Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Anderson v. Babbitt

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20239
Nos. No. 98-36150, 230 F.3d 1158/(9th Cir., 10/30/2000)

The court holds that the exhaustion requirements of 43 C.F.R. §4.21(c) do not bar a district court from considering a colorable due process challenge to the procedures followed by the administrative law judge (ALJ) and the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) in a pending Indian probate proceeding, but nevertheless affirms the dismissal of a woman's due process complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The case arose after the daughter of a deceased Native American moved to deny a creditor's claim from the deceased's estate and to set aside the will. The ALJ treated both motions as motions for summary judgment and denied them both. The IBIA then affirmed the ALJ's denial insofar as her motions sought to set aside the deceased's will in advance of a hearing. The daughter appealed, arguing that the IBIA violated her constitutional right to due process by failing to follow mandatory procedures in affirming the denial of her motion for summary judgment. The district court dismissed her complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or, in the alternative, failure to state a claim.

The court first holds that the exhaustion requirements of 43 C.F.R. §4.21(c) do not bar the filing of a colorable due process claim in federal court regarding pending Indian probate proceedings. The regulation does not contain sweeping and direct statutory language that goes beyond a requirement that only exhausted claims be brought. The court next holds that a plaintiff may bring a constitutional claim without first exhausting her administrative remedies if the constitutional claim is collateral to a substantive claim of entitlement, colorable, and one whose resolution would not serve the purposes of exhaustion. Applying these factors to the instant case, the court then holds that the daughter's due process claim is not excepted from the exhaustion requirements. Her claim that the IBIA failed to follow regulations in affirming the ALJ's denial of her motion for summary judgment is clearly collateral to her substantive claim of entitlement to her father's estate. Nevertheless, she failed to make a showing of a colorable constitutional claim and failed to demonstrate that further proceedings would be objectively futile. Last, the court holds that the daughter failed to demonstrate that the IBIA's actions constituted a failure to act sufficient to confer jurisdiction under 5 U.S.C. §706.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (11 pp., ELR Order No. L-290).

Counsel for Plaintiff
David B. Knodel
Law Offices of David B. Knodel
3419 Pacific Ave., Tacoma WA 98418
(253) 471-8721

Counsel for Defendant
Mark Chutkow, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
3600 Sea-First Plaza Bldg.
800 5th Ave., Rm. 3601, Seattle WA 98104
(206) 553-7970