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State v. Salazar

June 9, 2010

STATE OF NEW YORK; DAVID A. PATERSON, IN HIS CAPACITY AS GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK;ANDREW M. CUOMO, IN HIS CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK; MADISON COUNTY, NEW YORK; AND ONEIDA COUNTY, NEW YORK, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
KENNETH SALAZAR, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; JAMES E. CASON, ASSOCIATE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR; P. LYNNSCARLET, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR; FRANKLIN KEEL, EASTERN REGIONAL DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; JAMES A. WILLIAMS, ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, UNITED STATES GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION; UNITED STATES GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANTS, AND ONEIDA NATION OF NEW YORK, INTERVENOR DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiffs filed this action on June 19, 2008, raising various challenges to a May 20, 2008 Record of Decision ("ROD") in which the United States Department of the Interior ("DOI") determined to accept over 13,000 acres of land in central New York into trust for the benefit of the Intervenor Defendant, the Oneida Nation of New York ("Oneida Indian Nation" or "OIN"). Subsequently, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint on February 12, 2009, adding five claims related to the DOI's acceptance of administrative custody over an 18-acre parcel -- which previously had been used by the United States as an annex to the Griffiss Air Force Base -- to be held in trust for the benefit of the OIN. See Second Am. Compl. (Dkt. No. 94).

Presently before the Court is a Motion (Dkt. No. 134) to direct entry of a final judgment as to Plaintiffs' Eighteenth through Twenty-Second Causes of Action located in their Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint (Dkt. No. 94). These claims, the same ones added by the February 12, 2009 filing, were dismissed by this Court in a September 29, 2009 Memorandum-Decision and Order on the basis that Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue them. See Dkt. No. 132. With the instant Motion, brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), Plaintiffs now seek to enable immediate appellate review of that dismissal.

II. BACKGROUND

On January 7, 2009, the Defendants filed a Notice of Administrative Action ("Notice") pursuant to 40 U.S.C. § 523, alerting the Court and the other parties that:

[O]n December 30, 2008, the Bureau of Indian Affairs formally acknowledged receipt of administrative custody and accountability for the former United States Air Force Space Command Complex at the Verona Research Facility, Germany Road, Verona, New York. Such property is held in trust by the Secretary of the Interior for the Oneida Indian Nation of New York. The trust acquisition was mandated by 40 U.S.C. § 523, and accordingly was non-discretionary . . . . The property accepted into trust is not part of the land the Department of the Interior proposes to accept into trust pursuant to the May 20, 2008 Record of Decision that is the subject of [this case and related cases].

Dkt. No. 72.

The land at issue in the December 30, 2008 Notice consists of an 18.195 acre parcel located in Verona, New York, which the United States acquired in fee from a private landowner in 1952. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 4 (Dkt. No. 111, Attach. 1); Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 107, 109. The United States used the 18-acre parcel as part of the Verona Test Site, an annex to the Griffiss Air Force Base. See Second Am. Compl. ¶ 114; Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 4. Griffiss Air Force Base closed in 1995, with the Verona Test Site vacated by the Air Force in 1996. See Defs.' Mem. in Supp. at 4; Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 116-17. On January 23, 2001, the Air Force issued a Report of Excess Real Property for the 18-acre parcel. Dkt. No. 111, Attach. 4. In a letter dated May 24, 2002, DOI informed the General Services Administration ("GSA") that the Verona Test Site is situated within the exterior boundaries of the 1794 reservation set aside for the Oneida Indian Nation by the Treaty of Canandaigua. Dkt. No. 111, Attach. 6. GSA then issued a letter on May 28, 2002 stating that it "hereby transfers the Property to the BIA to be held in trust by the Department of the Interior, for the benefit and use of the Oneidas . . . ." Dkt. No. 111, Attach. 7. DOI acknowledged custody and accountability for the 18-acre parcel per the Notice issued on December 30, 2008. Dkt. No. 72.

On February 10, 2009, the parties stipulated to the filing of a Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint, and the Court approved that stipulation on February 11, 2009. Dkt. Nos. 91, 92. Plaintiffs' Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint asserted seventeen causes of action challenging DOI's May 20, 2008 decision to accept over 13,000 acres in trust for the OIN, as well as five causes of action challenging DOI's December 30, 2008 acknowledgment of administrative custody over the 18-acre parcel. See generally Second Am. Compl. Plaintiffs raised constitutional, statutory, and regulatory claims, alleging, inter alia, violations of the non-delegation doctrine; the Tenth Amendment; the land into trust provision of the Indian Reorganization Act, 25 U.S.C. § 465; the regulations in 25 C.F.R. part 151; NEPA; the Freedom of Information Act; and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act ("IGRA"). For relief, Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the Defendants' action in taking the subject land into trust was unlawful; an injunction prohibiting Defendants from taking any of the subject land into trust; a declaratory judgment that the 18-acre transfer is null and void; and an injunction prohibiting Defendants from transferring any other excess or surplus federal land into trust for the OIN. Id. at 73-74.

On September 29, 2009, this Court addressed several Motions filed by the parties, including Defendants' Motions to dismiss Plaintiffs' Supplemental Claims concerning the 18-acre parcel. Dkt. Nos. 110, 111. With respect to the supplemental causes of actions, the Court found that Plaintiffs did not meet the constitutional minimum for standing to pursue those claims. Accordingly, the five causes of action of that type were dismissed. See Dkt. No. 132. Specifically, the Court concluded that Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate the existence of a sufficient injury-in-fact and failed to show an adequate causal relationship between Defendants' action and their alleged injury. Id. Relatedly, it was determined to be merely speculative, as opposed to likely, that Plaintiffs claimed injury would be redressed upon successful resolution on the merits of their supplemental claims. Along with this disposition, the September 29, 2009 Memorandum-Decision and Order dismissed Plaintiffs' First, Second and Seventeenth Causes of Action and denied summary judgment on Plaintiffs' Third Cause of Action, which involved claims challenging to the DOI's original trust decision. Id.

Approximately two weeks after the Court's Decision, on October 14, 2009, Plaintiffs brought the instant Motion to obtain entry of a final judgment on their Supplemental Claims so as to expedite an appeal of the Court's dismissal. The Court turns now to consider that Motion.

III. RULE 54(b)

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) instructs, in relevant part, that: "When an action presents more than one claim for relief . . . the court may direct entry of a final judgment as to one or more, but fewer than all, claims or parties only if the court expressly determines that there is no just reason for delay." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b). "Thus, to have a final judgment under the rule, (1) multiple claims or multiple parties must be present, (2) at least one claim, or the rights and liabilities of at least one party, must be finally decided within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and (3) the district court must make 'an express determination that there is no just reason for delay' and expressly direct the clerk to enter judgment." Ginett v. Computer Task Group, 962 F.2d 1085, 1091 (2d Cir. 1992) (emphasis omitted). The degree of finality required for appealability under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 is "defined as a judgment which ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do but execute the judgment." Kahn v. Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 91 F.3d 385, 388 (2d Cir. 1996) (citations and quotations omitted).

Once a district court finds finality as to at least one claim, or the rights or liabilities of at least one party, the court considers whether the Rule 54(b) certification sought is supported by reasons that justify departing from the normal process of appellate review, wherein all claims and parties are presented in a single proceeding. With respect to the third step, "[g]enerally, a district court may properly make a finding that there is 'no just reason for delay' only when 'there exists some danger of hardship or injustice through delay which would be alleviated by immediate appeal.'" Advanced Magnetics, Inc. v. Bayfront Partners, Inc., 106 F.3d 11, 16 (quoting Cullen v. Margiotta, 811 F.2d 698, 711 (2d Cir. 1987)). There is, of course, an "historic federal policy against piecemeal appeals," and "a district court must take into account judicial administrative interests as well as the equities involved." Curtiss-Wright Corp. v. General Elec. Co., 446 U.S. 1, 8 (1980); see also Ginett, 962 F.2d at 1095 ("The proper guiding star, as the Supreme Court has emphasized, is the interest of sound judicial administration . . . [which] must involve a proper regard for the duties of both the district court and the appellate court. We should avoid the possibility that the ultimate dispositions of the claims remaining in the district court could either moot our decision on the appealed claim or require us to decide issues twice."). Thus, a district court's power to enter a final judgment under Rule 54(b) should "be exercised sparingly." Harriscom Svenska AB v. Harris Corp., 947 F.2d 627, 629 (2d Cir. 1991). In general, "certification of the dismissal of fewer than all the claims in an action should not be granted if the same or closely related issues remain to be litigated." Id. (quotations and citations omitted). The determination that ...


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