Sunday, July 23, 2006

Disputed Title to Reservation Lands Survives Motion to Dismiss

Gila River Indian Community v. Winklemann, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33276 (D. Ariz. May 22, 2006).

In this case, the defendant Arizona commissioner of state lands granted one Clark a permit to operate an apiary on land which both parties claim. The state claimed that the 640 acre property was school trust property granted to it by Congress and the tribe contends that they have an unextinguished aboriginal land title to the same section of land.

The tribe sued to enjoin the encroachments of the commissioner and the apiarist. The defendant moved to dismiss the action on numerous grounds, including sovereign immunity, failure to join indispensible persons, and extinguishment of title.

The court denied Winklemann's motion to dismiss, finding that there was a factual dispute that prevented decision on the issue of extinguishment of title, and that the United States and the State of Arizona were not necessary parties to the action. The court also found that the suit could go forward under the exception to sovereign immunity found in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908).


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