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The Quiet Title Act (QTA) authorizes (and so waives the Government's sovereign immunity from) a particular type of action, known as a quiet title suit: a suit by a plaintiff asserting a right, title, or interest in real property that conflicts with a right, title, or interest the United States claims. 28 U.S.C.S. § 2409a(d). The statute, however, contains an exception: The QTA's authorization of suit does not apply to trust or restricted Indian lands. § 2409a(a).
The Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to acquire property “for the purpose of providing land for Indians.” 25 U.S.C. § 465. Petitioner Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Band), an Indian tribe federally recognized in 1999, requested that the Secretary take into trust on its behalf a tract of land known as the Bradley Property, which the Band intended to use “for gaming purposes.” The Secretary took title to the Bradley Property in 2009. Respondent David Patchak, who lives near the Bradley Property, filed suit under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), asserting that § 465 did not authorize the Secretary to acquire the property because the Band was not a federally recognized tribe when the IRA was enacted in 1934. Patchak alleged a variety of economic, environmental, and aesthetic harms as a result of the Band's proposed use of the property to operate a casino, and requested injunctive and declaratory relief reversing the Secretary's decision to take title to the land. The Band intervened to defend the Secretary's decision. The District Court did not reach the merits of Patchak's suit, but ruled that he lacked prudential standing to challenge the Secretary's acquisition of the Bradley Property. The D. C. Circuit reversed and also rejected the Secretary's and the Band's alternative argument that sovereign immunity barred the suit.
Did the Quiet Title Act’s (QTA's) “Indian lands” clause, 28 U.S.C.S. § 2409a(a), render government immune in action brought under Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C.S. § 701 et seq.) by resident living near lands held in trust for Indian band and intended for casino?
The court held that the QTA’s "Indian lands" clause, 28 U.S.C.S. § 2409a(a), did not render the Government immune because the QTA addressed a kind of grievance different from the one the resident advanced. His suit was not a quiet title action, because although it contested the Secretary's title, it did not claim any competing interest in the property. Therefore, § 2409a(a), did not render the Government immune from the resident's suit. When the Secretary obtained land for the Indian band under 25 U.S.C.S. § 465, she did not do so in a vacuum. Rather, she took title to the property with at least one eye directed toward how the band would use that land to support economic development. From start to finish, the decision whether to acquire the property intended for the casino involved questions of land use. And because § 465's implementation encompassed these issues, the interests raised by the resident who lived near the property -- at least arguably -- fell within the zone protected or regulated by the statute.