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Lebeau v. United States

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

February 26, 2015

CASIMIR L. LeBEAU, CLARENCE MORETENSON, RAYMOND CHARLES HANDBOY, SR., and FREDDIE LeBEAU, on behalf of themselves and all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS

KAREN E. SCHREIER, District Judge.

Plaintiffs brought suit against the United States alleging claims for breach of trust, breach of fiduciary duty, and accounting. The United States moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs resist the motion. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts, according to the complaint (Docket 1), are as follows:

In the 1940s Congress authorized the Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin Project. Under that program, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed six hydroelectric dams along the Missouri River, including the Oahe Dam. The Oahe Dam impounds Lake Oahe, which stretches from Pierre, South Dakota, to near Bismarck, North Dakota.

Construction of the dam flooded approximately 370, 000 acres of land in North Dakota and South Dakota, including 104, 420 acres of land within the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation. Roughly half of that land was owned by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and the other half was owned by individual members of the Tribe. Over 180 families-30 percent of the tribal population- were forced to leave their homes and sever the cultural and spiritual connection they had to the land.

In 1954, Congress passed an act to provide compensation to both the Tribe and individual landowners for the taking of their lands (the 1954 Act). Pub. L. No. 83-776, 68 Stat. 1191 (1954). In 2000, Congress passed the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Equitable Compensation Act (the CRSTECA). Pub. L. No. 106-511, 114 Stat. 2365 (2000). The CRSTECA recognized that the 1954 Act did not provide adequate compensation to the Tribe for the 104, 492 acres of land flooded for the Oahe Dam and Reservoir project. Consequently, Congress appropriated money for a trust fund that provided additional compensation to the Tribe.

Plaintiffs are individual members of the Tribe. Casimir LeBeau, Clarence Mortenson, and Freddie LeBeau each owned land that was taken by the United States for the Oahe Dam and Reservoir project. Raymond Handboy, Sr., is the heir of a previous owner. Plaintiffs claim the United States took their land without just compensation in violation of the trust and fiduciary duties the United States owed to them and to all other individual landowners whose land was taken. They also allege that their claims fall under the Indian Trust Accounting Statute (ITAS) and that a constructive trust exists with respect to the money that would provide just compensation for the taking of their land. Plaintiffs also claim they are entitled to an accounting. Pending is a motion to dismiss the complaint by the United States.[1]

LEGAL STANDARD

The motion to dismiss is brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and Rule 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A party challenging subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) must attack either the facial or factual basis for jurisdiction. See Osborn v. United States, 918 F.2d 724, 729 n.6 (8th Cir. 1990). An inquiry into the historical facts underlying a jurisdictional challenge based on a statute of limitations is a factual challenge, so "no presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations.'" Spirit Lake Tribe v. North Dakota, 262 F.3d 732 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Osborn, 918 F.2d at 730). The court considers matters outside the pleadings without giving the nonmoving party the benefit of the Rule 12(b)(6) safeguards and the party seeking to establish jurisdiction has the burden of proof that jurisdiction exists. Osborn, 918 F.2d at 729-30.

When reviewing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court accepts as true all factual allegations in the complaint and draws all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Freitas v. Wells Fargo Home Mortg., Inc., 703 F.3d 436, 438 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Richter v. Advance Auto Parts, Inc., 686 F.3d 847, 850 (8th Cir. 2012)). The court may consider the complaint, some materials that are part of the public record, and materials embraced by the complaint. Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp., 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

DISCUSSION

I. Statute of Limitations, Sovereign Immunity, and Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

The United States argues that this court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction based on the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the United States cannot be sued without its consent. United States v. Mitchell, 463 U.S. 206, 212 (1983) ( Mitchell II ). "When the United States consents to be sued, the terms of its wavier of sovereign immunity define the extent of the court's jurisdiction." United States v. Mottaz, 476 U.S. 834, 841 (1986). The plaintiff has the burden of showing both a waiver of sovereign immunity and a grant of subject-matter jurisdiction. V S Ltd. P'ship v. Dep't of Hous. & Urban Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 1112 (8th Cir. 2000).

Plaintiffs assert that the United States has waived its sovereign immunity based on the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Docket 1 at 6 (citing 5 U.S.C. § 702); Docket 14 at 13 n.6 (arguing that the Tucker Act and the Indian Claims Commission Act are inapplicable because plaintiffs brought their complaint under the APA and its waiver of sovereign immunity). The APA is the only basis for the waiver of sovereign immunity identified by plaintiffs.[2] Claims brought under the APA are subject to the six-year statute of limitations found in 28 U.S.C. § 2401(a), [3] which both parties agree applies in this case.

Plaintiffs contend that a statute of limitations issue is an affirmative defense rather than a jurisdictional issue and should not be resolved at this stage of the litigation. See Docket 14 at 17-18. Although normally an affirmative defense, in suits against the United States the applicable statute of limitations is a jurisdictional prerequisite. See Loudner v. United States, 108 F.3d 896, 900 n.1 (8th Cir. 1997). "District courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over claims against the Government to which Congress has not consented. Because a statute of limitations is one of the terms of Congress's consent, a time-barred claim against the Government is an unconsented claim, over which a district court has no jurisdiction." Miller v. Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, 134 F.3d 910, 915-16 (8th ...


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