Cnty. of Charles Mix v. United States Dep't of the Interior, No. CIV 10–3012–RAL.

Decision Date31 March 2011
Docket NumberNo. CIV 10–3012–RAL.
Citation799 F.Supp.2d 1027
PartiesCOUNTY OF CHARLES MIX, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF the INTERIOR, Larry Echo Hawk, in his official capacity as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Michael Black, in his official capacity as Regional Director, Great Plains Region, Ben Kitto, in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Yankton Agency, and Yankton Sioux Tribe, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of South Dakota

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Tommy Drake Tobin, Winner, SD, for Plaintiffs.

Amy S. Tryon, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, Cheryl Schrempp Dupris, U.S. Attorney's Office, Pierre, SD, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

ROBERTO A. LANGE, District Judge.I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Charles Mix County (Plaintiff) filed this action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief from the Department of the Interior's decision to take 39 acres of land into trust for the Yankton Sioux Tribe (Tribe). Defendants United States Department of the Interior; Larry Echo–Hawk, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, United States Department of the Interior; Michael Black, Great Plains Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); and Ben Kitto, Yankton Agency Superintendent (collectively Defendants) moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (Doc. 8). Plaintiff then filed a cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 10). For the reasons explained below, this Court grants Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and denies Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. FACTSA. Source For Undisputed Facts

This case involves an appeal under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 706 (“APA”). Plaintiff has filed a motion for summary judgment, and Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or alternatively for summary judgment. Neither Plaintiff nor Defendants contend that there exist any genuine issue of material fact.

Ordinarily, review of administrative decisions focuses upon the administrative record. Fed. Power Comm'n v. Transcon. Gas Pipe Line Corp., 423 U.S. 326, 331, 96 S.Ct. 579, 46 L.Ed.2d 533 (1976). While courts are obligated to give the administrative record a searching, in-depth review, South Dakota v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 423 F.3d 790, 799 (8th Cir.2005), this obligation does not require courts to excuse or remedy a party's failure to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See O'Toole v. Olathe Unified Sch. Dist., 144 F.3d 692, 709 (10th Cir.1998) (although statute required court to conduct modified de novo review of administrative record, district court properly enforced local rule that required motions for summary judgment to “identify disputed facts and provide citations to the record in support thereof.”).

Defendants complied with Local Rule 56.1 by filing a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 8–1) along with their Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff complied with Local Rule 56.1 in form only by filing a two-page document entitled County's Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 12). Defendants responded in compliance with Local Rule 56.1, by filing Defendants' Response to Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 15), noting, not inappropriately, that ten of the eleven sentences constituting County's Statement of Material Facts were disputed legal conclusions and not factual statements.

By way of illustration, Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts contains conclusory legal arguments such as Section 5 of the IRA is unconstitutional” and [o]ne of the Agency decision makers was biased.” (Doc. 12). Of the eleven sentences in Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts, only five include citations to the record, and those citations generally are to the first page of either a decision by a BIA official or a brief by Plaintiff or the State of South Dakota. Id. Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts asserts that [t]he County was denied an opportunity to review evidence and present evidence in response before the Acting Regional Director or the Interior Board of Indian Appeals made the decision.” (Doc. 12). Rather then following this statement with citations to documents Plaintiff claims they are missing, Plaintiff cites to the first page of the Superintendent's decision, the first page of the Regional Director's decision, and the first page of the Interior Board of Indian Appeal's decision.

Plaintiff also filed a Brief in Support of County's Motion for Judgment and in Resistance to Federal Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 11). That brief was seven pages in length, and outlined Plaintiff's arguments in a very conclusory manner without directing the Court to specific facts to support Plaintiff's assertions. Of course, a party moving for, or opposing, summary judgment must support their assertions by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record ...” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(a) (emphasis added). Plaintiff has not complied with this requirement.

A Court has no obligation to sift through the administrative record hunting for arguments and evidence to support a party's general assertions. See Rodgers v. City of Des Moines, 435 F.3d 904, 908 (8th Cir.2006) (“Without some guidance, we will not mine a summary judgment record searching for nuggets of factual dispute to gild a party's arguments.”); see also Thomas v. Halter, 131 F.Supp.2d 942, 945 (E.D.Mich.2001) (Plaintiff should not expect the Court to search the ALJ's ruling in support of Plaintiff's argument; i.e., he should not anticipate that the Court will do what he could and should have done for himself.”); Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n v. Burford, 677 F.Supp. 1445, 1462 (D.Mont.1985) (explaining that in case where party challenged decision of Secretary of the Interior under APA, [t]he Court will not sift through the record and search out [facts supporting the plaintiffs' claims] on the basis of generalized allegations made by plaintiffs that are not supported by references to the record.”). Thus, if Plaintiff fails to properly explain a claim and provide adequate citation to support it, this Court will neither make Plaintiff's argument for it nor attempt to guess which portions of the administrative record Plaintiff might be relying on. See Barge v. Anheuser–Busch, Inc., 87 F.3d 256, 260 (8th Cir.1996) (“A district court is not required to speculate on which portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it obligated to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim.”) (citing White v. McDonnell Douglas Corp., 904 F.2d 456, 458 (8th Cir.1990)). Instead, the Court draws the facts from portions of the administrative record to which the parties direct the Court through Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (Doc. 8–1) and Plaintiff's Response (Doc. 13), while being mindful of documents referenced generally by Plaintiff.

B. Facts Not Subject to Genuine Dispute

On March 1, 2004, the Business and Claims Committee (“Committee”) of the Yankton Sioux Tribe (Tribe) enacted a resolution requesting that the BIA accept a 39–acre parcel of land into trust for the Tribe. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13). The parcel of land is located in Charles Mix County, is across the road from the Tribe's casino, and is known as the Travel Plaza. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13). In its resolution, the Committee stated that it was responsible for providing economic development for the Tribe and its members, that the Tribe currently had a gas station and a convenience store on the Travel Plaza, and that the use of the Travel Plaza would remain the same should the BIA take the property into trust. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13).

On March 19, 2004, the BIA Yankton Superintendent (“Superintendent”) notified Plaintiff, the State of South Dakota, White Swan Township, and the Wagner Community School District that the BIA had received the Tribe's trust application and was considering it. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13; A.R. 2638–50). Plaintiff and the State each provided comments to the Superintendent opposing the trust acquisition. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13).

On August 26, 2004, the Superintendent issued a decision letter approving the acceptance of the Travel Plaza parcel into trust for the Tribe. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13). Plaintiff and the State appealed the Superintendent's decision to the Regional Director (“RD”). (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13). The RD affirmed the trust acquisition on May 22, 2007. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13). Plaintiff and the State then appealed the matter to the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (“IBIA”). (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13). On April 30, 2009, the IBIA affirmed the RD's decision. (Doc. 8–1, Doc. 13).

Plaintiff now contends that the trust acquisition was unlawful for a number of reasons. First, Plaintiff challenges the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Indian Reorganization Act (“IRA”), which provides the Secretary of the Interior with the authority to acquire trust land for Indian tribes. Plaintiff claims that Section 5 is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, that it operates to deprive Plaintiff of a republican form of government, and that Section 5 violates both the Tenth and Fourteenth Amendments. Second, Plaintiff argues that the Committee exceeded its authority by passing the resolution requesting that the BIA take the Travel Plaza into trust. Third, Plaintiff argues that its due process rights were violated because one of the BIA employees was biased and because Plaintiff was neither allowed to review the evidence put before the decision-maker nor to present evidence in response. Finally, Plaintiff argues that the BIA's decision to take the Travel Plaza into trust was arbitrary and capricious and therefore should be set aside under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”).

III. DISCUSSIONA. Summary Judgment Standard

Both Plaintiff and Defendants have filed motions for...

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  • Cnty. of Charles Mix v. United States Dep't of the Interior
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Dakota
    • March 31, 2011
    ...799 F.Supp.2d 1027COUNTY OF CHARLES MIX, Plaintiffs,v.UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF the INTERIOR, Larry Echo Hawk, in his official capacity as Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, Michael Black, in his official capacity as Regional Director, Great Plains Region, Ben Kitto, in his official c......

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