Glendale v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Indian Law
  • Date Filed: 09-11-2012
  • Case #: 11-15631
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; Circuit Judge Nguyen; Dissent by Circuit Judge N.R. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

The Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act acreage cap applies only to land held in trust, not on total land acquisition by the tribe. Second, the phrase "within the corporate limits" is based on the jurisdictional nature of fee land and makes property eligible under the Act if it is on the unincorporated side of the city’s boundary line.

The Department of the Interior ("Department") decided to hold in trust a 54-acre parcel of land (known as "Parcel 2") for the benefit of the Tohono O’odham Nation (“the Nation”). The City of Glendale ("Glendale") appeals the district court's decision that the Secretary of the Interior ("Secretary") reasonably applied the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act (the "Gila Bend Act"). The Gila Bend Act allows the United States to hold land in a trust for the benefit of the Nation subject to acreage limits and restrictions regarding county lines and corporate city limits. Parcel 2 is a "county island," which is "unincorporated land surrounded entirely by lands incorporated by the municipality." Glendale argues that "Parcel 2 fell 'within the corporate limits' of the City of Glendale and was therefore ineligible for trust status under § 6(d) of the Gila Bend Act." A court will uphold the Secretary's decision so long as it is reasonable under Chevron deference. Upon analyzing the acreage cap provision of the Gila Bend Act, the Court held that "§ 6(c) creates a cap only on land held in trust for the Nation, not on total land acquisition by the tribe under the Act." The addition of the 54 acres in Parcel 2 will still be well below the 9,880 acreage cap the Nation is allowed. The second issue was "whether Parcel 2, located on a county island fully surrounded by city land, is within the City of Glendale’s corporate limits." The Court concluded that the Secretary reasonably interpreted the term "corporate limits" to make "a given piece of property eligible under the [Gila Bend] Act if it is on the unincorporated side of the city’s boundary line.” Therefore, "nothing would prevent the Secretary from holding in trust for the Nation land immediately adjacent to a city’s outermost boundary." AFFIRMED.

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