Tsi Akim Maidu of Taylorsville Rancheria v. United States Department of the Interior et al

Filing 20

Order by Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler granting 12 and transferring the case to the Eastern District of California. (lblc1S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/25/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 San Francisco Division United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 TSI AKIM MAIDU OF TAYLORSVILLE RANCHERIA, 13 Plaintiff, 14 v. 15 16 UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, et al., 17 Case No. 16-cv-07189-LB ORDER GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS’ MOTION AND TRANSFERRING THE CASE TO THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA Defendants. Re: ECF No. 12 18 INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND 19 This case concerns the legal status of Tsi Akim Maidu of Taylorsville Rancheria, a Native 20 American Tribe (the “Tribe”), in the eyes of the federal government.1 More specifically, the Tribe 21 challenges the government’s determination that it “lost status as a federally recognized Indian 22 Tribe when the United States sold the Taylorsville Rancheria in 1966 pursuant to Congressional 23 mandate.”2 24 25 26 27 See generally Compl. – ECF No. 1. Record citations refer to material in the Electronic Case File (“ECF”); pinpoint citations are to the ECF-generated page numbers at the top of documents. 28 2 1 See id. at 2. ORDER — No. 16-cv-07189-LB That Congressional mandate — the 1958 California Rancheria Act — authorized the 1 2 Department of the Interior to distribute forty-one rancherias’3 assets to “individual Indians.”4 See 3 Pub. L. 85-671, 72 Stat. 619 (Aug. 18, 1958), as amended Pub. L. 88-419, 78 Stat. 390 (Aug. 11, 4 1964). After such distribution under the Act, the recipients would not be entitled to government 5 services “because of their status as Indians . . . , all statutes of the United States which affect 6 Indians because of their status as Indians [would] be inapplicable to them, and the laws of the 7 several States [would] apply to them in the same manner as they apply to other citizens.”5 Id. The Tribe alleges that the government sold the Taylorsville Rancheria in 1966 and thus — 8 according to the government — terminated its “status as a federally recognized tribe.”6 But, the 10 Tribe says, a sale under the Act does not “correspond[] with the termination of the status of the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 [T]ribe.”7 In 1998, the Tribe filed a “letter of intent to petition for acknowledgment as an Indian 12 tribe,” and later “sought clarification from the [government] about its status as a federally 13 recognized Tribe.”8 In June 2015, the then-Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs “declined to 14 restore” the Tribe’s status and explained that, by sale of the Taylorsville Rancheria to Plumas 15 County, the Tribe’s relationship with the government was terminated.9 16 The Tribe then sued the Department of Interior, its Secretary, and the Assistant Secretary for 17 Indian Affairs.10 It attacks the June 2015 decision and, among other relief, requests a declaration 18 that it “is a federally [recognized] tribe” and that its members “are Indians whose status have not 19 20 “Rancherias are numerous small Indian reservations or communities in California, the lands for which were purchased by the Government (with Congressional authorization) for Indian use from time to time in the early years of [the twentieth] century — a program triggered by an inquiry (in 1905–06) into the landless, homeless or penurious state of many California Indians.” Williams v. Gover, 490 F.3d 785, 787 (9th Cir. 2007) (quoting Duncan v. United States, 229 Ct. Cl. 120, 123 (1981)). 3 21 22 23 4 Compl. ¶¶ 21–23. 24 5 Id. ¶ 23. 25 6 Id. ¶¶ 11, 25. 7 See id. ¶¶ 12–14. 8 Id. ¶¶ 4, 11. 27 9 Id. ¶¶ 5, 25. 28 10 26 Id. ¶¶ 7–9. ORDER — No. 16-cv-07189-LB 2 1 been vanquished.”11 The government moves to dismiss the case or, in the alternative, to transfer it 2 under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).12 (The government 3 alternatively moves to dismiss the complaint under rule 12(b)(6).) 4 The court held a hearing on the motion on May 25, 2017. The court grants the government’s 5 motion because venue is improper in the Northern District of California and transfers the case to 6 the Eastern District of California. 7 8 GOVERNING LAW 9 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(3), a defendant may move to dismiss a case for improper venue. After a defendant challenges the venue, it is the plaintiff’s burden to show that 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 venue is proper. See Piedmont Label Co. v. Sun Garden Packing Co., 598 F.2d 491, 496 (9th Cir. 12 1979). In the context of a Rule 12(b)(3) motion, the court need not accept as true all allegations in 13 the complaint, but may consider facts outside the pleadings. See Murphy v. Schneider Nat’l, Inc., 14 362 F.3d 1133, 1137 (9th Cir. 2004). The court is, however, “obligated to draw all reasonable 15 inferences in favor of the non-moving party and resolve all factual conflicts in favor of the non- 16 moving party.” Id. at 1138. If venue is improper, the court may either dismiss the case without prejudice, or, if it is in the 17 18 “interest of justice,” transfer the case “to any district or division in which it could have been 19 brought.” 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a); In re Hall, Bayoutree Assocs., Ltd., 939 F.2d 802, 804 (9th Cir. 20 1991) (if a court decides to dismiss a case for improper venue, dismissal must be without 21 prejudice). Ordinarily, the interest of justice requires transferring the case to the proper venue 22 rather than dismissing the case. See Baeta v. Sonchik, 273 F.3d 1261, 1264–65 (9th Cir. 2001). 23 24 25 26 27 11 Id., Prayer. 28 12 Motion to Dismiss or Transfer – ECF No. 12; Opposition – ECF No. 13; Reply – ECF No. 17. ORDER — No. 16-cv-07189-LB 3 ANALYSIS 1 2 3 1. Venue Is Improper Under 18 U.S.C. § 1391 Section 1406(a) and Rule 12(b)(3) require a district court to dismiss or transfer a case if venue 4 is “wrong” or “improper” in that district. See 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a); Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3); 5 Atlantic Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. United States Dist. Ct. for the W. Dist. of Tex., 134 S. Ct. 568, 6 577 (2013). “This question — whether venue is ‘wrong’ or ‘improper’ — is generally governed by 7 28 U.S.C. § 1391.” Atlantic Marine, 134 S. Ct. at 577. Under that section, in cases against United 8 10 States officers or employees, venue is proper: in any judicial district in which (A) a defendant in the action resides, (B) a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action is situated, or (C) the plaintiff resides if no real property is involved in the action. 11 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(1). If the case falls within one of these three categories, venue is proper. See 12 Atlantic Marine, 134 S. Ct. at 577 (discussing § 1391(b)). “[I]f it does not, venue is improper, and 13 the case must be dismissed or transferred under § 1406(a).” Id. United States District Court Northern District of California 9 14 Generally, “all federal defendants reside in Washington, D.C.” Williams v. United States, No. 15 C-01-0024 EDL, 2001 WL 1352885, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2001). “Venue does not lie in every 16 judicial district where a federal agency has a regional office.” Id. (citing Reuben H. Donnelly 17 Corp. v. Federal Trade Comm’n, 580 F.2d 264, 267 (7th Cir. 1978)). Federal officers and 18 employees reside at the “‘official’ residence — i.e., where the official duties are performed — not 19 the personal residence (where [the] defendant lives).” O’Connell & Stevenson, Rutter Group Prac. 20 Guide: Federal Civ. Pro. Before Trial § 4:426 (The Rutter Group 2017); see also Caremark 21 Therapeutic Servs. v. Leavitt, 405 F. Supp. 2d 454, 464 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (“[V]enue with respect to 22 a federal officer or employee is proper in the place of his or her official residence, where his or her 23 official duties are performed.”). And, “an entity with the capacity to sue and be sued in its 24 common name under applicable law” is, when acting as a plaintiff, deemed to reside “only in the 25 judicial district in which it maintains its principal place of business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). 26 Here, the case does not fall within § 1391(e). First, the Tribe makes no showing that any of the 27 federal defendants reside in this district. See Villa v. Salazar, 933 F. Supp. 2d 50, 55 (D.D.C. 28 2013) (finding that venue was proper in the District of Columbia “because the Secretary of the ORDER — No. 16-cv-07189-LB 4 1 Interior and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs ‘reside[]’ in the District of Columbia.”) 2 (alteration in original). Second, the Tribe asserts in the complaint that venue is proper here 3 “because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to [its] claims occurred near this 4 District.”13 But as the Tribe asserts, none of the alleged events or omissions occurred in this 5 district: the Tribe and the Rancheria are located in Plumas County (in the Eastern District) and the 6 challenged decision was made in Washington, D.C. (from where the then-Assistant Secretary of 7 Indian Affairs wrote the June 2015 letter).14 Third, the Tribe — as it states on its civil cover 8 sheet — resides in Plumas County.15 (It also alleges that it is “included in the Northeastern Maidu 9 group (aka Mountain Maidu) in Plumas County” and “occupied the American, Genesee, and 10 Indian valleys in what is now the Plumas County.”16) In its opposition brief, the Tribe asserts that its members “predominantly live in the Northern United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 District” and “[t]hus, venue in this district is conclusively proper.”17 But the Tribe sues only in its 13 own name, not on behalf of its members, and none of its members are named plaintiffs. Absent 14 authority that a Native American Tribe’s residence is based on its members’ residence — even 15 when those members are not party to the case — the Tribe’s entity-based residence controls. See, 16 e.g., Denver & Rio Grande W. R.R. Co. v. Bhd. of R.R. Trainmen, 387 U.S. 556, 559–60 (1967) 17 (holding that the proper venue in a case involving an unincorporated entity “should be determined 18 by looking to the residence of the association itself rather than that of its individual members”). Because the Tribe has not shown that venue is proper in the Northern District of California 19 20 under § 1391(e), the case must be dismissed or transferred. See 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). 21 22 23 24 13 Compl. ¶ 2 (emphasis added). 14 See id. ¶ 18; see also Weiss Decl. – ECF No. 13-1, Ex. 1. 15 See ECF No. 2; see also Compl. ¶ 18. 27 16 Compl. ¶ 18. 28 17 Opposition at 4. 25 26 ORDER — No. 16-cv-07189-LB 5

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