Chahta v. Bureau of Indian Affairs et al
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)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, and )
CHOCTAW NATION OF
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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
opportunity to amend his complaint to state a readily identifiable claim with federal
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
Dated: June 4, 2021
DAVID W. DUGAN
United States District Judge
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