BIA’s Brief in Support of Partial Dismissal in Mashpee Wampanoag Carcieri Challenge

Here are the materials, so far, in Littlefield et. al. v. U.S. Department of Interior (D. Mass.):

Doc. 1 – Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Doc. 10 – United States’ Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Partial Dismissal


Plaintiffs’ Fifth Cause of Action seeks a declaration that the IRA, enacted over eighty years ago, is unconstitutional. Plaintiffs specifically allege that the IRA’s provision authorizing the Secretary to acquire land in trust on behalf of federally-recognized Indian tribes somehow reflects an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority. This legal question, however, has long been resolved against Plaintiffs by all courts to consider it, including the First Circuit in a decision binding on this Court. Federal courts have held, consistently and repeatedly, that the Secretary’s authority to acquire land in trust under the IRA does not violate the United States Constitution because there are sufficient intelligible principles provided in the statute and its legislative history to guide the Secretary’s discretion whether to acquire land in trust on behalf of a tribe. Moreover, it has been over 85 years since the Supreme Court invalidated any statute on the grounds of excessive delegation of legislative authority. The Supreme Court in fact has only found two statues to be a violation of the non-delegation doctrine, neither of which are comparable to the statute at issue here. Accordingly, the Court must dismiss Plaintiffs’ Fifth Cause of Action.

About Sarah M Donnelly

Program Coordinator for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law.
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