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Stanko v. Oglala Sioux Tribe

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

September 14, 2017

RUDY STANKO, a/k/a “Butch” Stanko, Plaintiff,
v.
OGLALA SIOUX TRIBE, aka the Tribe, c/o Chief Charles Yellow Bird; DARWIN LONG, Director of Oglala Sioux Tribe Adult Correctional Facility, individually and in his official capacity; CLAY LANDRY, BIA 9675, individually and in his official capacity as a highway cop; A. GRASER, individually and in his official capacity as a highway cop; DEREK THUNDER HAWK, jail guard, individually and in his official capacity; SHEENA MOUSSEAU, Judge of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court, individually and in her official capacity; CHARLES MONTILEAUX, Judge of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court, individually and in his official capacity; ANDRE MILLS, proprietor of Mills Towing, 6 miles north of Porcupine; and Defendants IX through 6X, individually, will be named after discovery, Defendants.

          ORDER

          JEFFREY L. VIKEN CHIEF JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Rudy Stanko filed a ten-count complaint against the defendants. (Docket 1). Defendants Oglala Sioux Tribe (“OST” or the “Tribe”), Darwin Long, Derek Thunder Hawk, Sheena Mousseau and Charles Montileaux (jointly the “Individual Tribal Defendants”) filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or, in the alternative, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Docket 6). Mr. Stanko resists the defendants' motion. (Docket 14). For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motion to dismiss is granted.

         ANALYSIS

         The Tribe is a federally recognized tribe. Wilson v. Bull, No. CIV. 12-5078, 2014 WL 412328, at *3 (D.S.D. Feb. 3, 2014). Mr. Long and Mr. Thunder Hawk are officers serving in the Oglala Sioux Tribe Corrections Department, which is a department within the tribal government. (Dockets 1 ¶¶ 9 & 12 and 7 at pp. 4-5). At the time of the filing of the complaint, Ms. Mousseau was an ex-judge and Mr. Montileaux was a current judge of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Court system. (Docket 9 ¶¶ 13 & 14 and 7 at p. 5). The Oglala Sioux Tribal Court is a branch of tribal government.

         The defendants' asserted grounds for dismissal are summarized as follows:

A. Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the Tribe or the Individual Tribal Defendants. This portion of the motion is broken down into the following:
1. OST possesses tribal sovereign immunity and is immune from suit;
2. The doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity extends to the claims against the Individual Tribal Defendants in their official capacities.
B. Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. This portion of the motion is broken down into the following:
1. OST is not a state or Territory for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
2. The Individual Tribal Defendants were not acting under color of state law as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
3. The complaint's common law claims do not arise under federal law, but rather tribal law; and
4. The complaint's common law claims do not meet the diversity jurisdiction requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

(Dockets 7 & 16). For these reasons the defendants seek dismissal of the complaint with prejudice. (Docket 6).

         The assertion of tribal “[s]overeign immunity is a jurisdictional issue . . . .” Rupp v. Omaha Indian Tribe, 45 F.3d 1241, 1244 (8th Cir. 1995). If the Tribe and the Individual Tribal Defendants “possess sovereign immunity, then the district court [has] no jurisdiction to hear [plaintiff's claims]. Id. ...


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