Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, No. 91-1029

CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
Writing for the CourtBefore SELYA and CYR, Circuit Judges, and COFFIN; SELYA
Citation934 F.2d 4
Decision Date08 May 1991
Docket NumberNo. 91-1029
PartiesNARRAGANSETT INDIAN TRIBE, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Paul E. GUILBERT, Defendant, Appellee. . Heard

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934 F.2d 4
NARRAGANSETT INDIAN TRIBE, et al., Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
Paul E. GUILBERT, Defendant, Appellee.
No. 91-1029.
United States Court of Appeals,
First Circuit.
Heard May 8, 1991.
Decided May 30, 1991.

John F. Killoy, Jr., Wakefield, for appellants.

Bruce N. Goodsell, Westerly, for appellee.

Before SELYA and CYR, Circuit Judges, and COFFIN, Senior Circuit Judge.

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

This is a civil action commenced by the Narragansett Indian tribe and certain members thereof, as class representatives, to protect tribal rights and property from threatened despoliation. The Tribe itself is

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federally acknowledged, 48 Fed.Reg. 6177-78 (1983), and constitutes a recognized tribe within the purview of 25 C.F.R. Sec. 83.9(h) (1990). For convenience, we refer to the plaintiffs, collectively, as the Tribe.

I.

Background

The Narragansett Indians have inhabited lands within Rhode Island since time immemorial. Through the negotiated settlement of certain disputes, culminating in a Joint Memorandum of Understanding (JMU) signed in 1978, and the subsequent passage of federal and state statutes, see 25 U.S.C. Secs. 1701-1716 (1983); R.I.Gen.Laws Secs. 37-18-1 to 37-18-15 (1990), the Tribe acquired approximately eighteen hundred acres of real estate in or around 1979. The land is not contiguous but lies entirely within the municipal boundaries of Charlestown, Rhode Island. The land comprises what is known colloquially as the Narragansett Indian Reservation.

Defendant-appellee Paul E. Guilbert owns a parcel of land in Charlestown, the dimensions of which are roughly one hundred fifty feet by two hundred forty feet. He purchased the lot from a Narragansett Indian. It is zoned single-family residential. Guilbert wishes to build a house on it. He has received all state and local permits necessary for the planned construction.

The Tribe filed its complaint against Guilbert in federal district court on December 6, 1990, alleging that his property encroaches on the Reservation in various ways and seeking to enjoin the work. At that time, construction was already underway; Guilbert had cleared the site, laid the foundation, installed the septic system, and was about to place a modular home on the foundation. The district court granted an ex parte temporary restraining order and scheduled a prompt hearing on preliminary injunction. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. When the hearing concluded, the court ruled from the bench, denying the preliminary injunction and vacating the temporary restraining order. This appeal followed.

II.

The Preliminary Injunction Standard

To determine the appropriateness of granting or denying a preliminary injunction, we have instructed trial courts to use a quadripartite test, taking into account:

1. The likelihood of success on the merits;

2. The potential for irreparable injury;

3. A balancing of the relevant equities (most importantly, the hardship to the nonmovant if the restrainer issues as contrasted with the hardship to the movant if interim relief is withheld); and

4. The effect on the public interest of a grant or denial of the restrainer.

See, e.g., Aoude v. Mobil Oil Corp., 862 F.2d 890, 892 (1st Cir.1988); Hypertherm, Inc. v. Precision Products, Inc., 832 F.2d 697, 699 & n. 2 (1st Cir.1987). In turn, "[w]e scrutinize a district court's decision to grant or deny a preliminary injunction under a relatively deferential glass." Independent Oil & Chem. Workers of Quincy, Inc. v. Procter & Gamble Mfg. Co., 864 F.2d 927, 929 (1st Cir.1988). Unless a mistake of law or an abuse of discretion is made manifest, we will not disturb the ruling below. See id.; Hyde Park Partners, L.P. v. Connolly, 839 F.2d 837, 842 (1st Cir.1988); Planned Parenthood League v. Bellotti, 641 F.2d 1006, 1009 (1st Cir.1981).

It is clear from the record before us that there has been no misapprehension of the correct legal standard. In deciding not to grant interim relief, the district court had the four-part test explicitly in mind. Indeed, the court specifically rested its ruling on the first two prongs of that test, finding both that the Tribe had "no reasonable probability of succeeding on the merits on the attempt to prevent the defendant from building on the lot" and that continued construction on Guilbert's property would be unlikely to cause irreparable harm pendente lite. The proper rule of law having been applied, "[t]he only real question is whether the district court misused his discretion in evaluating the circumstances and

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calibrating the scales." Procter & Gamble, 864 F.2d at 929.

III.

Likelihood of Success

Our analysis begins with probability of success, as we have often found this furcula to be critical. See, e.g., Public Service Co. v. West Newbury, 835 F.2d 380, 383 (1st Cir.1987); Lancor v. Lebanon Housing Auth., 760 F.2d 361, 362 (1st Cir.1985). We preface our observations by noting that a court's conclusions as to the merits of the issues presented on preliminary injunction are to be understood as statements of probable outcomes. See, e.g., Jimenez Fuentes v. Torres Gaztambide, 807 F.2d 236, 238 (1st Cir.1986) (en banc), cert. denied, 481 U.S. 1014, 107 S.Ct. 1888, 95 L.Ed.2d 496 (1987); Bellotti, 641 F.2d at 1009. Thus, a party losing the battle on likelihood of success may nonetheless win the war at a succeeding trial on the merits.

To the extent that the plaintiffs' claims are based on their assertion that defendant's land is within, or abuts upon, the Reservation, we can extend no succor to them. For one thing, the district court, although recognizing certain ambiguities as to the boundaries of the area ceded to the Tribe, found as fact that Guilbert's lot was outside the perimeters of the Reservation and that any aboriginal claims to the land had been extinguished by the settlement. For another thing, neither the relevant exhibit attached to the JMU nor the town assessor's map corroborates the appellants' claim. 1 Lastly, appellants' counsel conceded in this court that he could not yet...

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197 practice notes
  • Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. v. Busey, Nos. 92-1335
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 7, 1995
    ...of law, is for abuse of discretion. Sunshine Dev., Inc. v. FDIC, 33 F.3d 106, 111 (1st Cir.1994); Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 5 (1st Regarding our review of the district court's assessment of the record on which agency action was based, we have taken "a practical appr......
  • Silva v. University of New Hampshire, Civ. No. 93-533-SD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • September 15, 1994
    ...the restrainer issues as contrasted with the hardship to the movant if interim relief is withheld," Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 5 (1st Cir. 1991); and (4) the effect on the public interest of a grant or denial of the Gately v. Commonwealth of Mass., 2 F.3d 1221, 1224 ......
  • Conservation Law Found. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, Civil No. 19-cv-868-JL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • October 6, 2019
    ...injunctive relief, and it "cannot be woven from the gossamer threads of speculation and surmise." Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 6 (1st Cir. 1991). Indeed, "[t]he sine qua non of [the] four-part inquiry is likelihood of success on the merits: if the moving party cannot d......
  • Northwest Bypass v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Civil No. 06-CV-00258-JAW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • January 5, 2007
    ...of the test, "a court's conclusions . . . are to be understood as statements of probable outcomes." Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 6 (1st Cir.1991). To satisfy this prong of the preliminary injunction test, Plaintiffs must show that they are likely to succeed in showing ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
198 cases
  • Conservation Law Foundation, Inc. v. Busey, Nos. 92-1335
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • June 7, 1995
    ...of law, is for abuse of discretion. Sunshine Dev., Inc. v. FDIC, 33 F.3d 106, 111 (1st Cir.1994); Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 5 (1st Regarding our review of the district court's assessment of the record on which agency action was based, we have taken "a practical appr......
  • Silva v. University of New Hampshire, Civ. No. 93-533-SD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • September 15, 1994
    ...the restrainer issues as contrasted with the hardship to the movant if interim relief is withheld," Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 5 (1st Cir. 1991); and (4) the effect on the public interest of a grant or denial of the Gately v. Commonwealth of Mass., 2 F.3d 1221, 1224 ......
  • Conservation Law Found. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, Civil No. 19-cv-868-JL
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • October 6, 2019
    ...injunctive relief, and it "cannot be woven from the gossamer threads of speculation and surmise." Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 6 (1st Cir. 1991). Indeed, "[t]he sine qua non of [the] four-part inquiry is likelihood of success on the merits: if the moving party cannot d......
  • Northwest Bypass v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Civil No. 06-CV-00258-JAW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of New Hampshire
    • January 5, 2007
    ...of the test, "a court's conclusions . . . are to be understood as statements of probable outcomes." Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Guilbert, 934 F.2d 4, 6 (1st Cir.1991). To satisfy this prong of the preliminary injunction test, Plaintiffs must show that they are likely to succeed in showing ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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