Carcieri v. Norton

Decision Date29 September 2003
Docket NumberC.A. No. 00-375ML.
Citation290 F.Supp.2d 167
PartiesDonald L. CARCIERI, in his capacity as Governor of the State of Rhode Island; State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, a sovereign state of the United States of America; and Town of Charlestown, Rhode Island, v. Gale A. NORTON, in her capacity as Secretary of the Department of the Interior, United States of America; and Franklin Keel, in his capacity as Eastern Area Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, within the Department of the Interior, United States of America.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Rhode Island

Neil F.X. Kelly, Attorney General's Office, Providence, RI, for State of R.I.

Bruce N. Goodsell, Westerly, RI, Peter D. Ruggiero, Warwick, RI, Joseph S. Larisa, Jr., Providence, RI, for Town of Charlestown.

Anthony C. DiGioia, Asst. U.S. Attorney's Office, Providence, RI, Charles Jakosa, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC, Judith Rabinowitz, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division, San Francisco, CA, for defendant.

John F. Killoy, Wakefield, RI, for Narragansett Indians.


LISI, District Judge.

This is an action brought pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 702, the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). The plaintiffs, Donald L. Carcieri1, in his capacity as Governor of the State of Rhode Island, the State of Rhode Island ("the state"), and the Town of Charlestown ("the town") challenge a final determination of the Secretary of the Department of the Interior ("the secretary") to accept a 31-acre parcel of land ("the parcel") located in Charlestown, Rhode Island into trust for the benefit of the Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island ("the Narragansetts" or "the tribe").2 Presently before the Court for determination are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow: (1) the plaintiffs' motion is denied; and (2) the motion of the defendants, Gale Norton in her capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior, and Franklin Keel in his capacity as Eastern Area Director of the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs ("the BIA" or "the bureau") is granted.

I. Background.

In 1975, the Narragansetts, asserting claims of aboriginal title to approximately 3,200 acres of land located in Charlestown, instituted two lawsuits in this Court.3 The parcel was part of the realty to which the tribe asserted aboriginal right.

On February 28, 1978, the parties to the then-pending federal litigation entered into a Joint Memorandum of Understanding ("JMOU") that was intended to achieve settlement of both actions. The JMOU provided for the acquisition of approximately 900 acres of state-held land and approximately 900 acres of privately-held land4 (collectively, "the settlement lands"). The settlement lands were to be held in trust for the benefit of the tribe by a state-chartered entity, the Narragansett Indian Land Management Corporation, which was created for such purposes. JMOU ¶¶ 1, 8. The parcel was not part of the settlement lands.

In exchange, the Narragansetts agreed to the enactment of federal legislation "that eliminates all Indian claims of any kind, whether possessory, monetary or otherwise, involving land in Rhode Island, and effectively clears the titles of landowners in Rhode Island of any such claim." Id. ¶ 6. Subsequently, both Congress and the Rhode Island General Assembly enacted implementing legislation. Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act, 25 U.S.C. §§ 1701-1716 (2000) (effective September 30, 1978) ("the Settlement Act"); R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 37-18-1 to 37-18-15 (1997) (effective 1979). The Settlement Act extinguished all of the Narragansetts' claims of aboriginal right to lands. 25 U.S.C. § 1705(a)(3).

In 1983, the Narragansetts obtained federal recognition as an Indian tribe. See 48 Fed.Reg. 6177-78 (Feb. 2, 1983). Thereafter, the Narragansett Indian Land Management Corporation was dissolved and the lands that had been held by the corporation on the Narragansetts' behalf were transferred to the tribe. R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 37-18-12, 37-18-13, 37-18-14. In 1988, following application by the tribe, the settlement lands were accepted into trust by the secretary for the Narragansetts' benefit pursuant to Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 ("IRA"), 25 U.S.C. § 465 (2000).

In 1991, the 31-acre parcel that is the subject of the instant litigation was purchased from a private developer by the Narragansett Indian Wetuomuck Housing Authority ("the WHA") for the purpose of constructing a housing complex. Narragansett Indian Tribe of R.I. v. Narragansett Elec. Co., 89 F.3d 908, 911 (1st Cir. 1996). The parcel is adjacent to the settlement lands but separated from them by a town road. Id.

The WHA was established by the Narragansetts and was recognized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") as an Indian housing authority. Id. HUD provided the financing for the purchase of the parcel and the construction of the housing units on the site. Id.5

In 1992, the WHA conveyed the parcel to the tribe with a deed restriction that the property be placed in trust with the federal government for the express purpose of providing housing for tribal members. Id.; Defs.' Statement Undisputed Facts, ¶ 17. The tribe leased the parcel back to the WHA with the approval of the BIA. 89 F.3d at 911; Defs.' Statement Undisputed Facts, ¶ 17.

The WHA began construction of the housing development without obtaining, inter alia, a building permit from the town or the state's approval of the individual sewage disposal systems serving the project. 89 F.3d at 912. The state and the town sought injunctive relief prohibiting the Narragansetts and the WHA from constructing a housing complex without obtaining various permits and approvals that were required by state law and local ordinances. See Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Narragansett Elec. Co., 878 F.Supp. 349 (D.R.I.1995), rev'd in part, aff'd in part, 89 F.3d 908 (1st Cir.1996). The WHA and the tribe contended that such permits and approvals were not required because the development was located on tribal land and state jurisdiction was precluded by the doctrine of Indian sovereignty. 878 F.Supp. at 354.

Resolution of the dispute required, inter alia, a determination of whether the parcel fell within the definition of "Indian country" set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 1151. Id. at 355. Congress has defined "Indian country" to include: "(a) all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government ... (b) all dependent Indian communities within the borders of the United Sates ... and (c) all Indian allotments, the Indian titles to which have not been extinguished ..." 18 U.S.C. § 1151 (2000).

The district court determined that the housing site was a "dependent Indian community" within the meaning of § 1151(b). 878 F.Supp. at 356-57. After addressing the applicability in "Indian country" of the several state and local regulations at issue, the court permanently enjoined the WHA, the tribe, their officers, members, agents and those acting in concert with them from: (1) occupying or permitting occupation of any housing units on the site until all applicable requirements of Rhode Island's coastal resources management program had been satisfied; and (2) interfering with the drainage easement previously conveyed to the town. Id. at 366. The court denied injunctive relief with regard to the tribe's and the WHA's failure to comply with the requirements of any state regulations promulgated pursuant to the Historic Preservation Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, and those provisions of the state building code and the town zoning ordinance that were at issue in the case. Id.

On appeal, the First Circuit concluded that the parcel was not a "dependent Indian community" and thus not "Indian country" within the meaning of 18 U.S.C. § 1151(b). 89 F.3d at 911. Accordingly, the court of appeals reversed the district court's decision to the extent that the trial court had denied injunctive relief and the trial court was directed to enter an order granting the injunction.6 Id. at 922.

A. The Present Dispute.

Pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 465, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior is authorized to acquire lands into trust "for the purpose of providing land for Indians." The BIA renders trust acquisition determinations on the secretary's behalf. In 1993, the tribe submitted an application requesting that the secretary take the parcel into trust for the Narragansetts' benefit. The tribe filed an updated application in July 1997. The present litigation pertains to the latter application.

On March 6, 1998, the BIA, through its eastern area director, Franklin Keel, notified the tribe, the state and the town of the secretary's intent to take the parcel into trust for the benefit of the Narragansetts. The town and the state, including its then-governor, Lincoln Almond, appealed the decision to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals ("the IBIA" or "the board"). On June 29, 2000, the board affirmed the BIA's determination. Town of Charlestown v. E. Area Dir., Bureau of Indian Affairs, IBIA 98-88-A and 98-89-A, 35 IBIA 93 (2000).

In affirming the BIA's decision, the board rejected the plaintiffs' challenges to several determinations made by the BIA in accepting the parcel into trust.7 Specifically, the board concluded that the Settlement Act did not prohibit the secretary from acquiring lands other than the settlement lands into trust for the benefit of the Narragansetts. 35 IBIA 100-101. Also, the board rejected plaintiffs' argument that the BIA, either in all trust acquisition proceedings, or in view of the specific circumstances surrounding the tribe's trust application, was required to consider the possible use of the parcel for gaming...

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8 cases
  • Carcieri v. Norton
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • February 9, 2005
    ...claimed by the Tribe in the 1976 lawsuits, but the Parcel did not become part of the 1800 acres of Settlement Lands. Carcieri v. Norton, 290 F.Supp.2d 167, 170 (D.R.I.2003). The Parcel is adjacent to the Settlement Lands, but separated from them by a town road. Id. (citing Narragansett Indi......
  • Agua Caliente Band v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • March 3, 2004 controlled exclusively by federal law. In a letter filed after completion of briefing, the Tribe cites a recent case, Carcieri v. Norton (R.I.2003) 290 F.Supp.2d 167, which held the federal Department of the Interior's acceptance of a parcel of land into trust for the benefit of an India......
  • Carcieri v. Kempthorne
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • July 20, 2007
    ...Dirk Kempthorne, and the Regional Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Franklin Keel, in federal court. See Carcieri v. Norton, 290 F.Supp.2d 167 (D.R.I.2003). Having exhausted administrative remedies, the State brought suit under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 702,......
  • Agua Caliente Indians v. Superior Court
    • United States
    • California Supreme Court
    • December 21, 2006
    ...contentions, the Tribe relies in particular on City of Roseville v. Norton, supra, 219 F.Supp.2d at pages 153-154, and Carcieri v. Norton (D.R.I.2003) 290 F.Supp.2d 167, in which the federal district court held that the federal Department of the Interior's placing a parcel of land into a tr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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