On June 7, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had refused to obey a New York district petition to overturn a second district opinion that the Cayuga Nation’s sovereign immunity from lawsuits prevented the district from on nation property due to a tax dispute.
Seneca County’s decision not to accept Seneca County’s petition saves a major win for the Cayuga Nation that spanned nearly a decade of litigation in the first federal appeal decision to address the 2018 Supreme Court decision in the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v Lundgren enclosed.
The dispute concerns land that the nation acquired for a fee in 2007 under its federal reservation established by the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794. New York State law exempts “reservation” of land owned by Native American tribes from property tax. But Seneca County still charged taxes on the nation’s properties and decided to foreclose them. In 2011, the nation filed for declaratory and injunctive relief in the US District Court for the Western District of New York to prevent these foreclosures. The district court issued an injunction stating that the nation’s sovereign immunity prohibits foreclosures. In 2014, the Second Circle confirmed. In 2018, the district court issued a permanent injunction against the county’s foreclosures, and the county appealed again to the Second Circuit.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court ruled the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe against Lundgren. In this case, the issue was whether tribal sovereign immunity prohibits a “silent title” lawsuit aimed at clearing ownership of a controversial tract. The plaintiff argued that sovereign immunity did not apply because “[a]t Common Law… sovereigns enjoyed no immunity from acts involving immovable property in the territory of another sovereign. ”The court declined to deal with this alleged“ immovable property ”exception, found the argument annulled and ruled in favor Tribe. In contrast, Judge Thomas concluded that the immovable property exception applied and would have ruled in favor of the plaintiff. In citing the Second Circuit, Seneca County relied on the immovable property exception, claiming that the exception allowed its foreclosure actions to continue.
The Second Circle, however, ruled again for the nation. The Second District noted that there was no need to determine whether the common law immovable property exception applies to sovereign tribal immunity – because “even if we recognized the county’s proposed exception … the foreclosure actions are outside their limits ”. After an overview of centuries-old treatises and jurisprudence, the Second Circle declared that the “exception of real estate”[’s]”Animating concern” is the assessment of “rights to real estate” – as in cases like Upper Skagit itself, in disputes over who owns what. The Second Circuit agreed with the nation that Seneca County’s foreclosure measures were not of this type: “Although foreclosure will certainly involve real estate, the Cayuga Nation states – and we believe – these enforcement measures are of taxes is essentially about money, not property. “Since Seneca County’s actions” can best be viewed as the functional equivalent of a lawsuit for enforcement of a monetary judgment, “the Second Circuit found that they” do well within the categories of lawsuits against which common law sovereigns have traditionally been immune “. The Second Circuit therefore upheld the injunction against the county’s foreclosures.