Cal. Valley Miwok Tribe v. Cal. Gambling Control Comm'n, D074339

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtIRION, J.
PartiesCALIFORNIA VALLEY MIWOK TRIBE, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CALIFORNIA GAMBLING CONTROL COMMISSION, Defendant and Respondent.
Decision Date29 January 2020
Docket NumberD074339

CALIFORNIA VALLEY MIWOK TRIBE, et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,



January 29, 2020


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Super. Ct. No. 37-2017-00050038-CU-MC-CTL)

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Ronald L. Styn, Judge. Affirmed, with the imposition of sanctions.

Manuel Corrales, Jr. for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Sara J. Drake, Assistant Attorney General, T. Michelle Laird and Neil D. Houston, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendant and Respondent.

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In several previous opinions, this court has addressed the dispute arising out of the decision of the California Gambling Control Commission (the Commission) to withhold funds that would otherwise be payable to the California Valley Miwok Tribe from the Indian Gaming Revenue Sharing Trust Fund (RSTF) due to uncertainty regarding the tribe's authorized governing body. Most notably, in California Valley Miwok Tribe v. California Gambling Control Com. (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 885 (CVMT 2014) we held that the Commission was justified in continuing to withhold the RSTF funds until the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) establishes a government-to-government relationship with a tribal leadership body for the purpose of entering into a contract for benefits under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, 25 U.S.C. § 5301, et seq. (ISDEAA).1

It is undisputed that the BIA has not yet recognized any tribal leadership body for the purpose of entering into a contract for ISDEAA benefits. Indeed, a new federal lawsuit was recently initiated against the BIA because of its refusal to do so. Nevertheless, in the instant lawsuit, in December 2017, a faction of purported tribal members, who claim to represent the California Valley Miwok Tribe and its General

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Council, filed a new lawsuit against the Commission.2 Plaintiffs contend that due to certain events that occurred since we issued CVMT 2014, including the death of a member of a competing tribal faction, the Commission is now required to distribute the RSTF funds to a representative of the Plaintiffs. The trial court sustained the Commission's demurrer, concluding among other things, that the lawsuit is barred by principles of res judicata premised on our opinion in CVMT 2014, which sets forth the conditions under which the Commission will be required to resume distribution of the RSTF funds, and which Plaintiffs did not establish were present. As we will explain, the trial court properly sustained the demurrer on the basis of res judicata, and we accordingly affirm the judgment.

Further, on our own motion, after giving notice and affording an opportunity for opposition and a hearing, we impose sanctions on Plaintiffs' attorney, Manuel Corrales, Jr., in the amount of $850.00 for filing an objectively frivolous appeal.


On several previous occasions we have set forth the factual background relating to the Commission's decision to withhold RSTF funds from the California Valley Miwok

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Tribe, which stems from a long-running tribal leadership and membership dispute between different tribal factions that has resulted in actions in state courts, federal courts and administrative agencies. We once again set forth the relevant details, supplemented by relevant recent developments shown by documents in the trial court record, as well as documents that are properly subject to judicial notice.3

A. The History of the Tribal Dispute

We begin with a summary of the tribal leadership and membership dispute concerning the California Valley Miwok Tribe. Our opinion in CVMT 2014 quoted extensively from California Valley Miwok Tribe v. Jewell (D.D.C. 2013) 5 F.Supp.3d 86 (Jewell) for the factual background of the tribal leadership dispute. Although, Jewell remains the most thorough summary of the tribal leadership dispute contained in a published judicial opinion, a more recent summary is set forth in a June 1, 2017 unpublished opinion in California Valley Miwok Tribe v. Zinke (E.D. Cal., June 1, 2017, No. CV 2:16-01345 WBS CKD), affd. 745 Fed.Appx. 46 (9th Cir. Dec. 11, 2018), from which we quote here:

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"In 1915, John Terrell of the Office of Indian Affairs conducted a census of 'Sheepranch Indians' in Calaveras County, California. . . . At the time of the census, there were thirteen Sheepranch Indians. . . . In 1916, the United States acquired a 0.92 acre parcel of land, known as 'Sheep Ranch Rancheria,' for these Indians. . . .

"In 1934, Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act ('IRA'), which required the BIA to hold elections where a tribe would decide whether to accept provisions of the IRA, including provisions permitting tribes to organize and adopt a constitution. 25 U.S.C. §§ 5123, 5125. The BIA found that there was only one eligible adult Miwok Indian, Jeff Davis, living on the rancheria in 1935. . . . He voted in favor of adopting the IRA but the Tribe never pursued formal organization. . . .

"Amended in 1964, the California Rancheria Act authorized the termination of federal recognition of California Rancherias by distributing each rancheria's assets to the Indians residing on the rancheria. . . . At that time, Mabel Dixie was the sole Miwok resident on the land. . . . . She voted to accept the land distribution plan and terminate the trust relationship between the federal government and the Tribe. . . . The BIA failed, however, to take the necessary steps to complete the termination of the rancheria. . . .

"Mabel Dixie died in 1971 and an Administrative Law Judge ordered the distribution of her estate. . . . Her common law husband and four sons, including Yakima Dixie, received an undivided interest in the land. . . . By 1994, Yakima Dixie represented that he was the only living descendant of Mabel and recognized Tribe member. . . .

"A. Leadership Dispute

"In 1998, [Silvia Burley, Rashel Reznor, Anjelica Paulk, and Tristian Wallace] [(]the Burley faction[)] received [Yakima's] permission to enroll in the Tribe. . . . In September 1998, the BIA met with Dixie and Burley in order to discuss formal organization of the Tribe. . . . The BIA noted that it believed that the original tribal membership was limited to the heirs of Mabel Dixie because of the land distribution during probate. . . . The Tribe's membership then expanded with the addition of the Burley faction. . . .

"In November 1998, the BIA drafted, and Dixie and Burley signed, Resolution #GC-98-01 ('1998 Resolution'). . . . The 1998 Resolution listed Dixie and the four member Burley faction as Tribe members. . . . It also

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established 'a General Council to serve as the governing body of the Tribe.' . . . In 1999, Burley submitted Dixie's resignation as tribal chairman to the BIA, but Dixie claimed he did not resign. . . . The BIA affirmed the General Council's authority as the governing body of the Tribe in February 2000 and continued to recognize the General Council and Burley's leadership through 2005. . . .

"In February 2004, Burley submitted a tribal constitution to the BIA 'in an attempt to demonstrated that it is an "organized" Tribe' under the IRA. . . . The BIA rejected the constitution because it did not reflect the involvement of 'the greater tribal community.' . . . . The BIA restated this position in February 2005 when it concluded that it did not recognize any tribal government or tribal chairperson for the Tribe." (California Valley Miwok Tribe v. Zinke (E.D. Cal., June 1, 2017, No. CV 2:16-01345 WBS CKD), administrative record citations omitted.)

As particularly relevant here, as we set forth in CVMT 2014, "[i]n a February 2005 letter, the BIA stated that 'it did not recognize Burley as the tribal Chairperson, but rather, a "person of authority" within the Tribe' and that ' "[u]ntil such time as the Tribe has organized, the Federal government can recognize no one, including [Dixie], as the tribal Chairman." . . . The BIA concluded by stating that it "does not recognize any tribal government" for the Tribe "[i]n light of the BIA's [March 2004 Decision] that the Tribe is not an organized tribe." ' (Jewell, supra, 5 F.Supp.3d at pp. 93-94, citations omitted.) In July 2005, the BIA suspended the Tribe's contract for ISDEAA benefits. (Jewell, at p. 94.)" (CVMT 2014, supra, 231 Cal.App.4th at p. 893.)

Since 2005, Burley has been involved in a series of federal lawsuits and administrative proceedings to attempt to obtain BIA recognition of her leadership of the California Valley Miwok Tribe. We need not detail the history of those proceedings up until 2014, as they are described in CVMT 2014, supra, 231 Cal.App.4th at pages 893-896. Suffice it to say, that on the date of our opinion in CVMT 2014, the litigation and

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administrative proceedings were ongoing, and the BIA had not yet recognized any authorized tribal representative.

Much has occurred with respect to the tribal leadership dispute since 2014, but, as we will describe, the dispute is not yet resolved and the BIA still does not recognize any authorized tribal representative. The first significant development occurred on December 30, 2015, when Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs for the United States Department of the Interior (AS-IA), Kevin Washburn, issued a decision stating that the membership of the California Valley Miwok Tribe was "not limited to five individuals," as Burley had contended, but that the tribe's membership was "properly drawn from the Mewuk Indians for whom the Rancheria was acquired...

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