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SENECA NATION OF INDIANS v. STATE OF NEW YORK

February 7, 2003

SENECA NATION OF INDIANS, PLAINTIFF. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-INTERVENOR
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK, GEORGE PATAKI, AS GOVERNOR, JOSEPH SEYMOUR, AS COMMISSIONER OF GENERAL SERVICES; BERNADETTE CASTRO, AS COMMISSIONER OF PARKS, RECREATION AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION; JOSEPH AND SUSAN CHIAPUSO; HOWARD B. WHITNEY ESTATE; WALTER L. WHITNEY; JANE E. SCHUCK; KENT SANDFORD; RICHARD J. AND BEVERLY A. MCCUTCHEON; ALBERT A. AND LUCY HOFFMAN; MYLES AND SANDRA BARRACLOUGH; DUANE G. GLOVER; PAUL H. AND VIRGINIA M. GEER; DEBORAH H. BALDWIN; ROBERT L. AND EUGENIA JONES; STEPHEN M. KANE; SCOTT E. AND ROSEMARY N. FISHER; WILLIAM A. CAMPBELL; DAVID J. GIBSON; CLARENCE J. COFFMAN, SR.; CLARENCE J. COFFMAN, JR.; C. JAMES COFFMAN, SR., AND JEAN COFFMAN; EILEEN W. GARLING; ROBERT F. AND SUSAN F. VAN DER HORST; HOWARD AND FLORENCE LUZIER; EUGENE AND LOUSIE HICKEY; PHILLIP AND SHIRLEY CONFER; DAVID C. AND FRANCES E. WILLIAMS; KENNETH CAMPBELL; FREDERICK TAPP; AND SUSAN BUNKER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John T. Curtin, United States District Judge,

OPINION

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma has filed a motion pursuant to Rule 24(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to intervene as of right in this action, or in the alternative for joinder as a necessary party pursuant to Rule 19(a) (Item 215). The Seneca Nation of Indians as party plaintiff, the United States of America as plaintiff-intervenor (referred to collectively herein as "plaintiffs"), and the State of New York as defendant oppose intervention or joinder. Oral argument of the motion was heard by the court on January 21, 2003. For the following reasons, the motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

This action was originally commenced in 1985 by the Seneca Nation of Indians against the State of New York seeking damages, ejectment, and declaratory relief with respect to certain property interests in a portion of Cuba Lake and adjacent lands lying within the historic bounds of the Seneca Nation's Oil Spring Reservation, located in Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties, New York.*fn1 When initial settlement negotiations proved unsuccessful, the parties engaged in extensive discovery prior to the filing of cross-motions for partial summary judgment on liability. In 1998, after a stay of the litigation pending the outcome of Supreme Court proceedings dealing with similar issues, the United States was permitted to file a complaint in intervention (Item 125) on behalf of the Seneca Nation, seeking identical relief-i.e., enforcement of the provisions of the federal Nonintercourse Act, 25 U.S.C. § 177.

On October 31, 1998, this court granted summary judgment on liability in favor of plaintiffs, finding that the State violated the Nonintercourse Act when it purported to extinguish Indian title to the Oil Spring Reservation lands in 1858 through its power of eminent domain as part of a project to construct a reservoir which would provide water for the Genesee and Erie Canals. Seneca Nation of Indians v. State of New York, 26 F. Supp.2d 555 (W.D.N.Y. 1998), aff'd, 178 F.3d 95 (2d Cir. 1999). Subsequently, the parties filed briefs and expert land valuation reports addressing the fashioning of an appropriate remedy, and have engaged in protracted private mediation in an effort to reach mutually acceptable terms for settlement of the remedy issues.

On November 20, 2002, the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe filed its motion to intervene in the case, or in the alternative to be joined as an indispensable party, seeking to protect its asserted interest in the Oil Spring Reservation lands. The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe contends that it is one of three tribal branches claiming status as a successor-in-interest to the "Historic Seneka Nation" (Item 216, p. 2), a participant in the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua between the United States and the Six Nation Confederacy which guaranteed title to the lands at issue. The plaintiffs and the State challenge the legitimacy of this asserted interest and oppose intervention or joinder on various grounds, briefed and argued at length and discussed below.

DISCUSSION

I. Motion to Intervene

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe seeks intervention as of right pursuant to Rule 24(a)(2), which provides:

Upon timely application anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action . . . when the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest, unless the applicant's interest is adequately represented by existing parties.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a)(2). The standards governing intervention as of right under this rule are well established. The applicant must (1) timely file an application, (2) show a legally protectable interest in the action, (3) demonstrate that the interest may be impaired by the disposition of the action, and (4) show that the interest is not protected adequately by the parties to the action. Catanzano v. Wing, 103 F.3d 223, 232 (2d Cir. 1996); see also Federal Trade Commission v. First Capital Consumer Membership Services, Inc., 206 F.R.D. 358, 362 (W.D.N.Y. 2001). "Failure to satisfy any one of these requirements is a sufficient ground to deny the application." Farmland Dairies v. Commissioner, 847 F.2d 1038, 1043 (2d Cir. 1988).

Under Rule 24(a)(2), the proposed intervenor's interest in the subject matter of the action must be "direct, substantial, and legally protectable. . . ." Washington Elec. Coop., Inc. v. Massachusetts Mun. Wholesale Elec. Co., 922 F.2d 92, 97 (2d Cir. 1990). At the same time, "[i]ntervention cannot be used as a means to inject collateral issues into an existing action." Id.

Plaintiffs and the State challenge the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe's application on each of the Rule 24(a)(2) requirements, now discussed in turn.

A. Timeliness

Whether an application for intervention is timely "is determined within the sound discretion of the trial court from all the circumstances." United States v. Pitney Bowes, Inc., 25 F.3d 66, 70 (2d Cir. 1994) (citing NAACP v. New York, 413 U.S. ...


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