State ex rel. Coll v. Johnson

Decision Date10 September 1999
Docket NumberNo. 24,884.,24,884.
Citation128 N.M. 154,990 P.2d 1277
PartiesSTATE of New Mexico, ex rel., Max COLL, David Parsons, Jerry Lee Alwin, Mimi Stewart, Judith McDaniel, Guy Clark, Martha Cole, Scholastic, Inc., and Dulaney Barrett, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Gary E. JOHNSON, Governor of the State of New Mexico, Defendant-Appellant, and Michael A. Montoya, State Treasurer, Patricia A. Madrid, Attorney General, John J. Chavez, Secretary, Taxation and Revenue Department, the State Gaming Representative, and the Gaming Control Board and its members, Defendants.
CourtNew Mexico Supreme Court

David E. McCumber, Santa Fe, for Appellant.

Victor R. Marshall & Associates, P.C., Victor R. Marshall, Albuquerque, for Appellees.

Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom, Cron & Schoenburg, L.L.P., Richard W. Hughes, Santa Fe, for Amicus Curiae Pueblo of Santa Ana.

Rosenfelt, Barlow & Borg, P.A., Sarah W. Barlow, Albuquerque, for Amicus Curiae Pueblo of Taos.

Joseph D. Little, Santa Fe, for Amicus Curiae Pueblo of Pojoaque.

Stetson Law Offices, P.C., Catherine B. Stetson, Albuquerque, for Amicus Curiae Pueblo of Tesuque.

Williams, Janov & Cooney, P.C., Gwenellen P. Janov, Albuquerque, for Amicus Curiae Pueblo of San Felipe.

Fermin A. Rubio, Las Cruces, for Amicus Curiae City of Las Cruces.

OPINION

FRANCHINI, Justice.

{1} The plaintiffs in this case are four members of the New Mexico House of Representatives, five private citizens, and a non-profit corporation (Plaintiffs). Plaintiffs filed this action in district court, attacking the legality of legislation authorizing Indian gaming in New Mexico. See NMSA 1978, §§ 11-13-1 and 11-13-2 (1997) ("HB 399"). We hold that the matter must be dismissed because the Plaintiffs cannot join certain indispensable parties, namely the various Tribes and Pueblos that have gaming compacts with the state. We also reverse the district court's grant of standing to Plaintiffs under the great public importance doctrine, and hold that mandamus is not proper in the circumstances of this case.

PROCEDURAL POSTURE

{2} Following an interlocutory appeal that was certified to this Court by the Court of Appeals, we remanded to the district court to allow Plaintiffs to amend their complaint. Our instructions on remand also directed the district court to develop a record and enter rulings on the following matters:

(a) Those issues that can be litigated without the necessity of joining additional persons or entities as parties under Rule 1-019 NMRA 1998.
(b) Whether or not [P]laintiffs have standing to litigate the allegations made in the first amended complaint; and
(c) If relevant, whether or not [P]laintiffs have suffered actual injury or harm.

On remand, Plaintiffs indeed filed an amended complaint, adding several plaintiffs and defendants and styling their new pleading a "Petition for Writ" instead of the former "Complaint For Injunctive and Declaratory Relief." Plaintiffs did not attempt to join as defendants the various Tribes and Pueblos that have gaming compacts with the state.

{3} Following expedited discovery, Governor Johnson and other Defendants moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' amended complaint on the grounds that Plaintiffs did not have standing and had failed to join indispensable parties. After a hearing, the district court denied the motions to dismiss for failure to join indispensable parties, finding that "some of the relief sought" by Plaintiffs in their amended complaint "may be granted without joining additional parties." The district court also denied the motions to dismiss for lack of standing. Although the district court determined that "Plaintiffs do not have standing to bring this action based upon their status as state legislators" and further ruled that neither the legislators nor any of the other Plaintiffs "have standing based upon direct and personal harm," the court nevertheless concluded:

[P]laintiffs do have standing to bring this action because it is a matter of great public importance. The court finds that this matter involves an issue of great public importance, and therefore grants standing on that ground alone.

The matter having been returned to this Court, we reach different conclusions than the district court on the necessity of additional parties and the propriety of granting standing based solely on the great public importance doctrine.

DISCUSSION

{4} We first address the issue of whether the Tribes and Pueblos that have gaming compacts with the state are indispensable parties to this action. The legal concept of indispensable parties is based on recognition of the fact that in some cases a particular person or entity cannot be joined in the suit. In this case, for instance, Plaintiffs do not dispute that the Tribes and Pueblos are entitled to sovereign immunity and may not be sued in state court without their consent. See Srader v. Verant, 1998-NMSC-025, ¶ 29, 125 N.M. 521, 964 P.2d 82 ("As sovereigns, Indian tribes are immune from suit absent Congressional authorization or an effective waiver in tribal, state, or federal court."). The purpose of a district court's inquiry into whether a person or entity is an indispensable party is to determine whether, "in equity and good conscience[,] the action should proceed among the parties before it, or should be dismissed, the absent person [or entity] being thus regarded as indispensable." Rule 1-019(B) NMRA 1999.

{5} Rule 1-019(B) sets out four nonexclusive factors to be considered in determining whether or not an entity is an indispensable party:

first, to what extent a judgment rendered in the [entity]'s absence might be prejudicial to [it] or those already parties second, the extent to which, by protective provisions in the judgment, by the shaping of relief, or other measures, the prejudice can be lessened or avoided;
third, whether a judgment rendered in the [entity]'s absence will be adequate; [and]
fourth, whether the plaintiff will have an adequate remedy if the action is dismissed for nonjoinder.

(Paragraph form and hanging indentation added for clarity.) "In reviewing a district court's Rule 1-019 decision, this Court considers whether the district court abused its discretion." Srader, 1998-NMSC-025, ¶ 21, 125 N.M. 521, 964 P.2d 82. However, "controlling precedent in this jurisdiction significantly cabins a district court's discretion under certain circumstances." Pueblo of Sandia v. Babbitt, 47 F.Supp.2d 49, 52 (D.D.C.1999).

{6} Apparently focusing on the second Rule 1-019(B) factor, shaping of relief, the district court opined that "some of the relief sought" by Plaintiffs "may be granted without joining additional parties," namely the Tribes and Pueblos. However, the court did not specify what shape that relief might take or on which of Plaintiffs' claims it could be granted. Instead, the district court simply denied Defendants' motions to dismiss in their entirety. After a careful review of the Plaintiffs' amended complaint and all four Rule 1-019(B) factors, a review that is informed by our recent precedent on the issue of indispensable parties in Indian gaming cases, we reverse the district court's denial of the motions to dismiss for failure to join indispensable parties.

Part One: Rule 1-019(B) and Srader v. Verant

{7} Plaintiffs seek in this action a determination "that the current compacts executed by the Governor are without legal effect and that no gaming compacts exist between the Tribes and Pueblos and the State of New Mexico." Clearly, the effect of such a judgment from this Court would be deeply prejudicial to the gaming Tribes and Pueblos, resulting in the very real possibility that their gambling operations could be shut down. See Pueblo of Santa Ana v. Kelly, 932 F.Supp. 1284, 1290-91 (D.N.M.1996) (noting the U.S. Attorney's warning that continuation of gaming activities in the absence of a valid compact would subject the Tribes and Pueblos to federal criminal sanctions and forfeiture of their gaming devices); aff'd 104 F.3d 1546, 1559 (10th Cir.1997). Hence, the first factor in our Rule-1-019(B) analysis suggests that dismissal is appropriate. See Srader, 1998-NMSC-025, ¶ 31, 125 N.M. 521, 964 P.2d 82.

{8} With regard to Rule 1-019(B)'s second factor, inasmuch as a halt to Indian gaming is the object of this litigation, no protective provisions can be crafted to insulate the Tribes or Pueblos from the effects of an adverse judgment. Cf. Srader, 1998-NMSC-025, ¶ 32, 125 N.M. 521, 964 P.2d 82. (discerning no possible way to lessen or avoid prejudice under Rule 1-019(B) when "the tribes are directly involved in the commercial transactions that the litigation seeks to halt").

{9} Under the third and fourth factors of analysis under Rule 1-019(B), as we determined in Srader, "the adequacy of remedy remaining for the [p]laintiffs in the event of dismissal provides no basis for permitting this case to proceed without the tribes." Id. ¶ 33. In Srader, we stated: "As a matter of public policy, the public interest in protecting tribal sovereign immunity surpasses a plaintiff[']s interest in having an available forum for suit." Id. We reaffirm that holding today with respect to the plaintiffs in this case and their particular claims, as we discuss more fully below.

Part Two: Mandamus and State ex rel. Clark v. Johnson

{10} Plaintiffs argue that this case is controlled not by Rule 1-019(B) or the public policy articulated in Srader regarding tribal sovereign immunity, but by State ex rel. Clark v. Johnson, 120 N.M. 562, 904 P.2d 11 (1995). In Johnson, this Court issued a writ of mandamus that declared the original, pre-HB 399 compacts between the Governor and certain tribes and pueblos to be without legal effect. 120 N.M. at 578,904 P.2d at 27. We did so in spite of the writ's obvious effect on then-incipient Indian gaming because the Governor's unilateral act of binding the state to the terms of the compacts, without legislative authorization or ratification, was both patently...

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