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CAYUGA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK v. VILLAGE OF UNION SPRINGS

April 23, 2004.

CAYUGA INDIAN NATION OF NEW YORK, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF UNION SPRINGS; TOWN OF SPRINGPORT; and COUNTY OF CAYUGA NEW YORK, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DAVID HURD, District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

[EDITORS NOTE: THIS PAGE CONTAINED "TABLE OF CONTENTS."] I. INTRODUCTION

  The plaintiff, the Cayuga Indian Nation of New York ("the Nation"), a federally recognized Indian tribe,*fn1 filed suit against defendants, Village of Union Springs, Town of Springport, and County of Cayuga ("defendants"), seeking declaratory and injunctive relief regarding the nature of use of property that plaintiff owns within defendants' municipal boundaries ("the Property"). Defendants filed a counterclaim seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against plaintiff. Several motions in this action were denied, including various motions to dismiss by defendants as well as a motion by plaintiff and a cross motion by defendants for a preliminary injunction. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Village of Union Springs, et al., 293 F. Supp.2d 183 (N.D.N.Y. 2003).

  On December 11, 2003, the Nation filed the present motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, and thereafter, on January 21, 2004, defendants filed a cross motion for a preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65(a)(2).

  Oral argument was heard regarding the pending motions on April 7, 2004 in Utica, New York. Decision was reserved.

 II. BACKGROUND

  The Property is located within the 64,015 acres that were the subject of extensive land claim litigation ("the Land Claim" or "Cayuga Land Claim"), to which the plaintiff and all defendants in this case were also parties.*fn2 See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki, et al., 188 F. Supp.2d 223 (N.D.N.Y. 2002) ("Cayuhga XVII"). Plaintiffs*fn3 in that case sought a declaration of their ownership and right to possess the subject land, as well as monetary relief, based on certain land conveyances which they alleged violated the Nonintercourse Act, now codified at 25 U.S.C. § 177. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Cuomo, 565 F. Supp. 1297, 1301 (N.D.N.Y. 1983) ("Cayuga I"). According to the Land Claim plaintiffs, the historic Cayuga Indian Nation ("the Cayugas")*fn4 occupied the subject land "since time immemorial." See Cayuga, 565 F. Supp. at 1302. By a 1789 treaty with the State of New York, the Cayugas "cede[d] and grant[ed] all their lands to the People of the State of New York forever," and the State reserved to the Cayugas "for their use and cultivation" approximately 64,000 acres near Cayuga Lake. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki, 165 F. Supp.2d 266, 315, 322 (N.D.N.Y. 2001) ("Cayuga XVI"). In 1790, Congress enacted the Nonintercourse Act, which made illegal any land transaction with an Indian nation or tribe that was not ratified by the United States. See 25 U.S.C. § 177 (2003).

  Thereafter, by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, the United States recognized the approximately 64,000-acre area as the Cayugas' reservation. See Cayuga XVI, 165 F. Supp.2d at 328. The Land Claim court specifically held that the Treaty of Canandaigua conferred treaty-recognized title in the subject land to the Cayugas. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Cuomo, et al., 758 F. Supp. 107, 115 (N.D.N.Y. 1991) ("Cayuga IV"). In 1795 and 1807, the Cayugas' reservation land was sold to the State of New York. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Cuomo, 730 F. Supp. 485 (N.D.N.Y. 1990) ("Cayuga III"). Those conveyances were never ratified by the United States,*fn5 however, and as such, the court in the Land Claim held that they were in violation of the Nonintercourse Act, and thus are void ab initio, as though they never occurred. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki, 79 F. Supp.2d 78, 84 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) ("Cayuga XII"); Cayuga III, 730 F. Supp. at 492-493. Although the Land Claim defendants were found liable for Nonintercourse Act violations, the court held that ejectment was not an available remedy, limiting plaintiffs' remedy solely to monetary damages. See Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Cuomo, Nos. 80-CV-930, 80-CV-960, 1999 WL 509442, at *30 (N.D.N.Y. July 1, 1999) ("Cayuga X"). After the Land Claim court, in the interest of efficiency, agreed to separate trials regarding damages, a jury awarded damages against the State defendants in the amount of $36,911,672.62, and the court thereafter awarded $211,000,326.80 in prejudgment interest. See Cavuaa XII, 79 F. Supp.2d at 74-77; Cavuaa XVII, 188 F. Supp.2d at 228. An appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the Land Claim case is currently pending. See Cavuaa Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki, 02-CV-6111 (2d Cir.).

  On April 28, 2003, the Nation reacquired the Property in fee simple by indenture and thereafter began renovations to a portion of the Property located at 271 Cayuga Street in Union Springs. See Compl. at ¶¶ 23, 27; Aff. of Clint Halftown, Oct. 17, 2003, ¶ 5. Defendant, Cayuga County designates the parcel as 141.05-1-3. See Aff. of Raymond J. Heslin, Dec. 11, 2003, Ex. B. On Octobers, 2003, and October 15, 2003, the Village of Union Springs ("the Village") issued to the Nation Stop Work Orders and Orders to Remedy Violations, citing violations of zoning ordinances and local laws. See Halftown Aff., Ex. B. The Orders to Remedy Violations contained language that directed the Nation to remedy the alleged violations and give written notice to the Village in compliance with the applicable provisions of law before October 20, 2003 and October 25, 2003, respectively, or be subject to punishment in the form of a fine and/or imprisonment. See id.

  On October 20, 2003, the Nation filed the present suit. The complaint sets forth a claim for declaratory relief, seeking a declaration that (1) the Property is Indian Country pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1151 (a), and as such, the Nation possesses jurisdiction and the right to self government thereon; (2) defendants are without authority to enforce "zoning and land use laws, ordinances, rules, regulations or other requirements which seek or purport to regulate, control, or otherwise interfere with activities by or on behalf of the Nation occurring on the Property"; and (3) defendants efforts to do so are null and void. The Nation also seeks an injunction enjoining defendants from applying or enforcing any "zoning and land use laws, ordinances, rules, regulations or other requirements which seek or purport to regulate, control, or otherwise interfere with activities by or on behalf of the Nation occurring on the Property" including the commencement of any actions to apply or enforce said laws, and mandating that defendants void and rescind all documents issued or acts taken to apply or enforce said laws. Finally, the Nation seeks attorneys fees and costs as well as sanctions against defendants.

  With the filing of its complaint, the Nation contemporaneously sought an order to show cause why defendants should not be preliminarily enjoined from applying or enforcing their zoning and land use laws against the Nation regarding renovations to the Property and a temporary restraining order ("TRO") pending a hearing on same. The Nation's request for an order to show cause was granted, and sua sponte a TRO was issued against the Nation, enjoining it from further construction, renovation, or demolition activities on the Property pending a hearing regarding the preliminary injunction motion. On October 29, 2003, defendants filed a counterclaim seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against plaintiff, along with a cross motion for dismissal and/or a preliminary injunction. Defendants' counterclaim seeks a declaration that (1) there is currently no Cayuga reservation in the State of New York; (2) neither the Property nor any other land referred to by the 1789 treaty between New York and the Cayugas is currently Indian Country; (3) the Nation does not have jurisdiction or the right to self government over the Property; and (4) the Property is subject to defendants' zoning and local land use laws. By their counterclaim, defendants also seek an order enjoining the Nation "from carrying out or causing to be carried out any construction on the [Property] without obtaining all permits and approvals required by the Village's Zoning Ordinance and local land use laws." The Nation thereafter requested that defendants' counterclaim be dismissed due to tribal sovereign immunity. On November 28, 2003, all of the aforementioned motions, as well as the Nation's request for sanctions, were denied. See Village of Union Springs, 293 F. Supp.2d 183.

  Two weeks later, the Nation filed the present motion for summary judgment on its declaratory judgment claim, seeking a declaration that the Property is Indian Country pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 1151 (a); that it is exempt from state and local regulation; and thus it is entitled to injunctive relief. On December 22, 2003, upon agreement of the parties, it was ordered that pending a hearing on the summary judgment motion, the parties shall maintain the status quo regarding construction/renovation to the Property or any attempts to regulate thereof, except that the Nation was allowed to take certain steps to winterize same. Defendant filed the cross motion for a preliminary injunction enjoining the Nation from conducting any gaming on the Property until it complies with the requirements of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), 25 U.S.C. § 2701-2721.

 III. DISCUSSION

  A. Summary Judgment Standard

  A motion for summary judgment shall be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). See also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986); Peck v. Public Serv. Mut. Ins. Co., 326 F.3d 330, 337 (2d Cir. 2003). When deciding whether to grant a motion for summary judgment, "a court must construe the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the movant." Baisch v. Gallina, 346 F.3d 366, 372 (2d Cir. 2003). citing Anderson V. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (1986). While the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact falls upon the moving party, once that burden is met, the non-moving party must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Koch v. Town of Brattleboro, Vermont, 287 F.3d 162, 165 (2d Cir. 2002), citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

  As an initial matter, there is a dispute between the parties regarding the burden of proof. In Oneida Indian Nation of New York v. City of Sherrill, it was determined that "[i]n keeping with the strong policy of the federal government to protect Indian lands, once an Indian tribe makes out a prima facie case of prior possession or title to the property in dispute, the burden of proof rests upon the non-Indian to demonstrate otherwise." 145 F. Supp.2d 226, 242 (N.D.N.Y. 2001). citing Wilson v. Omaha Indian Tribe, 442 U.S. 653, 668-69, 98 S.Ct. 2529, 2538-39 (1979) (citing 25 U.S.C. § 194). Further, it was found that "[t]he burden of proof thus shouldered by the non-Indian questioning Indian title encompasses both the burden of producing evidence and the burden of persuasion." Id. Citing that language, the Nation argues that here, because it has established that it has title to the Property, both the burdens of production and persuasion shift to, and rest with, defendants to show otherwise. Defendants argue that 25 U.S.C. § 194*fn6, cited by the Supreme Court in Wilson, is inapplicable in the present case because here there is no dispute that the Nation owns title to the Property, nor are defendants, as municipalities, considered "white persons" within the meaning of the statute.

  It is significant that here, as in City of Sherrill, a motion for summary judgment is presented by an Indian tribe against a municipality, and the issue presented is whether property owned in fee simple by an Indian tribe is Indian Country. In City of Sherrill, the Supreme Court's language in Wilson was relied upon to find that the burden of proof rested with the municipality, and the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed, further substantiating that finding. See id., affd in part and rev'd in part, 337 F.3d 139 (2d Cir. 2003). Therefore, here, as in City of Sherrill, the burdens of proof and production rest with defendants, the non-Indian parties questioning Indian title.

  The Nation, citing Ninth Circuit precedent, also argues that should there be a determination that the Property is Indian Country, the burden of proof regarding whether exceptional circumstances exist to warrant the application of state and local law to the Tribe and its activities on the Property rests with defendants.*fn7 See Gobin v. Snohomish County, 304 F.3d 909, 917 (9th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 538 U.S. 908, 123 S.Ct. 1488 (2003). The Ninth Circuit in Gobin, in affirming the lower court's finding of summary judgment in favor of plaintiff tribe, held that regarding exceptional circumstances, "[n]ot only must the [municipality] explain why [its] interests are exceptional, but it must explain why [they] are exceptional for reservation fee lands, given the [municipality's] inability to regulate reservation lands held in trust." Id. Defendants cite no authority whatsoever for their contrary argument that this burden rests with the Nation. Therefore, should an analysis be undertaken regarding whether exceptional circumstances exist which would allow local regulation of the Nation's activities on the Property, the burdens of proof and production regarding that issue will rest with defendants.

  B. Indian Country

  "In general, `Indian Country' refers to the geographic area in which tribal and federal laws normally apply and state laws do not." City of Sherrill, 337 F.3d at 153. Indian Country is defined by statute as follows:
(a) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation, (b) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United States whether within the original or subsequently acquired territory thereof, and whether within or without the limits of a state, and (c) all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished, including rights-of-way running through the same.
18 U.S.C. § 1151 (2003).*fn8 Because the Nation seeks a declaration that the Property is Indian Country pursuant to Section 1151(a) only, there is no need to address whether the Property is a dependent Indian community or an Indian allotment pursuant to subsections (b) and (c). See Compl. at 8.

  According to the Nation, it is undisputed that the Property is Indian Country based on (1) the decisions of the District Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in City of Sherrill, 145 F. Supp.2d 226, aff'd, 337 F.3d 139 (2d Cir. 2003); (2) various conclusions set forth in the Land Claim action (see, e.g., Cayuga II, 667 F. Supp. 938; Cayuga III, 730 F. Supp. 485); and (3) a determination of the Eastern Region Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (B1A).

  Defendants argue that (1) to the extent a reservation was established for the Nation by the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua, it was disestablished by the 1838 Treaty of Buffalo Creek; (2) the BIA lacks the authority to make the aforementioned determination; and (3) the City of Sherrill case was limited to the issue of real property taxation, such that even if there is a conclusion here that the Property is Indian ...


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