UTE INDIAN TRIBE OF THE UINTAH AND OURAY RESERVATION, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, and a federally chartered corporation; UINTAH AND OURAY TRIBAL BUSINESS COMMITTEE, SHAUN CHAPOOSE, Chairman of the Uintah and Ouray Tribal Business Committee; UTE ENERGY HOLDINGS, a Delaware LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
HONORABLE BARRY G. LAWRENCE, District Judge, Utah Third Judicial District Court, in his individual and offical capacities; LYNN D. BECKER, Defendants-Appellees.
from the United States District Court for the District of
Utah (D.C. No. 2:16-CV-00579-RJS) [*]
Frances C. Bassett (Jeffrey S. Rasmussen, Thomas W.
Fredericks, Jeremy J. Patterson, and Thomasina Real Bird,
with him on the briefs), Fredericks Peebles & Morgan,
Louisville, Colorado, for Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and
Ouray Reservation, Utah, Plaintiffs-Appellants.
K. Isom, Isom Law Firm, PLLC, Salt Lake City, Utah, for
Defendant-Appellee, Lynn D. Becker.
M. Johnson and Keisa L. Williams, Utah Administrative Office
of the Courts, Salt Lake City, Utah, for Defendant-Appellee,
Judge Barry G. Lawrence.
HARTZ and EBEL, Circuit Judges.
matter is before the court on appellee Lynn D. Becker's
Petition for Panel Rehearing and Request for
Rehearing En Banc. We also have a response from the
consideration, that part of the petition seeking panel
rehearing is granted in part and only to the limited extent
of the changes made to the attached revised Opinion. The
request for panel rehearing is otherwise denied. The clerk is
directed to file the amended decision attached to this order
effective today's date.
Petition and the response were also circulated to
all the judges of the court who are in regular active service
and who are not recused. See Fed. R. App. P. 35(a).
As no judge on the original panel or the en banc court
requested that a poll be called the request for en banc
rehearing is denied.
appeal arises from a contract dispute between Lynn Becker and
the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray
Reservation. Our concern, however, is not the merits of
the dispute but jurisdiction. Mr. Becker, who is not an
Indian, pursued his claim against the Tribe in Utah state
court. The Tribe responded by filing suit in the United
States District Court for the District of Utah, asserting,
among other things, that the state court lacked
subject-matter jurisdiction to hear the case. But the federal
district court in turn held that it lacked jurisdiction to
consider the Tribe's challenge to the jurisdiction of the
state court. We respectfully disagree with the district
court. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291,
we reverse and remand for further proceedings. We hold that
the Tribe's claim-that federal law precludes state-court
jurisdiction over a claim against Indians arising on the
reservation-presents a federal question that sustains federal
contract at issue is the Independent Contractor Agreement
(the Contract) between the Tribe and Mr. Becker, a former
manager in the Tribe's Energy and Minerals Department.
Mr. Becker claims that the Tribe breached the Contract by
failing to pay him 2% of net revenue distributed to Ute
Energy Holdings, LLC from Ute Energy, LLC. After Mr. Becker
filed suit in Utah state court, the Tribe filed this suit
against him and Judge Barry Lawrence, the state judge
presiding over Mr. Becker's suit, seeking declarations
that (1) the state court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction
over the dispute, (2) the Contract is void under federal and
tribal law, and (3) there is no valid waiver of the
Tribe's sovereign immunity for the claims asserted in
state court. The Tribe also sought a preliminary injunction
ordering the defendants to refrain from further action in the
state-court proceedings. The Tribe invoked jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal-question jurisdiction) and
§ 1362 (federal question when suit brought by an Indian
tribe). Jurisdiction under § 1331 is limited to
"actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States"; and jurisdiction under
§ 1362 requires that "the matter in controversy
arise under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States." After a hearing on the Tribe's
request for a preliminary injunction, the district court
concluded that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and
dismissed the suit as moot.
review de novo the district court's conclusion that it
lacked jurisdiction. See Kaw Nation ex rel. McCauley v.