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United States v. Tacoma, City of

Citation: 33 ELR 20211
No. No. 00-35070, (9th Cir., 06/04/2003)

The court holds that a city's condemnation of five allotments of Native American lands in 1920 and the subsequent transfer of those lands to a hydroelectric power project were invalid. Under 25 U.S.C. §357, lands allotted in severalty to Native Americans may be condemned for any public purpose under state law in the same manner as land owned in fee may be condemned. However, for patents in fee with restraints on alienation, an alienation of a Native American's interest in the lands by judicial decision has no binding effect if the United States is not a party, and in such a case, the United States may sue to cancel the judgment and set aside the conveyance. Moreover, state courts lack jurisdiction under 25 U.S.C. §357. Here, the United States held interests in all five allotments at issue, but the United States was not a party to the condemnation action and the condemnation action took place in a state court. Therefore, the state court lacked jurisdiction over the condemnation action and it is consequently invalid. In addition, the United States had standing to bring suit. It suffered injury to its property rights in all the allotments, a fairly traceable connection exists between this injury and the city's condemnation action, and the alleged injury would be redressed through the cancellation of the state judgment and the setting aside of the conveyances.

Counsel for Appellee
John H. Stahr
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Appellant
Kenneth C. Kieffer
Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell, Malanca, Peterson & Daheim
1201 Pacific Ave., Ste. 2100, Tacoma WA 98402
(253) 620-6500