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United States v. State

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 30, 2017

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Plaintiffs,
STATE OF WASHINGTON, et al., Defendants.

         Sub-proceeding No. 17-sp-01




         This matter comes before the Court on the Jamestown S'Klallam and Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribes' (collectively “S'Klallam”) and Squaxin Island Tribe's (“Squaxin”) motions to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, and Skokomish Indian Tribe's (“Skokomish”) cross-motion for summary judgment. Dkts. #21, #23 and #32.[1] In addition, the Court resolves what remains of Skokomish's motion to stay the proceedings. Dkt. #19.

         S'Klallam requests that the Court grant it summary judgment on three bases: 1) the Skokomish request for determination is procedurally improper because the Skokomish fail to allege which jurisdictional provision they invoke; 2) the Skokomish request is legally invalid because it violates a settlement agreement: The Hood Canal Agreement; and 3) the Court has previously determined, unambiguously, that the Skokomish U&A is the Hood Canal and its drainage basin, and therefore it is not entitled to any ruling that it has primary fishing rights outside of that established U&A. Dkt. #21 at 3-5. The Squaxin move for summary judgment on essentially the same bases, albeit with slightly different legal arguments, and include an additional argument for dismissal on the basis that Skokomish failed to follow the pre-filing requirements established by this Court. Dkt. #23.[2]

         Skokomish have opposed the S'Klallam and Squaxin motions and also move for summary judgment in their favor. Dkt. #32. Skokomish assert that they have complied with all pre-filing requirements and have appropriately asserted jurisdiction over this matter, and argue that both this Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals have already determined that their U&A and primary fishing right extend beyond the Hood Canal and its drainage basin. Id. Accordingly, they assert that summary judgment in their favor is appropriate.

         The matter having been fully briefed, and having determined that oral argument is not necessary in this matter, the Court now GRANTS S'Klallam's and Squaxin's motions for summary judgment for the reasons set forth herein, and DENIES Skokomish's cross-motion for summary judgment.


         On April 27, 2017, Skokomish filed an ex parte Motion for Leave to File a New Subproceeding. Dkt. #1. The motion was granted, and Skokomish filed their Request for Determination (“RFD”) in this matter. Dkts. #2 and #3. In their RFD, Skokomish seek the following relief:

(A) An Order confirming the Skokomish Indian Tribe's right to take fish and to exercise Skokomish's primary right within those portions of Skokomish (or Twana) Territory lying outside of the Hood Canal Drainage Basin; and
(B) A preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting interference with the Skokomish Indian Tribe's right to take fish and to exercise Skokomish's primary right within those portions of Skokomish (or Twana) Territory lying outside of the Hood Canal Drainage Basin . . . .

Dkt. #3 at 8.

         After the Court issued its Order Regarding Initial Disclosures and Joint Status Report, the parties engaged in a Rule 26(f) conference. During that conference, Skokomish was informed that some parties planned to file motions to dismiss for failure to follow pre-filing requirements and for lack of jurisdiction. See Dkt. #19. Accordingly, on May 31, 2017, Skokomish filed a motion requesting a stay of the deadlines set forth in the Court's Order Regarding Initial Disclosures and Joint Status Report, and asking the Court to direct the parties to return to mediation. Id.

         On June 2, 2017, the Court held a telephonic status conference to discuss the motion made by Skokomish. Ultimately, the Court stayed the pending initial disclosures and joint status report headlines, but deferred any ruling on whether the parties should return to mediation. Dkt. #20.

         The current motions to dismiss, or alternatively for summary judgment, followed and are now ripe for review.


         A. Legal Standards

         1. Motions to Dismiss Under 12(b)(6)

         S'Klallam and Squaxin initially bring their motions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for Plaintiff's failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), all allegations of material fact must be accepted as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Cahill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 80 F.3d 336, 337-38 (9th Cir. 1996). However, the Court is not required to accept as true a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). The Complaint “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 678. This requirement is met 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. Absent facial plausibility, a plaintiff's claims must be dismissed. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570.

         The Court typically limits its Rule 12(b)(6) review to allegations set forth in the Complaint. Here, all parties request that the Court examine documents outside the Complaint, and have moved for summary judgment in the alternative. Although the Court recognizes that it can take judicial notice of most of the offered documents, in an abundance of caution the Court converts these motions to ones for summary judgment, and will analyze them under the applicable summary judgment standard.

         2. Motions for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). In ruling on summary judgment, a court does not weigh evidence to determine the truth of the matter, but “only determine[s] whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Crane v. Conoco, Inc., 41 F.3d 547, 549 (9th Cir. 1994) (citing Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d 744, 747 (9th Cir. 1992)). Material facts are those which might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

         The Court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See O'Melveny & Meyers, 969 F.2d at 747, rev'd on other grounds, 512 U.S. 79 (1994). However, the nonmoving party must make a “sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof” to survive summary judgment. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Further, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251.

         The parties have cross-moved for summary judgment. However, cross motions for summary judgment do not warrant the conclusion that one of the motions must be granted. The Court must still determine whether summary judgment for either party is appropriate. See Fair Housing Council of Riverside County, Inc. v. Riverside Two, 249 F.3d 1132, 1136-1137 (9th Cir. 2001).

         B. Alleged Pre-Filing Deficiencies

         As an initial matter, the Court addresses Squaxin's argument that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the Skokomish Request for Determination (“RFD”) because they failed to comply with the pre-filing requirements. Dkts. #23 at 11-2. Prior to bringing new subproceedings in this matter, parties must comply with Paragraph (b) of Final Decision #1, 384 F.Supp. at 419, as modified by this Court's August 23, 1993 Order Modifying Paragraph 25 of Permanent Injunction (Case No. 70-9213, Dkt. #13599). That Order provides:

To invoke this court's continuing jurisdiction, the party seeking relief shall initiate a subproceeding in this action by filing a request for determination. Subproceedings will be conducted in accordance with the following procedures:
(1) Before a request for determination is filed . . ., the party seeking relief (“requesting party”) shall meet and confer with all parties that may be directly affected by the request (“affected party”) and attempt to negotiate a settlement of the matter in issue. . . . In addition to other matters the parties may wish to address, the parties shall discuss at the meeting (A) the basis for the relief sought by the requesting party; (B) the possibility of settlement; (C) whether the matter is properly one for the Fisheries Advisory Board (FAB); (D) identification of technical issues relevant to the matter in controversy, areas of agreement and disagreement on such issues, and methods for developing an agreed technical basis to narrow or resolve the controversy; (E) whether i ndepe n d e n t e x t r a -judi cial a c t i o n s . . . may re move t h e n ee d for or warrant deferral of an adjudication; (F) whether earlier rulings of the court may have addressed or resolved the matter in issue in whole ...

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