As discussed above, Defendants are entitled to direct
counterclaims against the United States that sound in
recoupment, encompassing those counterclaims that arise out of
the same transaction and occurrence from which the United
States' claims arise and that do not seek affirmative relief.
Various courts have found that a defendant sued by the United
States as representative for an Indian tribe, in an action to
quiet title, may bring a counterclaim to quiet title in itself.
See United States v. Penn, 632 F. Supp. 691, 692-93 (Vi. 1986)
(finding that defendant property owner could validly assert a
counterclaim against the United States to quiet title in himself
because the United States had brought suit in order to quiet
title to land and as such defendant's claim sounded in
recoupment and was not barred by sovereign immunity); United
States v. Drinkwater, 434 F. Supp. 457, 461 (E.D.Va. 1977)
(same); United States v. Phillips, 362 F. Supp. 462, 463 (Neb.
1973) (same, where United States was suing as representative of
Indian tribe). None of these courts have applied the Quiet Title
Act ("QTA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2409a(a), to a defendant's
counterclaims, as urged by the United States in this action.
While the United States has not specifically requested that the
Court quiet title to the land at issue in this action, it is
clear from the complaint of the United States that it questions
Defendants' claims of title to the land and that the title
status of the land is indeed being put at issue in this action.
Because the United States does not possess immunity as to
counterclaims that arise out of the same claims raised by the
United States in its complaint, the Court need not consider the
United States' argument that Defendants' counterclaim is barred
by the QTA.
Defendants' final counterclaim requests that in the event the
United States obtains possession of the disputed lands, the
United States should be ordered to pay the State just
compensation for taking the State's property pursuant to the
Fifth Amendment. The State bases this counterclaim on its
interpretation of the 1788 Treaty of Ft. Schuyler. The State
argues that in order for the Court to find that the Oneidas have
a property interest in the disputed lands, the Court must
necessarily find that the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua granted the
Oneidas a greater property interest than the Oneidas were
granted by New York State under the Treaty of Ft. Schuyler.
Defendants simply cannot succeed on this claim. In order to
state a takings claim, the State must establish that it
possessed a property interest in the disputed lands that were
taken from it by the United States. The issues surrounding
Defendants' takings counterclaim have been ably addressed by
Judge McCurn in Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Cuomo,
758 F. Supp. 107, 116 (N.D.N.Y. 1991), and the Court finds his
As in Cayuga v. Cuomo, the land at issue in this action was
reserved to the Oneidas in a pre-Constitutional treaty and
subsequently recognized and guaranteed by the United States in
the Treaty of Canandaigua. Under these circumstances, Judge
McCurn found that any actions taken by the State while the
United States was operating under the Articles of Confederation
are irrelevant to an interpretation of the rights conferred by
the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. See Cayuga v. Cuomo,
758 F. Supp. at 116. Any rights possessed by the State prior to
ratification of the Constitution "were ceded by the State to the
federal government by the State's ratification of the
Constitution." Id. Thus, the State could possess no property
rights to the Oneida's land once it ratified the Constitution
recognized the United States' exclusive authority over Indian
land. Defendants in this action claim that the State possessed
title to the land at issue pursuant to a pre-Constitutional
treaty. However, "[o]nce New York State ratified the United
States Constitution, relations with Indian tribes and authority
over Indian lands fell under the exclusive province of federal
law." Id. By arguing that the United States' recognition of
the Oneida's land in the Treaty of Canandaigua was a taking
rather than an assertion of federal control over Indian land by
the United States, the State fails to acknowledge established
federal law. This situation does not constitute a taking
pursuant to the Fifth Amendment for which the State should be
For the reasons stated above, it is hereby:
ORDERED that Defendants' motion to dismiss is DENIED; and it
ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion to strike Defendants' defenses
is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART as discussed above;
and it is further
ORDERED that Brothertown's motion to strike Defendants'
defenses is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART as discussed
above; and it is further
ORDERED that the United States' motion for leave to file a
motion to strike is GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that the United States' motion to strike Defendants'
standing defenses is GRANTED; and it is further
ORDERED that the United States' motion for a stay of discovery
is DENIED AS MOOT; and it is further
ORDERED that Plaintiffs' motion to dismiss Defendants'
counterclaims is DENIED; and it is further
ORDERED that the United States' motion to dismiss Defendants'
counterclaims is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART as
discussed above; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk of the Court shall serve copies of this
order by regular mail upon the parties to this action.
IT IS SO ORDERED.