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Gila River Indian Community v. Burwell

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 6, 2015

Gila River Indian Community, Plaintiff,
v.
Sylvia Matthews Burwell, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

DAVID G. CAMPBELL, District Judge.

Defendants move to dismiss two claims that relate to their duty to fund Indian healthcare services. Doc. 30. Defendants' motion is fully briefed and the Court heard oral argument on February 11, 2015. The Court will grant the motion in part.

I. Background.

This lawsuit revolves around funding for contract healthcare services that Plaintiff Gila River Indian Community ("the Community") has provided to members of the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Doc. 28. The Community is a federally recognized Indian tribe. Id., ¶ 12. Until 1995, Indian Health Services ("IHS") had provided healthcare for Community members and operated a hospital in Sacaton, Arizona. Id., ¶ 30. The Community then entered into a self-governance contract with IHS pursuant to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act ("ISDEAA"). Id., ¶ 32; see Pub. L. No. 93-638, 88 Stat. 2203 (1975) (as amended, 25 U.S.C. § 450 et seq. ). This contract allowed the Community to take control of its healthcare services and the hospital, with the support of federal funds. Doc. 28, ¶ 32. In 2002, the Community entered into a self-governance "compact" with IHS pursuant to ISDEAA amendments that Congress recently had passed. Id., ¶ 47; Pub. L. No. 106-260, 114 Stat. 711 (2000) (25 U.S.C. § 458aaa et seq. ). The compact granted the Community greater autonomy in providing healthcare services. Doc. 28, ¶¶ 47-50.

Since the Community assumed control of its healthcare services, members of the Tohono O'odham Reservation have received care at the Community's hospital as well as contract healthcare services paid for by the Community. Id., ¶ 34. The funding agreements - which were entered into annually by the Community and IHS under the self-governance contract and compact - never specifically identified funding for the contract healthcare services for Tohono O'odham members. Id., ¶¶ 33, 36, 39.

In 2013, the Community requested and IHS agreed to additional funding for contract healthcare services for Tohono O'odham members. Id., ¶ 52. For the 2014 Funding Agreement, the Community again requested additional funding for these services. Id., ¶ 54. IHS declined this request and also declined to delineate what portions of the 2014 Funding Agreement were allocated to healthcare services for Tohono O'odham members. Id. On November 15, 2013, the Community sent IHS a "Final Offer" which contained an amendment to the 2014 Funding Agreement. Doc. 28-1. The proposed amendment required IHS to delineate what amounts in the funding agreements from 1996 to 2014 were allocated to healthcare services for Tohono O'odham members. Id. If IHS failed to do this, or evidence showed that the funding had been deficient, the amendment required an additional $963, 114 for the 2014 Funding Agreement and reimbursement for the deficiencies in the previous funding agreements. Id.

IHS rejected the Final Offer and the proposed amendment. Doc. 28, ¶ 58. After further negotiations failed, the Community filed this lawsuit. In its amended complaint, the Community seeks injunctive and declaratory relief under three causes of action: (1) violation of 25 U.S.C. § 458aaa-6 by failing to approve the amendment to the 2014 Funding Agreement; (2) violation of 25 U.S.C. § 458aaa-6 by failing to sever the portions of the amendment that were acceptable to Defendants; and (3) breach of various trust duties owed to the Community. Id., ¶¶ 70-82. In parts of the complaint, the Community also claimed that it was entitled to reimbursement for funds spent on healthcare services for Tohono O'odham members. Id. ¶ 69.

Defendants now move to dismiss the Community's breach-of-trust claim and its requests for reimbursement, arguing that the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over these claims. Other than the reimbursement remedy, Defendants do not ask the Court to dismiss the Community's claims for violation of the ISDEAA.

II. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction.

Defendants are Sylvia Matthews Burwell, Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, and Yvette Roubideaux, Acting Director for IHS. Doc. 28, ¶¶ 13-14. Because the Community sues them in their official capacities, sovereign immunity may bar portions of this lawsuit. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 89 (1989) (finding that "an official-capacity action is in reality always against the State"). Subject-matter "[j]urisdiction over any suit against the Government requires a clear statement from the United States waiving sovereign immunity together with a claim falling within the terms of the waiver. The terms of consent to be sued may not be inferred, but must be unequivocally expressed.'" United States v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, 537 U.S. 465, 472 (2003) (citations omitted).

The ISDEAA contains a waiver of sovereign immunity in 25 U.S.C. § 450m-1(a). Under this statute, the federal government waives its immunity and grants district courts "original jurisdiction over any civil action or claim against the appropriate Secretary arising under [the ISDEAA]." Id. The statute also grants district courts, subject to the provisions of the Contract Disputes Act, 41 U.S.C. §§ 7101-09 ("CDA"), jurisdiction "over any civil action or claim against the Secretary for money damages arising under contracts authorized by this subchapter." Id. This waiver of immunity extends to claims arising under self-governance compacts. Id. § 458aaa-10(a).

Under Rule 12(b)(1), Defendants may move to dismiss the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. "A Rule 12(b)(1) jurisdictional attack may be facial or factual." Safe Air for Everyone v. Meyer, 373 F.3d 1035, 1039 (9th Cir. 2004). "In a facial attack, the challenger asserts that the allegations contained in the complaint are insufficient on their face to invoke federal jurisdiction. By contrast, in a factual attack, the challenger disputes the truth of the allegations that, by themselves, would otherwise invoke federal jurisdiction." Id. In resolving a factual attack on jurisdiction, the Court "may review evidence beyond the complaint without converting the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment." Id.; see Augustine v. United States, 704 F.2d 1074, 1077 (9th Cir. 1983). The Court, however, may not resolve genuine factual disputes if the jurisdictional issue and substantive issues are intertwined unless the motion to dismiss is converted to a motion for summary judgment. See id.; Safe Air for Everyone, 373 F.3d at 1039-40 n.3.

The parties' briefing is difficult to characterize. Although Defendants appear to mount a facial attack on subject matter jurisdiction, that focus is not always clear. The parties dispute various factual matters throughout their memoranda and often frame their arguments in terms of failure to state a claim. The Court will not tarry long on this ambiguity. The essential issues are whether the Community has pled a cognizable breach-of-trust claim and whether its claim for reimbursement may be asserted only under the CDA. The Court concludes that the Community has not pled a viable breach-of-trust claim. The claim will therefore be dismissed both because it does not fall within the limited waiver of sovereign immunity in § 450m-1(a) and for failure to state a claim. The Court concludes that the Community's reimbursement claim complies, ...


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