United States District Court, D. Nevada
R. HICKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Coal Blackwater and Trent Lane Blackwater bring two motions
before the court. The plaintiffs first move the court for an
order compelling the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau
of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) to enter into a
stipulation and an order remanding to the BIA with
instructions to place the plaintiffs onto the Western
Shoshone judgment roll. ECF No. 18. The defendants responded
but no reply was filed. ECF No. 19. The plaintiffs also move
the court for an order of final judgment that approves the
BIA's subsequent actions, prevents the disenrollment of
the plaintiffs from the Western Shoshone judgment roll, and
compels the payment of funds to the plaintiffs. ECF No. 25.
The defendants opposed the motion, and the plaintiffs
replied. ECF Nos. 26, 27. The court now denies both motions,
finding the case is moot.
Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Act was passed in 2004.
Pub L. 108-270, 118 Stat. 805. To make a claim for recovery
under the Act, a person must be placed on the Western
Shoshone judgment roll. Id. To be placed on the
judgment roll, the person must be at least ¼ blood
quantum level of Western Shoshone. Id.
plaintiffs applied to be placed on the judgment roll based on
their heritage. ECF No. 25. Their grandfather was Clinton
Albert Williams, who was ½ blood quantum level of
Western Shoshone. Id. Their grandmother was Betty
Ann Thomas Williams, who was also ½ blood quantum
level of Western Shoshone. Id. The BIA accepted the
plaintiffs' applications and paid each plaintiff part of
the sum owed. Id.
BIA later revoked the acceptance of the plaintiffs'
applications and then rejected the applications, stating
Betty Davis-rather than Betty Ann Thomas Williams-was the
plaintiffs' grandmother and was not ½ blood
quantum level of Western Shoshone. Id. The
plaintiffs disputed the claim and provided documentation to
show Betty Ann Thomas Williams was their grandmother.
Id. The BIA still declined to reinstate the
plaintiffs to the judgment roll. Id. Therefore, the
“clerical error” that named Betty Davis as the
plaintiffs' grandma prevented the plaintiffs from
recovering under the Act. Id.; see also ECF
Nos. 18, 25, 27 (plaintiffs describing the misnaming of Betty
Ann Thomas Williams as a “clerical error”).
plaintiffs sued the defendants, alleging violations of due
process, of equal protection, and of the Administrative
Procedure Act. ECF No. 1. On the defendants' motion, the
case was voluntarily remanded to the BIA. ECF No. 17. The BIA
reconsidered the plaintiffs' applications and ultimately
notified the plaintiffs in June 2016 that they were in fact
eligible for placement on the judgment roll. ECF Nos. 25, 26.
year passed without the plaintiffs being placed on the
judgment roll. See Id. As a result, in October 2017,
the plaintiffs moved the court for an order that compels the
defendants to stipulate to placing the plaintiffs onto the
judgment roll and an order directing the defendants to do so.
ECF Nos. 18. The day after the plaintiffs moved for the order
to compel the defendants into a stipulation, the plaintiffs
were added to the judgment roll. ECF No. 19, 25-27.
plaintiffs did not receive the remaining funds owed to them
as of November 29, 2017. ECF No. 25. The plaintiffs therefore
moved for an order of final judgment. Id. The
defendants opposed the motion. ECF No. 26.
no longer presents a case or controversy for Article III
purposes and is therefore moot “when the issues
presented are no longer live or the parties lack a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome.” Rosebrock v.
Mathis, 745 F.3d 963, 971 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting
Already, LLC v. Nike, Inc., 586 U.S. 85, 91 (2013)
(internal quotation marks omitted)). But courts hesitate to
declare a case moot when a party has voluntarily ceased the
challenged activity. Am. Cargo Transp., Inc. v. United
States, 625 F.3d 1176, 1179 (9th Cir. 2010). Courts
hesitate to dismiss a case as moot based on a party's
voluntary cessation of the challenged activity because a
dismissal for mootness would allow the party to resume the
challenged activity after the case was dismissed.
Rosebrock, 745 F.3d at 971.
the doctrine of mootness ordinarily considers the possibility
of a party voluntarily ceasing the challenged activity in bad
faith, the court must “presume the government is acting
in good faith” if it is the party that voluntary ceases
the challenged activity. Am. Cargo Transp., 625 F.3d
at 1180. But the government still “bears the heavy
burden of showing that the challenged conduct cannot
reasonably be expected to start up again.”
Rosebrock, 745 F.3d at 971.
policy change not reflected in statutory changes or even in
changes in ordinances or regulations will not necessarily
render a case moot … but it may do so in certain
circumstances….” Id. (internal
citations omitted). While a definitive test to determine
mootness under circumstances involving voluntary cessation
does not yet exist, five factors make mootness more likely:
“(1) the policy change is evidenced by language that is
broad in scope and unequivocal in tone; (2) the policy change
fully addresses all of the objectionable measures that the
government officials took against the plaintiffs in the case;
(3) the case in question was the catalyst for the
agency's adoption of the new policy; (4) the policy has
been in place for a long time when [the court] consider[s]
mootness; and (5) since the policy's implementation[, ]
the agency's officials have not engaged in conduct
similar to that challenged by the plaintiff.”
Id. at 972 (internal citations and punctuation marks
omitted). Conversely, mootness is not likely when “the
new policy could be easily abandoned or altered in the
future.” Id. (internal citations and
punctuation marks omitted).