Miami Tribe of Oklahoma v. United States, et al, No. 10-3060 (10th Cir. 2011)Annotate this Case
The Tenth Circuit considered whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) properly exercised its discretion to reject a gift of property by a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to the tribe. The Court noted that this appeal also raised a novel jurisdictional question regarding its review of administrative decisions following a remand from district court. James Smith wanted to transfer to the tribe a portion of his property interest in the Maria Christiana Reserve No. 35 (southwest of Kansas City) where the tribe had plans to develop gaming facilities. Federal law and restrictions on Smith’s fee interest required the BIA to approve any transfer. Citing concerns regarding fractional land interests in the Reserve as well as the long-range best interests of Reserve landowners, the BIA denied Smith’s application to transfer the land. The Tribe challenged that decision. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit held the BIA properly exercised its discretion in denying the application. With regard to the jurisdictional question raised, the Court concluded that the government has not abandoned its right to challenge the district court’s remand order, even though the government substantially prevailed in the district court’s final judgment. The Court found the district court erred in its remand order reversing the BIA’s denial of Smith’s application. Therefore the Court vacated the district court’s final judgment and its order reversing the BIA, and remanded the case for further consideration of Smith’s application consistent with this opinion.