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Wolfchild v. Redwood County

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 1, 2016

Sheldon Peters Wolfchild; Ernie Peters Longwalker; Scott Adolphson; Morris Pendleton; Barbara Buttes; Thomas Smith, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Redwood County; Paxton Township; Sherman Township; Honner Township; Renville County; Birch Cooley Township; Sibley County; Moltke Township; John Goelz, III; Gerald H. Hosek; Allen J. Kokesch; Jacalyn S. Kokesch; Paul W. Schroeder; Karen J. Schroeder; Chad M. Lund; Amy M. Lund; Rockford L. Crooks; Janie K. Crooks; UT School District; Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota; Michael R. Rasmussen; Lee H. Guggisberg Trust UWT; Patrick T. Hansen; Nancy S. Hansen; Kelly M. Lipinski; Cynthia Johnson; Mitchell H. Unruh; William Schmidt; Norma Schmidt; Prouty Properties LLC; Robert D. Rebstock; Lori A. Rebstock; Allan D. Eller; Elmer C. Dahms; Barbara L. Dahms; Marlene A. Piatt, RT; Eugene A. Engstrom; Enid Guggisberg; Melvin W. Maddock; Kerry D. Maddock; Thomas J. Heiling; Keefe Family Farm LLC; Larry Lussenhop; Jon Lussenhop; TJ & CC Properties LLC; Dennis A. Auslam; Michelle D. Auslam; Dale R. Hanna; Nancy Hanna; Harold Guggisberg; Sandra Clarken; Julie Anna Guggisberg; Steven R. Helmer; Dawn R. Helmer; George F. Schottenbauer; John Goeltz; Alice Goeltz; Francis Goeltz; Edward J. Gaasch; Simmons Valley Trust; John C. Simmons; Mary J. Simmons; John (L.) Hogan; Timothy H. Kerkhoff; Theresa J. Kerkhoff; Sherman Acres LLC; Kenneth Larsen; Henry G. O'Neil; Judith A. O'Neil; Charles D. Neitzel; Scott A. Olafson; Kimberly A. Olafson; Kim M. Cunningham; John H. Reynolds; Jeanne A. Reynolds; Douglas Scherer; Brenda Scherer; Willard Scherer; Eugenie Scherer; Bruce Robert Black; Lila L. Black; Neil and Donna Berger Family; Charles Case; Lyle Black Living Trust; Lower Sioux Indian Community; Doe Nos. 1-500 Defendants – Appellees James J Ashe Amicus Curiae Sheldon Peters Wolfchild; Ernie Peters Longwalker; Scott Adolphson; Morris Pendleton; Barbara Buttes; Thomas Smith, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Redwood County; Paxton Township; Sherman Township; Honner Township; Renville County; Birch Cooley Township; Sibley County; Moltke Township; John Goelz, III; Gerald H. Hosek; Allen J. Kokesch; Jacalyn S. Kokesch; Paul W. Schroeder; Karen J. Schroeder; Chad M. Lund; Amy M. Lund; Rockford L. Crooks; Janie K. Crooks; UT School District; Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota; Michael R. Rasmussen; Lee H. Guggisberg Trust UWT; Patrick T. Hansen; Nancy S. Hansen; Kelly M. Lipinski; Cynthia Johnson; Mitchell H. Unruh; William Schmidt; Norma Schmidt; Prouty Properties LLC; Robert D. Rebstock; Lori A. Rebstock; Allan D. Eller; Elmer C. Dahms; Barbara L. Dahms; Marlene A. Platt, RT; Eugene A. Engstrom; Enid Guggisberg; Melvin W. Maddock; Kerry D. Maddock; Thomas J. Heiling; Keefe Family Farm LLC; Larry Lussenhop; Jon Lussenhop; TJ & CC Properties LLC; Dennis A. Auslam; Michelle D. Auslam; Dale R. Hanna; Nancy Hanna; Harold Guggisberg; Sandra Clarken; Julie Anna Guggisberg; Steven R. Helmer; Dawn R. Helmer; George F. Schottenbauer; John Goeltz; Alice Goeltz; Francis Goeltz; Edward J. Gaasch; Simmons Valley Trust; John C. Simmons; Mary J. Simmons; John (L.) Hogan; Timothy H. Kerkhoff; Theresa J. Kerkhoff; Sherman Acres LLC; Kenneth Larsen; Henry G. O'Neil; Judith A. O'Neil; Charles D. Neitzel; Scott A. Olafson; Kimberly A. Olafson; Kim M. Cunningham; John H. Reynolds; Jeanne A. Reynolds; Douglas Scherer; Brenda Scherer; Willard Scherer; Eugenie Scherer; Bruce Robert Black; Lila L. Black; Neil and Donna Berger Family; Charles Case; Lyle Black Living Trust; Lower Sioux Indian Community; Doe Nos. 1-500 Defendants – Appellees Sheldon Peters Wolfchild; Ernie Peters Longwalker; Scott Adolphson; Morris Pendleton; Barbara Buttes; Thomas Smith, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated Plaintiffs - Appellants Erick G. Kaardal, Plaintiffs' attorney; Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Plaintiffs' law firm Appellants
v.
Redwood County; Paxton Township; Sherman Township; Honner Township; Renville County; Birch Cooley Township; Sibley County; Moltke Township; John Goelz, III; Gerald H. Hosek; Allen J. Kokesch; Jacalyn S. Kokesch; Paul W. Schroeder; Karen J. Schroeder; Chad M. Lund; Amy M. Lund; Rockford L. Crooks; Janie K. Crooks; UT School District; Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota; Michael R. Rasmussen; Lee H. Guggisberg Trust UWT; Patrick T. Hansen; Nancy S. Hansen; Kelly M. Lipinski; Cynthia Johnson; Mitchell H. Unruh; William Schmidt; Norma Schmidt; Prouty Properties LLC; Robert D. Rebstock; Lori A. Rebstock; Allan D. Eller; Elmer C. Dahms; Barbara L. Dahms; Marlene A. Platt, RT; Eugene A. Engstrom; Enid Guggisberg; Melvin W. Maddock; Kerry D. Maddock; Thomas J. Heiling; Keefe Family Farm LLC; Larry Lussenhop; Jon Lussenhop; TJ & CC Properties LLC; Dennis A. Auslam; Michelle D. Auslam; Dale R. Hanna; Nancy Hanna; Harold Guggisberg; Sandra Clarken; Julie Anna Guggisberg; Steven R. Helmer; Dawn R. Helmer; George F. Schottenbauer; John Goeltz; Alice Goeltz; Francis Goeltz; Edward J. Gaasch; Simmons Valley Trust; John C. Simmons; Mary J. Simmons; John (L.) Hogan; Timothy H. Kerkhoff; Theresa J. Kerkhoff; Sherman Acres LLC; Kenneth Larsen; Henry G. O'Neil; Judith A. O'Neil; Charles D. Neitzel; Scott A. Olafson; Kimberly A. Olafson; Kim M. Cunningham; John H. Reynolds; Jeanne A. Reynolds; Douglas Scherer; Brenda Scherer; Willard Scherer; Eugenie Scherer; Bruce Robert Black; Lila L. Black; Neil and Donna Berger Family; Charles Case; Lyle Black Living Trust; Lower Sioux Indian Community; Doe Nos. 1-500 Defendants – Appellees Sheldon Peters Wolfchild; Ernie Peters Longwalker; Scott Adolphson; Morris Pendleton; Barbara Buttes; Thomas Smith, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated Plaintiffs - Appellees Erick G. Kaardal, Plaintiffs' attorney; Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Plaintiffs' law firm Appellees
v.
Redwood County; Paxton Township; Sherman Township; Honner Township; Renville County; Birch Cooley Township; Sibley County; Moltke Township Defendants – Appellants John Goelz, III; Gerald H. Hosek; Allen J. Kokesch; Jacalyn S. Kokesch; Paul W. Schroeder; Karen J. Schroeder; Chad M. Lund; Amy M. Lund; Rockford L. Crooks; Janie K. Crooks; UT School District; Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota; Michael R. Rasmussen; Lee H. Guggisberg Trust UWT; Patrick T. Hansen; Nancy S. Hansen; Kelly M. Lipinski; Cynthia Johnson; Mitchell H. Unruh; William Schmidt; Norma Schmidt; Prouty Properties LLC; Robert D. Rebstock; Lori A. Rebstock; Allan D. Eller; Elmer C. Dahms; Barbara L. Dahms; Marlene A. Platt, RT; Eugene A. Engstrom; Enid Guggisberg; Melvin W. Maddock; Kerry D. Maddock; Thomas J. Heiling; Keefe Family Farm LLC; Larry Lussenhop; Jon Lussenhop; TJ & CC Properties LLC; Dennis A. Auslam; Michelle D. Auslam; Dale R. Hanna; Nancy Hanna; Harold Guggisberg; Sandra Clarken; Julie Anna Guggisberg; Steven R. Helmer; Dawn R. Helmer; George F. Schottenbauer; John Goeltz; Alice Goeltz; Francis Goeltz; Edward J. Gaasch; Simmons Valley Trust; John C. Simmons; Mary J. Simmons; John (L.) Hogan; Timothy H. Kerkhoff; Theresa J. Kerkhoff; Sherman Acres LLC; Kenneth Larsen; Henry G. O'Neil; Judith A. O'Neil; Charles D. Neitzel; Scott A. Olafson; Kimberly A. Olafson; Kim M. Cunningham; John H. Reynolds; Jeanne A. Reynolds; Douglas Scherer; Brenda Scherer; Willard Scherer; Eugenie Scherer; Bruce Robert Black; Lila L. Black; Neil and Donna Berger Family; Charles Case; Lyle Black Living Trust; Lower Sioux Indian Community; Doe Nos. 1-500 Defendants

Submitted: December 17, 2015

Appeals from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

Before WOLLMAN, BRIGHT, and LOKEN, Circuit Judges.

BRIGHT, Circuit Judge.

Appellants-plaintiffs filed this purported class action claiming the right to title and possession of twelve square miles of land in southern Minnesota ("twelve square miles"). Specifically, Appellants allege they are lineal descendants of the Mdewakanton band of the Sioux tribe who were loyal to the United States during the 1862 uprising ("loyal Mdewakanton"). Appellants claim the Secretary of the Interior set apart the twelve square miles for the loyal Mdewakanton and their descendants and, thereby, the loyal Mdewakanton have the exclusive right to title, use, and possession of the twelve square miles. Appellees physically possess or claim a property interest in the twelve square miles. The issues underlying this case are complex, requiring interpretation of over 150-year-old statutes, regulations, and legislative history, understanding of past mistreatment of Indian tribes by the United States, and a complicated area of the law. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's grant of Appellees' motions to dismiss. But we conclude the district court abused its discretion when imposing sanctions and vacate the district court's sanctions order. We, further, hold issues relating to the appellate-cost bond are moot. But we remand to the district court for the limited purpose of assessing whether the municipal government Appellees ("Municipal Appellees") are entitled to costs pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d) and 28 U.S.C. § 1920.

I. BACKGROUND

The long, complicated history underlying this case is set forth in Wolfchild v. United States, 731 F.3d 1280 (Fed. Cir. 2013), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 1516 (2014). Thus, we repeat only those historical facts necessary for discussion of the issues before this Court.

In the mid-1800s, the Sioux residing in present-day Minnesota (the "Sioux")[1]consisted of four bands, including the Mdewakanton. In a series of treaties, the Sioux ceded their aboriginal land to the United States. The treaties provided for certain benefits to the Sioux and, ultimately, created a reservation bordering the Minnesota River in Southern Minnesota.

In 1862, fueled in part by broken treaty promises and other mistreatment, the Sioux engaged in an uprising during which a large number of white settlers were killed and a significant amount of property destroyed. In response, the United States annulled all treaties between the United States and the Sioux, eliminated the reservation, convicted and executed Sioux who allegedly engaged in the uprising, and removed many Sioux from the area.

During the uprising, however, some Sioux remained loyal to the United States, many affirmatively acting to save white settlers. Thus, notwithstanding the broad termination of the Sioux treaties, Section 9 of the Act of February 16, 1863 (the "1863 Act") permitted the Secretary of the Interior to "set apart . . . eighty acres in severalty to each individual [Sioux] . . . who exerted himself in rescuing the whites" and provided that any "land so set apart . . . shall be an inheritance to said Indians and their heirs forever." Act of Feb. 16, 1863, ch. 37, § 9, 12 Stat. 652, 654. A number of documents indicate the Secretary of the Interior, at a minimum, attempted to use his authority under the 1863 Act to set apart the twelve square miles for the loyal Mdewakanton in 1865.

Beginning in 2003, the United States Court of Federal Claims handled a significant litigation over whether the loyal Mdewakanton were entitled to certain lands and appropriations from the United States government. The loyal

Mdewakanton had some success, but the Federal Circuit ultimately concluded governing law did not support a claim for relief against the United States. Wolfchild, 731 F.3d at 1288, 1303. As relevant to this case, the loyal Mdewakanton argued-pursuant to the 1863 Act-that the Secretary of the Interior set apart the twelve square miles for the benefit of the loyal Mdewakanton and their descendants in 1865. Id. at 1292. The Federal Circuit concluded the actions of the Secretary of the Interior in 1865 did not "support a timely claim for relief, regardless of whether [the actions] could qualify as having 'set apart' the land under the [1863] Act." Id. The Federal Circuit noted the United States sold the twelve square miles "no later than 1895" and, therefore, the six-year statute of limitations had "long since run." Id. at 1293. Thus, the Federal Circuit held the loyal Mdewakanton failed to state a claim against the United States grounded in the 1863 Act. Id.

Following the dismissal of the claims against the United States, Appellants filed this action. As in the United States Court of Federal Claims, Appellants argued the Secretary of the Interior set apart the twelve square miles in 1865 for the benefit of the loyal Mdewakanton. As relief, Appellants sought declaratory judgment that the loyal Mdewakanton own exclusive title to the twelve square miles, and brought ejectment and trespass claims against Appellees under federal common law. Appellees filed motions to dismiss, which were granted. Appellants appealed.

While the appeal on the merits was pending, certain Appellees moved the district court for sanctions against Appellants and their counsel, and, in addition, the imposition of an appellate-cost bond. Municipal Appellees also moved the district court for costs pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d) and 28 U.S.C. ยง 1920. The district court granted the motion for sanctions, awarding attorneys' fees totaling $281, 906.34. The district court further required Appellants to post a $200, 000.00 appellate-cost bond. But the district court denied, without prejudice, Municipal Appellees' motion for costs, finding the matter was moot in light of the imposed sanctions. Appellants and their counsel appealed the order ...


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