United States District Court, D. Arizona
Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge
before the Court is Plaintiff Navajo Nation's Motion for
Leave to File Third Amended Complaint (Doc. 335). Defendant
and Defendant-Intervenors oppose the Motion. For the
following reasons the Motion is denied.
Navajo Nation sued the Department of the Interior in 2003,
seeking to strike down various regulations governing the use
of water from the Colorado River in its Lower Basin
(“the River”). The Nation also alleged that the
United States breached its duties to the Nation as trustee of
the Navajo Reservation. After several entities intervened in
the case, it was stayed to allow for settlement negotiations
which ultimately proved unsuccessful. The litigation resumed,
and this Court dismissed the Nation's claims.
Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. It
remanded the breach of trust claim with instructions to
“fully consider the Nation's breach of trust claim
in the first instance, after entertaining any request to
amend the claim more fully to flesh it out.” Navajo
Nation v. Dept. of Interior, 876 F.3d 1144, 1173 (9th
Cir. 2017). The Nation now moves for leave to “flesh
out” the breach of trust claim and file a Third Amended
Complaint (“TAC” or “Proposed TAC”).
plaintiff wants to amend its complaint more than twenty-one
days after the complaint is served, it needs the court's
permission. Courts freely give that permission “when
justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). This
policy favoring amendments is generally “applied with
extreme liberality, ” Eldridge v. Block, 832
F.2d 1132, 1135 (9th Cir. 1987), but that does not mean that
leave to amend is automatically granted. If a court finds
that there has been a sufficient showing of (1) undue delay;
(2) bad faith or dilatory motives on the part of the movant;
(3) repeated failure to cure deficiencies by previous
amendments; (4) undue prejudice to the opposing party; or (5)
futility of the proposed amendment, the court should deny the
motion. Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962).
District courts have particularly broad discretion to deny
leave to amend if the plaintiff has already amended its
complaint. Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe of Lake Traverse
Indian Reservation, North Dakota and South Dakota v. United
States, 90 F.3d 351, 355 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting
Allen v. City of Beverly Hills, 911 F.2d 376, 373
(9th Cir. 1990)).
Proposed Third Amended Complaint raises two main issues.
First, whether the Supreme Court's retention of
jurisdiction in Arizona v. California, 547 U.S. 150,
166-67 (2006), deprives this court of jurisdiction to
entertain the breach of trust claim, and, if it does not
whether the proposed amendments should be allowed. Language
throughout the TAC and specifically the Nation's two
prayers for relief demonstrate that the relief sought in the
Proposed TAC would require this Court to determine the
Nation's rights to water from the River. Jurisdiction
over that issue has been reserved by the Supreme Court in
Arizona v. California, thus this Court lacks
jurisdiction to entertain the Proposed TAC.
Arizona v. California, the Supreme Court determined
the rights of various entities to water from the River.
Subsequent to its initial decree in the case, the Court
declared that absent some showing of unforeseeable change in
circumstances, the rights to the water that had been
adjudicated would not be altered. See Arizona v.
California, 460 U.S. 605, 619- 27 (1983).
Nation and other tribes were represented in Arizona v.
California by the United States as trustee. See
Navajo Nation v. Department of the Interior, 876 F.3d
1144, 1154 (9th Cir. 2017). The United States did not however
present claims to water from the River for all of the tribes,
including the Nation. Rather, the United States put forward
the Nation's claim to water from the Little Colorado
River, a tributary of the Colorado River. See
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Proposed by the
United States of America at 58, Arizona v.
California, 373 U.S. 546 (1963). The Court narrowed the
scope of the Arizona v. California litigation to
include only claims to the mainstream of the River, so the
Nation's Little Colorado River claim was not considered.
Arizona v. California, 373 U.S. 546, 590-91 (1963).
When the Nation attempted to intervene on its own behalf in
the Arizona litigation, the Court denied the motion.
Arizona v. California, 368 U.S. 917 (1961).
the Court never addressed any rights the Nation may or may
not have to the mainstream of the River because the United
States did not bring that claim, nor was the Nation allowed
to separately intervene to bring it. Yet the Court noted
later that tribes represented by the United States in
Arizona v. California are bound by the Court's
decisions in the case, and so “the absence of the
Indian Tribes in the prior ...