Lower Brule Sioux Tribe v. Haaland

Decision Date12 September 2022
Docket Number3:21-CV-03018-RAL
PartiesLOWER BRULE SIOUX TRIBE, A FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED INDIAN TRIBE; Plaintiff, v. HON. DEB HAALAND, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, OR HER SUCCESSOR IN OFFICE; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, BRYAN NEWLAND, ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR FOR INDIAN AFFAIRS, OR HIS SUCCESSOR IN THE OFFICE; DARRYL LACOUNTE, DIRECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS; UNITED STATES BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS, KRISSANNE STEVENS, OR HER SUCCESSOR, AWARDING OFFICIAL FOR THE BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS GREAT PLAINS REGION; AND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

ROBERTO A. LANGE, CHIEF JUDGE

The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe (“the Tribe”) entered into a self-determination contract under the Tribally Controlled Schools Act (“TCSA”) with the federal government, in which the Tribe received federal funds to operate tribal schools that otherwise would have been operated by the federal government. Doc. 1 at 1-2. The Tribe brought this Complaint against the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Department of Interior (DOI), and its representatives Deb Haaland Bryan Newland, Darryl LaCounte, and Krissane Stevens (collectively Defendants), seeking to enjoin Defendants from collecting debt incurred by the Tribe and entering declaratory judgment relief. Doc. 1. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, Doc. 9, which this Court grants in part.

I. Facts, Procedural History and Legal Context of Claims
A. The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (“ISDEAA”), the Contract Disputes Act (“CDA”), and the TCSA

Congress passed the ISDEAA in 1975 to allow Indian tribes to assume control of federally administered educational and social programs. 25 U.S.C. § 5302; Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Luian, 112 F.3d 1455, 1456 (10th Cir. 1997); see also Stathis v. Marty Indian Sch. Bd. Inc., 560 F.Supp.3d 1283, 1298 (D.S.D. 2021) (Congress has made clear that having Native American communities and tribes control the education of their children promotes [tribal self-determination and cultural autonomy].”). Congress enacted the ISDEAA to encourage Indian self determination and tribal control over administration of federal programs for the benefit of Indians, by authorizing self-determination contracts between the United States, through the Secretaries of the Interior and of Health and Human Services, and Indian tribes.” Demontiney v. United States ex rel. Dep't of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affs., 255 F.3d 801, 806 (9th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted). Pursuant to these contracts, “Secretaries [of the Interior and of Health and Human Services] are required to transfer resources and control of those programs to the tribe.” Ramah Navajo Chapter, 112 F.3d at 1456.

“In 1988, Congress amended the ISDEAA to waive federal sovereign immunity in federal district court for certain contract claims” brought by tribes under the statute. Demontiney, 255 F.3d at 806. The ISDEAA Amendments provide:

The United States district courts shall have original jurisdiction over any civil action or claim against the appropriate Secretary arising under this chapter and, subject to the provisions of [25 U.S.C. § 5331(d)] and concurrent with the United States Court of Claims, over any civil action or claim against the Secretary for money damages arising under contracts authorized by this chapter. In an action brought under this paragraph, the district courts may order appropriate relief including money damages, injunctive relief against any action by an officer of the United States or any agency thereof contrary to this chapter or regulations promulgated thereunder, or mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States, or any agency thereof, to perform a duty provided under this chapter or regulations promulgated hereunder (including immediate injunctive relief to reverse a declination finding under section 5321(a)(2) of this title or to compel the Secretary to award and fund an approved self-determination contract).

25 U.S.C. § 5331(a) (emphasis added). In turn, § 5331(d) incorporates the CDA to claims brought under the ISDEAA. See § 5331(d) (stating Chapter 71 of Title 41 shall apply to self-determination contracts” brought under this chapter). In short, both the ISDEAA and the CDA govern disputes between the federal government and a tribe arising under the ISDEAA. See Swinomish Indian Tribal Cmty v. Azar, 406 F.Supp.3d 18, 24 (D.D.C. 2019) (holding the CDA and ISDEAA gave a federal district court subject matter jurisdiction over a claim brought by a tribe against the federal government arising from a self-determination contract).

Like the ISDEAA, “the CDA is a statute waiving sovereign immunity.” M. Maropakis Carpentry, Inc, v. United States, 609 F.3d 1323, 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). The CDA governs disputes arising from an express or implied contract between an executive agency of the federal government and the contracting party. 41 U.S.C. § 7102. Congress enacted the CDA [in 1978] to provide a fair, balanced, and comprehensive statutory system of legal and administrative remedies in resolving government contract claims.” Montano Elec. Contractor v. United States, 114 Fed.Cl. 675, 680 (2014) (cleaned up and citation omitted). In relevant part, the CDA provides the following avenues for appealing a federal agency's decision concerning a contracting party, such as a tribal recipient of a self-determination contract:

(a) Appeal to agency board.-A contractor, within 90 days from the date of receipt of a contracting officer's decision under section 7103 of this title, may appeal the decision to an agency board as provided in section 7105 of this title [to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (“CBCA”)].
(b) Bringing an action de novo in Federal Court.-
(1) In general. ... in lieu of appealing the decision of a contracting officer under section 7103 of this title to an agency board, a contractor may bring an action directly on the claim in the United States Court of Federal Claims, notwithstanding any contract provision, regulation, or rule of law to the contrary....
(3) Time for filing.-A contractor shall file any action under paragraph (1). . . within 12 months from the date of receipt of a contracting officer's decision under section 7103 of this title.

41 U.S.C. § 7104 (a)-(b) (emphasis added). Because the ISDEAA incorporates the CD A, a federal district court has concurrent jurisdiction with the United States Court of Federal Claims over a claim arising from the ISDEAA to decide a claim “within 12 months from the date of receipt of a contracting officer's decision.” 41 U.S.C. § 7104(b); see also Demontiney, 255 F.3d at 806 (holding that § 5331(a), (d) of the ISDEAA grant a federal district court concurrent jurisdiction [with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims] over suits against the federal government for contract claims arising under ‘self-determination contracts' as defined by the ISDEAA”).

The Code of Federal Regulations summarizes a tribal grant recipient's appeal rights succinctly: “You may appeal [a final] decision [under the ISDEAA] to the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA). . . within 90 days from the date you receive [the final] decision. . . . Instead of appealing to the CBCA, you may bring an action in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims or in the United States District Court within 12 months of the date you receive” notice of the final decision. 25 C.F.R. § 900.222 (emphasis added). Ari appeal must be timely commenced under the CDA as incorporated by the ISDEAA, otherwise a “contracting officer's decision on a claim is final and conclusive and is not subject to review by any forum, tribunal, or Federal Government agency, unless an appeal or action is timely commenced as authorized by this chapter.” 41 U.S.C. § 7103(g).

In 1988, the same year the ISDEAA was amended to incorporate the CDA, Congress enacted the TCSA, which “requires the Secretary of the Interior to award grants to Indian tribes or tribal organizations to operate schools on their reservations if requested by a tribe.” Shiprock Associated Sch., Inc, v. United States, 934 F.Supp.2d 1311, 1313 (D.N.M. 2013); 25 U.S.C. § 2501. Like the ISDEAA, the TCSA was enacted “to assure maximum Indian participation in the direction of educational services.” 25 U.S.C. § 2501; Stathis, 560 F.Supp.3d at 1298 (citation omitted). A tribal grant recipient under the TCSA is authorized to use federal funds to operate tribal schools in compliance with the provisions of the statute. 25 U.S.C. § 2502.

The TCSA requires a tribal grant recipient to complete an annual report and financial audit pursuant to the Single Audit Act of 1984 on the tribe's use of federal funds, which the BIA reviews to ensure the tribe's compliance with the provisions of the TCSA. 25 U.S.C. § 2505(b). The tribal grant recipient must submit the annual report and financial audit to the tribal governing body of the tribally controlled school. 25 U.S.C. § 2505(b)(4)(A). Further, the tribal grant recipient “shall send a copy of the report to the Secretary [of the Interior] (“the Secretary”) within thirty days of “receiving written confirmation that the tribal governing body has received the report.” 25 U.S.C. § 2505(b)(4)(B).

Upon reviewing the annual report and financial audit, if the Secretary determines that the tribal school has not complied with the TCSA and the federal government should resume control of the tribal school, the Secretary must:

(A) provide [] notice to the tribally controlled school and the tribal governing body ... of the tribally controlled school which states- (i)the specific deficiencies that led to the
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