Kilpatrick Townsend’s Native American team successfully represented Frank’s Landing Indian Community (Frank’s Landing), a thriving self-sustaining community that is well-known for its protection of fishing rights and dedication to educating Indian children. Frank’s Landing is an area that consists of nineteen acres of land situated along the Nisqually River in the Pacific Northwest.
To help support governmental services provided by Frank’s Landing, the State of Washington amended its cigarette compact with the Squaxin Island Tribe to permit Squaxin to sell cigarettes at Frank’s Landing under Squaxin Island’s existing compact, provided that all tax revenues be used in accordance with State law. Squaxin and Frank’s Landing then executed a contract to permit the sale of cigarettes within the jurisdiction of Frank’s Landing and share the tax revenue raised by the cigarette sales. All tax revenue is used by Frank’s Landing to support governmental services, including an elementary school for all Indian children – irrespective of tribe – in the South Puget Sound area.
The Nisqually Indian Tribe (Nisqually) challenged the agreements between Frank's Landing and Squaxin as well as the amended compact between the State of Washington and Squaxin, arguing that it had exclusive jurisdiction at Frank's Landing. In the late 1980s, however, the U.S. Congress had confirmed expressly that Frank’s Landing is self-governing and autonomous and accordingly not subject to the jurisdiction of Nisqually or any other federally recognized tribe.
Despite that explicit congressional recognition, Nisqually claimed that Frank’s Landing had no power to contract and that the State of Washington had violated its pre-existing cigarette compact with Nisqually that allegedly granted Nisqually jurisdiction over Frank’s Landing. Further, Nisqually argued that the amended compact and contract violated various state and federal laws. The district court granted summary judgment in our client’s favor holding, among other things that Nisqually’s claim that Frank’s Landing was under Nisqually jurisdiction was wholly without merit. The Ninth Circuit unanimously affirmed, agreeing with our argument that the federal statutes at issue were adopted for the benefit of Frank's Landing and thus did not create a private right of action for the Nisqually tribe. This is a major win for our client, which otherwise may have been forced to defend against similar challenges to any future endeavors.
This ruling also secures a stream of financial revenue for the community’s governmental services. Proceeds from the taxes collected on the sale of cigarettes and paid to Frank's Landing Indian Community goes to fund the operations of the Wa-He-Lut Indian school. The school teaches kindergarten through eighth-grade students local Indian traditional and Northwest Indian culture in addition to standard primary school courses.
Nisqually Indian Tribe v. Gregoire, 623 F.3d 923 (9th Cir. 2010), Nisqually Indian Tribe v. Gregoire, 649 F.Supp.2d 1203 (W.D.Wash. 2009).