Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak & Salazar v. Patchak

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Standing
  • Date Filed: June 18, 2012
  • Case #: 11-246
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kagan, J. delivered the Court's opinion, which Roberts, C.J., and Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Breyer, Alito, and Ginsburg, J.J., joined. Sotomayor, J. filed a dissenting opinion.
  • Full Text Opinion

The United States waived sovereign immunity under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it took land in trust for tribal use, and the Quiet Title Act (QTA) does not provide an exception for a suit that does not seek title of the land. Further, because the Indian Reorganization Act addresses land use, Respondent’s claims are entitled to prudential standing because they are within the Act’s “zone of interest.”

In 2009 the Secretary of the Interior acquired land in trust under 25 U.S.C. § 465 of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) so that Petitioner could establish a gaming facility. Respondent filed suit under the APA claiming that § 465 does not authorize federal acquisition because Petitioner was not a federally recognized tribe when the IRA was enacted. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that Respondent had standing because his interests were within the scope of the prudential “zone of interest.” Further, they held the Quiet Title Act ("QTA") did not provide an exception to federal immunity waiver.

The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the APA waives the government’s sovereign immunity unless some other statute “expressly or impliedly forbids” the relief sought. The QTA does not provide such an exception because the suit is not a quiet title action. The Court rejected the Petitioner's arguments that the QTA speaks broadly because the statutory language prevents such a construction. Likewise, the Court rejected Petitioner’s arguments that the QTA’s provision for adverse claimants’ suits created a negative implication preventing non-adverse claimants from suing because Respondent is seeking a different relief than what the QTA allows. Further, the Court stated that concerns related to allowing challenges to federal trust acquisitions are for congress to address. Finally, the Court held that Respondent’s land use claims are within the “zone of interest” for prudential standing because the context of § 465 discusses development of tribal economic life and neighbors living near the land would “reasonably” fall within that zone of interest.

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