Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho v. State of Idaho

Citation42 F.3d 1244
Decision Date09 December 1994
Docket NumberNo. 92-36703,92-36703
PartiesCOEUR D'ALENE TRIBE OF IDAHO, in its own right and as the beneficially interested party subject to the trusteeship of the United States of America; Ernest L. Stensgar; Lawrence Aripa; Margaret Jose; Domnick Curley; Al Garrick; Norma Peone; Henry Sijohn, individually, in their official capacity and on behalf of all enrolled members of the Coeur D'Alene Tribe of Idaho, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. STATE OF IDAHO; Cecil D. Andrus, Governor; Pete Cenarrusa, Secretary of State; Larry Echohawk, Attorney General; J.D. Williams, Auditor; Jerry Evans, Superintendent of Public Instruction; Keith Higginson, Director, Dep't of Water Resources, each individually and in his official capacity; Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners; Idaho State Department of Water Resources, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)

Raymond C. Givens and Shannon D. Work, Givens & Funke, Coeur d'Alene, ID, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Steven W. Strack, Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, ID, for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho.

Before: WRIGHT, REAVLEY, * and LEAVY, Circuit Judges.

LEAVY, Circuit Judge:

An Indian tribe brought this action against a state, state agencies, and state officials for quiet title, injunctive relief, and declaratory relief. The district court dismissed all the claims on the grounds of Eleventh Amendment immunity and failure to state a claim. The Indian tribe appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


The Coeur d'Alene Indian Tribe (the Tribe) brought this action in federal district court in Idaho naming the State of Idaho, several state agencies (the Agencies), and several state officials (the Officials) as defendants. The Tribe claims title to all of the submerged lands within the boundaries of its reservation that were established by Executive Order on November 8, 1873, and ratified by Congress in 1891, Chapter 543 Sec. 19, 26 Stat. 989, 1026-1029 (1891), including Lake Coeur d'Alene. The Tribe alternatively claims ownership of these lands pursuant to unextinguished aboriginal title. The Tribe's claim to these lands includes a claim to the water on the land. The Tribe brought this suit to quiet title to these lands and waters in its name, and for declaratory and injunctive relief to preclude regulation or interference with possession by the Agencies and Officials.

Defendants moved to dismiss the Tribe's complaint on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The district court dismissed the Tribe's entire claim. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho v. Idaho, 798 F.Supp. 1443 (D. Idaho 1992). The court concluded that the Eleventh Amendment barred the claims against Idaho and the Agencies. Id. at 1448. The district court also concluded that the claims against the Officials for quiet title and declaratory relief were barred by the Eleventh Amendment because these claims were the functional equivalents of a damage award against the State. Id. at 1448-49. Finally, the district court dismissed the claim for injunctive relief against the Officials, holding that as a matter of law, Idaho is in rightful possession of the land at issue. Id. at 1452.

We agree that the Eleventh Amendment bars all claims against the State and the Agencies, as well as the quiet title claim against the Officials, and affirm the district court's judgment on these claims. To the extent that the claims for injunctive and declaratory relief against the Officials seek only to preclude future violations of federal law,

we conclude that these actions are not barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and reverse the district court's judgment on these claims. Because the Tribe has an arguable claim to ownership of the property at issue, we also reverse the district court's dismissal for failure to state a claim.

I. Idaho and State Agency Defendants

With limited exceptions, a state's sovereign immunity as recognized by the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution bars suit against it in federal courts. The Eleventh Amendment provides:

The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against any one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.

Although the Eleventh Amendment by its terms bars only actions brought by citizens of sister states or foreign countries, the Supreme Court "has recognized that [the Eleventh Amendment's] greater significance lies in its affirmation that the fundamental principle of sovereign immunity limits the grant of judicial authority in Art. III." Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98, 104 S.Ct. 900, 906, 79 L.Ed.2d 67 (1984) (hereinafter Pennhurst ). "[T]he Eleventh Amendment ... stand[s] not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms: that the States entered the federal system with their sovereignty intact [and] that the judicial authority in Article III is limited by this sovereignty...." Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, 779, 111 S.Ct. 2578, 2581, 115 L.Ed.2d 686 (1991) (citations omitted). A state's Eleventh Amendment immunity applies to suits in equity as well as in law, Missouri v. Fiske, 290 U.S. 18, 27, 54 S.Ct. 18, 21, 78 L.Ed. 145 (1933), and to state agencies as well as states, Florida Dep't of State v. Treasure Salvors, Inc., 458 U.S. 670, 684, 102 S.Ct. 3304, 3314, 73 L.Ed.2d 1057 (1982); Almond Hill Sch. v. United States Dep't of Agric., 768 F.2d 1030, 1034 (9th Cir.1985). This immunity can only be surrendered in the plan of convention, waived by the state, or abrogated by Congress. Almond Hill Sch., 768 F.2d at 1034-35. None of these limitations on Idaho's Eleventh Amendment immunity applies here.

A. The Plan of Convention

The plan of convention implicitly surrenders the states' immunity to certain other sovereigns when the states enter the Union. See Blatchford, 501 U.S. at 780-82, 111 S.Ct. at 2582. The Supreme Court has recognized only two sovereigns to which every state has surrendered its immunity through the plan of convention: sister states, South Dakota v. North Carolina, 192 U.S. 286, 24 S.Ct. 269, 48 L.Ed. 448 (1904), and the United States, Blatchford, 501 U.S. at 780-82, 111 S.Ct. at 2582; United States v. Texas, 143 U.S. 621, 12 S.Ct. 488, 36 L.Ed. 285 (1892).

In Blatchford, the Court held that the plan of convention does not surrender the states' immunity to Indian tribes in an action for damages. 501 U.S. at 782-84, 111 S.Ct. at 2583. The Court had previously held that because Indian tribes were not parties to the constitutional convention, the tribes could not have consented to suit in the convention. Id. at 782-84, 111 S.Ct. at 2583 (citing Oklahoma Tax Comm'n v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe, 498 U.S. 505, 111 S.Ct. 905, 112 L.Ed.2d 1112 (1991)). Because "[w]hat makes the States' surrender of immunity from suit by sister States plausible is the mutuality of that concession," id. at 782, 111 S.Ct. at 2582, the Court reasoned that the lack of mutuality of any waiver of immunity to suit by tribes necessarily led to the conclusion that the states also had not accepted such a waiver in the plan of convention. Id. at 782-84, 111 S.Ct. at 2583.

Although Blatchford involved only an action for damages, its reasoning applies equally to actions for injunctive relief, because Indian tribes are also immune from actions by states for injunctive relief. Rehner v. Rice, 678 F.2d 1340, 1351 (9th Cir.1982), rev'd on other grounds, 463 U.S. 713, 103 S.Ct. 3291, 77 L.Ed.2d 961 (1983); California v. Quechan Tribe of Indians, 595 F.2d 1153 (9th Cir.1979). It is well-established that a state's Eleventh Amendment immunity bars suits against the state and state agencies for equitable relief as well as for damages. Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 100, 104 S.Ct. at 907. If the states did not surrender their immunity from suit by tribes for damages through the plan of convention, we fail to see how they could have surrendered their immunity from suit for injunctive or declaratory relief. 1

B. Consent to Suit

A state may waive its privilege of immunity from suit. Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. v. Feeney, 495 U.S. 299, 304, 110 S.Ct. 1868, 1872, 109 L.Ed.2d 264 (1990). To waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity, a state must unequivocally express its consent to be sued. Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 99, 104 S.Ct. at 907. The Tribe claims that Idaho has waived its immunity in three ways.

First, the Tribe argues that Idaho courts have waived the state's immunity by ruling that actions against the state to quiet title are not claims against the sovereign. 2 Lyon v. State, 76 Idaho 374, 283 P.2d 1105, 1106 (1955); Roddy v. State, 65 Idaho 137, 139 P.2d 1005, 1010 (1943). In Lyon, the Idaho Supreme Court rejected the state's motion to dismiss due to common law sovereign immunity because "[t]he appellants by the proceeding [to quiet title] are asserting no claim against the sovereignty, but are attempting to retain what they allegedly own." Lyon, 283 P.2d at 1106. The Tribe concludes that Idaho and the Agencies have no Eleventh Amendment immunity in a proceeding to quiet title such as this one.

We disagree. A state's immunity from suit in state court as determined by a state court is not necessarily coextensive with Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in federal court. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 677 n. 19, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 1363 n. 19, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974) ("Whether [the state] permits such a suit to be brought against the State in its own courts is not determinative of whether [it] has relinquished its Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit in the federal courts."); Aquilar v. Kleppe, 424 F.Supp. 433, 436 (D. Alaska 1976...

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