October 2021

Officials and Employees of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Defeat Multiple Claims in Federal Lawsuit

United States - Minnesota

Leaders and employees of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community won dismissal of all claims filed against them in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. Faegre Drinker’s federal Indian law litigation team represented the tribe in the matter. The claims were brought by an individual who is not a tribal member but who is the parent of a tribal member. The individual was dissatisfied with divorce and child custody proceedings in tribal court and with no-trespass orders from tribal leadership that banned the plaintiff from the tribe’s reservation. The plaintiff claimed the tribal defendants, in their official and individual capacities, owed him monetary damages for violating 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, the Indian Civil Rights Act and the Stored Communications Act, as well as for committing multiple torts.

Judge Eric Tostrud dismissed all of the official capacity claims for monetary damages based on sovereign immunity. For the individual capacity claims, he dismissed (1) the Section 1983 claims because the plaintiff failed to allege that the defendants were acting under color of state law, (2) the Indian Civil Rights Act claim because the plaintiff could not satisfy the custody requirements for a habeas petition, which is the only vehicle for bringing an Indian Civil Rights Act claim in federal court, (3) the Stored Communications Act claim because the act does not recognize a cause of action for secondary liability and (4) the state law tort claims because no federal claims survived the motion to dismiss.

The outcome of this matter is another important victory for the tribe, which has continued to have its tribal courts and leaders sued in claims from nonmembers.

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