was alienated by a 1795
Treaty between the Oneidas and New York State. The other properties were
transferred by a Treaty with New York State in 1807. Since 1795 and
1807, respectively, the properties were out of the Nation's possession
until their reacquisition in the 1990s. The Nation avers that neither
transaction met the requirements of the Nonintercourse Act, and therefore
were void ab initio.
The Nation's first claim is that federal law, including the 1794 Treaty
of Canandaigua; Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution;
the Nonintercourse Act; and federal common law, preempt any right of
Madison County to impose taxes upon the properties and attempts by the
county to collect such taxes violates federal law. This claim also avers
that the county's attempts to collect such taxes violate the Nation's
sovereign immunity, as well as the rights, privileges, and immunities
secured to the Nation by the United States Constitution and laws.
Secondly, the Nation avers that the county failed to
give it the process
it was due with regard to taxation and foreclosure upon Nation lands.
The Nation therefore seeks a declaration that the county may not impose
or seek to collect ad valorem property taxes from the Nation based upon
the lands it owns and possesses; the Nation and its lands are not subject
to such taxation; any purported taxation or foreclosure for tax
delinquency is null and void; and the state court is without jurisdiction
or power with respect to taxation of Nation lands. It also seeks an
injunction prohibiting Madison County from subjecting the Nation and its
lands to ad valorem property taxation; prohibiting the county from any
interference with ownership and possession of its lands and from efforts
to foreclose on the Nation's lands or to litigate in state court
concerning taxation of its lands; and mandating that the county void and
rescind all notices, liens, petitions, and other official documents or
acts taken with respect to enforcement of such taxes as against the
Nation and its lands. Finally, the Nation seeks attorneys' fees and
costs pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Madison County filed its motion to dismiss in lieu of an answer. The
county asserts that the Wisconsin and Thames Oneidas are indispensable
parties, and as they cannot be joined, the action should be dismissed
pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 19. The Nation opposes. This motion is
addressed in a separate Memorandum-Decision and Order filed this day.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment must be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers
to interrogatories, admissions, and affidavits show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is
entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56;
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505,
2509-10 (1986); Lang v. Retirement Living Pub. Co., 949 F.2d 576, 580 (2d
Cir. 1991); Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Cuomo, 667 F. Supp. 938,
940 (N.D.N Y 1987). The moving party carries the initial burden of
demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct.
2548, 2552 (1986); Thompson v. Gjivoje, 896 F.2d 716, 720 (2d Cir.
1990). Facts, inferences therefrom, and ambiguities must be viewed in a
light most favorable to the nonmovant. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356 (1986);
Project Release v. Prevost, 722 F.2d 960, 968 (2d Cir. 1983).
Disputes as to irrelevant or unnecessary facts are immaterial. Cayuga
Indian Nation, 667 F. Supp. at 940 (quoting Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510). "`Any proof or evidentiary requirements
imposed by the substantive law are not germane to [the materiality]
inquiry, since materiality is only a criterion for categorizing factual
disputes in their relation to the legal elements of the claim and not a
criterion for evaluating the evidentiary underpinnings of those
disputes.'" Id. (quoting Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248, 106
S.Ct. at 2510).
When the moving party has met its the burden, the nonmoving party "must
do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 586, 106 S.Ct.
at 1356. At that point, the nonmoving party "must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56; Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. at 2511; Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356. To
summary judgment motion, sufficient evidence must exist upon which a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248-49, 106 S. Ct. at 2510; see Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 587, 106 S.Ct. at 1356 (stating that there
is no genuine issue for trial "[w]here the record taken as a whole could
not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving ...