United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
GRANT CHARLES, in his official capacity as attorney for Roosevelt City, Utah, Plaintiff,
UTE INDIAN TRIBE OF THE UINTAH and OURAY RESERVATION; BUSINESS COMMITTEE FOR THE UTE TRIBE OF THE UINTAH and OURAY RESERVATION; TRIBAL COURT FOR THE UTE TRIBE OF THE UINTAH and OURAY RESERVATION; THELMA STIFFARM, in her official capacity as Chief Judge of the Ute Tribal Court, and RICHITA HACKFORD, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER: • GRANTING 
MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION;
• GRANTING IN PART  TRIBAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
DISMISS; and • FINDING MOOT  RICHITA HACKFORD'S
MOTION TO DISMISS.
Nuffer United States District Judge.
Grant Charles seeks in this action to enjoin defendants Ute
Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation (the
“Ute Court”) based upon a suit filed in the Ute
Court, Hackford v. Allred et al., Ute No. 16-259. Defendants
filed three motions to dismiss. Richita Hackford, who is
named as a defendant because her suit in Ute Court is the
underlying case, filed a “Motion to Deny Complaint,
” which is treated as a motion to
dismiss. The remaining defendants (the
“Tribal Defendants”) filed an initial motion to
dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction and
insufficient service of process. After Ms. Hackford's
claims in the Ute Court were dismissed by an order of the Ute
Court dated June 5, 2017, the Tribal Defendants filed another
motion to dismiss, further arguing that no case or
controversy provides Article III standing in this
action. A hearing on the motions was held on
January 4, 2018.Based on the motions, the argument of the
parties at the hearing, and for good cause appearing, the
court finds as follows:
Tribal Defendants' latter motion to dismiss is granted. In
that motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction, the Tribal
Defendants correctly analogized the present case to Board of
Education for Gallup-McKinley County Schools v. Henderson,
696 Fed.Appx. 355 (10th Cir. 2017). Because Ms.
Hackford's case in Ute Court has been dismissed following
an initial screening by the Ute Court, no case or controversy
exists on which to decide the action. Mr. Charles's
complaint must be dismissed on this basis.
2. As a
further partial basis for dismissal, the tribe, the
tribe's business committee, and the Ute Court are
protected by tribal sovereign immunity. Plaintiff's
primary argument for jurisdiction is based upon application
of Ex Parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908) to tribal officers.
The court has jurisdiction over the Chief Judge of the Ute
Court on that basis, but because Ex Parte Young is limited to
suits against individuals, the court does not have
jurisdiction over the other Tribal Defendants.
Defendants argue that the court does not have jurisdiction to
review the Ute Court's exercise of authority over Mr.
Charles. However, a federal court may determine under 28
U.S.C. § 1331 whether a tribal court has exceeded the
lawful limits of its jurisdiction as a federal question.
tribe and business committee argued that service of process
on them was insufficient. That issue is moot. Judge Reynolds
(subsequently replaced as a named defendant by Judge
Stiffarm) did not move to dismiss on that basis, and the
off-reservation service upon Judge Reynolds was sufficient to
provide personal jurisdiction over him.
United States is not an indispensable party to this action,
and no relief is granted on that basis.
Hackford is dismissed as a defendant because her underlying
suit in Ute Court was dismissed. Her motion to dismiss this
action is therefore rendered moot.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Tribal Defendants' motion
to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction is GRANTED. The compliant is dismissed,
without costs to any party, for lack of a case or
FURTHER ORDERED that the Tribal Defendants' initial
motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART based on lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
FURTHER ORDERED that Richita Hackford's motion to
dismiss is rendered moot by this Order.
Clerk is directed ...