County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation

PETITIONER: County Of Yakima et al.
RESPONDENT: Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation
LOCATION: Residence of Jacobson

DOCKET NO.: 90-408
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 502 US 251 (1992)
ARGUED: Nov 05, 1991
DECIDED: Jan 14, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Edwin S. Kneedler - on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the Respondent/Cross-Petitioner
Jeffrey C. Sullivan - on behalf of the Petitioners/Cross-Respondents
Robert Wayne Bjur - on behalf of the Respondent/Cross-Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 05, 1991 in County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - January 14, 1992 in County of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes & Bands of Yakima Indian Nation

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 90-408, County of Yakima versus Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakima Nation and a companion case will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

These cases are here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Yakima County, Washington imposes an ad valorem property tax on taxable real estate within its jurisdiction, and also an excise tax on sales of real estate.

The Yakima Indian Nation instituted this action seeking a declaration that these taxes could not lawfully be imposed with respect to so-called fee-patented lands held by the Yakima Indian Nation or by individual members of that nation within the bounds of the Yakima Indian Reservation, and also seeking an injunction prohibiting those taxes.

Fee-patented lands are parcels that were once held in trust for the tribe but that had been granted by the United States to individual Indians, and often later conveyed to non-Indians under a policy to divide up the reservations that was in effect between 1887 and 1934.

The District Court held that both taxes were barred by federal law and granted the tribe the relief it sought.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.

It agreed with the District Court that federal law enjoined the sales tax but held that the ad valorem property tax would be impermissible only if it would have a demonstrably serious impact on the tribe's political integrity, economic security, or health and welfare.

In an opinion filed today, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

We hold that the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887 as amended explicitly permits Yakima County to impose an ad valorem tax on reservation land patented in fee pursuant to that Act and owned by Reservation Indians or by the tribe itself, but that federal law does not allow the county to enforce its excise tax on sales of the land.

The contention of the tribe and its principal amicus the United States, at this explicit statutory confer of taxing power, has been repudiated by subsequent Indian legislation rests upon a misunderstanding of this Court's precedents particularly Moe versus Confederated Tribes and upon a misperception of the structure of the Indian General Allotment Act.

We modify the Court of Appeals' remand order to the District Court however, or we do not agree with the Ninth Circuit that the county's power to enforce its ad valorem property tax is qualified by any consideration of the purported effect of the tax on the tribe's political integrity, economic security, or health and welfare.

Justice Blackmun has filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.