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Skokomish Indian Tribe v. United States

Citation: 33 ELR 20210
No. Nos. 01-35028, -35845, (9th Cir., 06/03/2003) Impermissible collateral attack

The court affirms in part and vacates in part a district court decision dismissing a Native American tribe's claims against a public utility, the United States, and a city that owned a hydroelectric project. The tribe claimed that the project interfered with rights under the treaty that created the tribe's reservation. The tribe did not explicitly challenge the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) order licensing the project, but instead artfully pleaded claims based on the treaty. However, the tribe's claims ask the court to find that the operation of the licensed project damages the tribe, which requires the court to conclude that FERC erred when it issued the license and found that it would not interfere with the reservation. Such claims are impermissible collateral attacks on FERC’s licensing order, and the district court should have dismissed these claims. Instead, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the city. Because the claims are impermissible, the district court lacked jurisdiction. Thus, the district court summary judgment order was vacated and remanded in order to dismiss the claims. Nevertheless, the district court properly denied the tribe's recusal motion, properly granted summary judgment on the tribe's aggregated state-law claims, and properly dismissed the United States as a defendant because the Federal Power Act bars such a suit.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 27 ELR 21418.]

Counsel for Appellants
Mason D. Morisset
Morisset, Schlosser, Ayer & Jozwiak
1325 Second Ave., Ste. 1350, Seattle WA 98101
(206) 386-7755

Counsel for Appellees
Phillip H. Lynch, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
1201 Pacific Ave., Ste. 400, Tacoma WA 98402
(253) 593-6316