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Fort Yates Public School District v. Murphy

United States District Court, D. North Dakota, Southwestern Division

February 4, 2014

Fort Yates Public School District #4, Plaintiff,
v.
Jamie Murphy for C.M.B. (a minor) and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court, Defendants

Page 1010

For Fort Yates Public School District #4, Plaintiff: Rachel A. Bruner-Kaufman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Gary R. Thune, PEARCE & DURICK, BISMARCK, ND.

For Jamie Murphy, for C.M.B. (a minor), Defendant: Chad Nodland, LEAD ATTORNEY, BISMARCK, ND.

For Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Amicus: Christopher G. Lindblad, LEAD ATTORNEY, Constantinos DePountis, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Fort Yates, ND.

OPINION

Ralph R. Erickson, Chief United States District Judge.

Page 1011

ORDER REMANDING CASE TO TRIBAL COURT AND DISMISSING AS MOOT DEFENDANT JAMIE MURPHY'S MOTION TO DISMISS

I. Introduction and Summary of Holding

Plaintiff Fort Yates Public School District #4 (hereafter " School District) filed a Complaint against Jamie Murphy for C.M.B. (a minor) and Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court seeking declaratory relief in the form of an Order declaring that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court lacks jurisdiction over public school districts and school district employees acting in their official capacity, and (b) an injunction prohibiting tribal court from adjudicating the claims brought against the school by Jamie Murphy on behalf of her daughter C.M.B. This Court granted the School District's motion for a temporary restraining order, and dismissed the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court under the doctrine of sovereign immunity (Doc. #8).

Pending before the Court is a motion by Defendant Jamie Murphy to dismiss this action under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(7) (Doc. #13). Murphy asserts that the action is " flawed" because she is not an appropriate party since C.M.B. was no longer a minor at the time the School District commenced this action.

The limited jurisdictional issue before this Court is whether a state political subdivision may be subjected to suit in a tribal forum when it enters into a consensual agreement with a tribe to operate a school on tribal trust land. This Court finds that Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544, 101 S.Ct. 1245, 67 L.Ed.2d 493 (1981) is inapplicable when determining the adjudicatory authority over nonmembers who consensually agree to operate and conduct business in conjunction with the tribe on tribal trust land. Even if Montana applies, the result would be the same. The " first exception" in Montana allows tribal courts to exercise jurisdiction when a nonmember has entered into a consensual relationship with a tribe or its members, through commercial dealing, contracts, leases, or other arrangements. This case fits squarely within the plain language of the exception. This case is hereby DISMISSED and remanded to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Court.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

The School District is a political subdivision of the State of North Dakota. Bismarck Public School Dist. No. 1 v. State By and Through North Dakota Legislative , 511 N.W.2d 247, 251 (N.D. 1994); See Baldwin v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Fargo, 76 N.D. 51, 33 N.W.2d 473, 481 (N.D. 1948) (North Dakota's Constitution recognizes school districts as political subdivisions). The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe (the " Tribe" ), the School District, and the State of North Dakota have entered into a " Joint Powers Agreement Between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe & Fort Yates Public School District No. 4" (hereafter

Page 1012

" Agreement" ) (Doc. #5-2). Under the Agreement, two school boards - the Fort Yates Public School District #4 and a Tribal Community School Board -operate an elementary school, middle school, and high school within the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The purpose of the Agreement is " to combine the educational, social, cultural and physical opportunities of all K-12 students attending the Standing Rock Community School" with the stated goal of improving academic achievement and maximizing student opportunities to succeed after high school. Id. Any real property or equipment purchased under the Agreement is considered joint property of the Tribe and School District, unless otherwise specified. Id. There ...


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