Coeur d'Alene Tribe v. Hawks et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER. It is hereby ORDERED, that the motion to dismiss(docket no. 6 ) is GRANTED. Signed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (jp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
COEUR D'ALENE TRIBE, a federally
recognized Indian Tribe,
Case No. 2:16-CV-366-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
STEVE W. HAWKS and DEANNE A.
HAWKS, husband and wife,
Before the Court is a motion to dismiss filed by the Hawks. The motion is fully
briefed and at issue. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant the motion.
The Tribe brought this action to domesticate and enforce a default judgment
obtained against the Hawks in Tribal Court. The Tribe is also pursuing this same relief in
Idaho State courts.
The Hawks own real property along the St. Joe River with the Coeur d’Alene
Reservation. They also own a boat garage and pilings within the St. Joe River. The
Tribe claims that the boat garage and pilings are illegal encroachments, and filed an
objection in June of 2015 in the Coeur d’Alene -Spokane River Basin Adjudication
(CSRBA). That litigation, a state water rights adjudication, is proceeding in the District
Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho.
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 1
Almost a year after filing that objection, the Tribe filed suit against the Hawks in
Tribal Court for violation of the Tribal Code, claiming that the Hawks failed to obtain a
Tribal permit before constructing the boat garage and pilings. The Tribal Court issued a
default judgment in the form of a civil penalty of $3,900.
It is that judgment that the Tribe seeks to enforce in this Court. The Hawks
responded by filing a motion to dismiss, arguing that this Court does not have jurisdiction
to grant the Tribe the relief they seek.
In the briefing on this motion, the Tribe concedes it is not relying on diversity
jurisdiction, but argues instead that the Court has jurisdiction under the federal question
provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In support, the Tribe cites National Farmers Union Ins.
Cos. v. Crow Tribe of Indians, 471 U.S. 845, 105 S. Ct. 2447 (1985). That case would
provide sound support for this Court’s jurisdiction over a lawsuit filed by the Hawks
claiming that the Tribal Court had no jurisdiction to enter the judgment for $3,900 – that
would place the Court squarely within National Farmers, and the dispute over whether
the Tribal Court had jurisdiction over a non-member of the Tribe would be a federal
question that would satisfy the jurisdictional demands of § 1331.
But here, the Hawks have not challenged the Tribal Court’s jurisdiction to make
the award, and the Tribe has not sought a declaratory judgment that its courts had
jurisdiction over the Hawks. Instead, the Tribe is simply asking a federal court to
domesticate and enforce a Tribal Court Judgment. While such a claim has a basis in
Idaho law and can be enforced in Idaho courts pursuant to Idaho Code § 10-1401 et. seq.,
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 2
the Tribe cites no federal statute or law that is in dispute and that could be used to create
a federal question.
The posture of this case shifts it away from National Farmers, and places it
squarely within Miccosukee Tribe v. Kraus-Anderson Const. Co., 607 F.3d 1268, 1275
(11th Cir. 2010). There, a Tribe filed suit to enforce a Tribal Court Judgment, and the
non-Tribal member defendant filed a motion to dismiss. The court granted the motion,
distinguishing National Farmers:
In sum, National Farmers dictates that a dispute over tribal court
jurisdiction is considered a dispute over tribal sovereignty, and therefore is
a matter of federal law to which § 1331 applies. This case, however, does
not involve a dispute over the Tribal Court’s jurisdiction. That is, the Tribe
has not asked for a declaratory decree to resolve a dispute over whether the
Tribal Court had jurisdiction to entertain [defendant’s] claim for payment
and the Tribe's set off and counterclaim. Both sides agree that the Tribal
Court possessed such jurisdiction. What the Tribe asks is that the federal
district court domesticate its judgment against [defendant] so that it can
obtain execution of the judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 69. A suit to domesticate a tribal judgment does not state a claim
under federal law, whether statutory or common law. Thus, the district
court lacked § 1331 jurisdiction under National Farmers to entertain the
Id. at 1275. Although Miccosukee Tribe is not binding on this Court, it is persuasive.
The Tribe responds, however, that the Ninth Circuit has gone in the opposite direction in
Wilson v Marchington, 127 F.3d 805 (9th Cir. 1997). But in that case, both sides sought a
ruling on whether the tribal court had jurisdiction to issue the judgment. That
circumstance aligned the case perfectly with National Farmers but is lacking here, as no
party in this case seeks such a ruling.
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 3
With no basis for federal jurisdiction, the Court is compelled to grant the motion
to dismiss. The Court will enter a separate Judgment as required by Rule 58(a).
In accordance with the Memorandum Decision set forth above,
NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that the motion to dismiss
(docket no. 6) is GRANTED.
DATED: August 25, 2017
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 4
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