Chahta v. Bureau of Indian Affairs et al

Filing 8

ORDER. For the reasons stated in the attached Memorandum and Order, Plaintiff's Motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 3 ) is DENIED. Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed (Doc. 7 ) is DENIED. Plaintiff's Complaint ( Doc. 1 ) is DISMISSED, without prejudice. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff has until July 1, 2021 to submit an Amended Complaint. Failure to file an Amended Complaint will result in dismissal of this cause for failure to state a claim. (Amended Pleadings due by 7/1/2021). Signed by Judge David W. Dugan on 6/4/2021. (arm)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS BREEZE CHAHTA, ) ) Plaintiff, ) ) vs. ) ) BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, and ) CHOCTAW NATION OF ) OKLAHOMA, ) ) Defendants. ) Case No. 20-cv-1158-DWD MEMORANDUM AND ORDER DUGAN, District Judge: On November 2, 2020, Plaintiff Breeze Chahta, filed a pro se civil rights Complaint (Doc. 1) against the named Defendants. Plaintiff also seeks leave to proceed in forma in this action (Doc. 3). Plaintiff is pauperis not a prisoner within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h), nonetheless, a federal court may allow a civil case to proceed without prepayment of fees, if an IFP applicant demonstrates that he is indigent under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1). Rowe v. Shake, 196 F.3d 778, 783 (7th Cir. ave the power to screen complaints filed by all litigants, prisoners and non-prisoners alike, regardless fee status. The district court may screen the complaint prior to service on the defendants and must dismiss the complaint if it fails to Two issues must be resolved before in forma pauperis status can be granted. First, the plaintiff must show that he is indigent 1 statement of all assets [he] possess [showing] that [he] is unable to pay such fees or give malicious, must state a claim on which relief may be granted, and may not seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). indigent. However, the second prong, requires additional analysis. To proceed in forma pauperis state a claim on which relief may be granted. An action states a claim upon which relief can be factual matter . . . to state a claim to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 667 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). When considering the claims in a pro se complaint, the factual allegations must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Amb. Serv., 577 F.3d 816, 821 (7th Cir. 2009). Discussion Proceed (Doc. 7), which the Court considered for the purposes of evaluating the merits descendants from an individual named Ada Thomas. Sometime around the 1910 United States Census, Ada Thomas was considered a member of the Choctaw Nation of 2 whether intentional, fraudulent, or otherwise, caused by some combination of actors from the Choctaw Nation, the United States Census, or the predecessor agencies to the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ada Thomas, and her descendants were included as members of the Choctaw Nation (Doc. 7, at pg. 18). Plaintiff argues that this reclassification was fraudulent, and done for the purposes the future members of from the Choctaw Nation because of their skin color, or some other purpose, which has now resulted in the current 66 members of th Tribe and its members be recognized as rightful members of the Choctaw Nation of and specifically the descendants of Ada Thomas, to be paid reparations in the amount of one hundred million dollars for the alleged deprivation of their civil rights (Doc. 7, at pp. 18-19). Prior to bringing this Complaint, Plaintiff alludes to proceedings brought before the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Choctaw Nation, allegedly resulting in denials and various appeals. However, the pleadings do not include documents or any factual determinations for the Court to determine the scope and extent of these proceedings. Further, even construing the factual allega Court cannot readily identify a claim with federal jurisdiction so to satisfy the pleading 3 requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. The Complaint further raises sovereign immunity issues. by the tribe and on tribal members within the reservation. Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community, 572 U.S. 782, 788 (2014); Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Co., 554 U.S. 316, 327-28 (2008). Tribes are Bay Mills Indian Community, 572 U.S. at 788 (internal wer to legislate and to tax activities on the reservation, including certain activities by nonmembers, to determine tribal membership, and to regulate domestic relations among members. They may also exclude outsiders Plains Commerce Bank, 544 U.S. at 328-39 (internal citations omitted); see also Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 56 (1978) (Indian tribes have the power to make their own substantive law in internal matters, including regulating memberships and inheritance rights). authority over their me Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, 498 U.S. 505, 509 (1991). An aspect of this sovereign Id. at 509; see also Santa Clara Pueblo, 436 U.S. at 58-59; Meyers v. Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin, 836 F.3d 818, 826 (7th Cir. 2016) (Indian tribes can claim immunity 4 their sovereign immunity). The abrogation of tribal sovereign immunity may not be implied, and any ambiguity must be resolved in favor of immunity. Id. at 827 (relying on F.A.A. v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 284, 290 (2012) and Santa Clara Pueblo, 436 U.S. at 48). Meyers, 836 F.3d at 821-22. Such threshold grounds include whether Plaintiff is properly before this Court for purposes of subject matter jurisdiction, or whether Plaintiff can obtain relief from the Defendants through this suit. Id. at 822. Plaintiff seeks, in part, a declaration that he an tribe be recognized as members of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. However, Plaintiff has not identified any waiver or Congressional grant of authority that might support is action, or to further seek monetary relief from the named defendants. As these threshold issues are far from clear, the Court declines to permit this matter to continue without further assurances of its jurisdiction or See Santa Clara Pueblo against tribal officers, and has done so with respect to habeas corpus relief in [28 U.S.C.] § 1303, a proper respect both for tribal sovereignty itself and for the plenary authority of Congress in this area cautions that we tread lightly in the absence of clear indications of Because the Complaint fails to state a clai be denied, and the Complaint dismissed. However, the Court will permit Plaintiff an 5 opportunity to amend his complaint to state a readily identifiable claim with federal jurisdiction. Disposition For the above stated reasons, 3) is DENIED in forma pauperis (Doc. Proceed (Doc. 7) is DENIED (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED, without prejudice. Plaintiff is granted leave to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff has until July 1, 2021, to submit an Amended Complaint. Failure to file an Amended Complaint will result in dismissal of this cause for failure to state a claim. SO ORDERED. Dated: June 4, 2021 ______________________________ DAVID W. DUGAN United States District Judge 6

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