from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Oklahoma (D.C. No. 6:06-CV-00558-RAW)
K. Bertman, Talley, Turner & Bertman, Norman, Oklahoma
C. Toth, Environment & Natural Resources Division,
Department of Justice, Washington D.C. (Jeffrey H. Wood, Eric
Grant, Anthony P. Hoang, and Jody H. Schwarz, Environment
& Natural Resources Division, Department of Justice;
Kenneth A. Dalton and Shani N. Walker, Office of the
Solicitor, Department of the Interior; Thomas Kearns, Office
of the Chief Counsel, Bureau of the Fiscal Service,
Department of the Treasury, with him on the brief), for
Defendants-Appellees United States of America, Ryan Zinke,
James Cason, and Steven Mnuchin.
B. Bartsch, Atkinson, Haskins, Nellis, Brittingham, Gladd
& Fiasco, Tulsa Oklahoma (Galen L. Brittingham, Atkinson,
Haskins, Nellis, Brittingham, Gladd & Fiasco, with him on
the brief), for Defendant-Appellee Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
LUCERO, McKAY, and MORITZ, Circuit Judges.
LUCERO, Circuit Judge.
Tribal Town ("AQTT") appeals several orders entered
in favor of the United States, the Secretary and Associate
Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
("DOI"), the Secretary of the U.S. Department of
the Treasury, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (the
"Creek Nation"). Exercising jurisdiction under 28
U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.
a federally recognized Indian Tribe organized under the
Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act ("OIWA"). It is part of
a confederacy of autonomous tribal towns that form the Creek
Nation. In December 2006, AQTT filed a complaint against the
United States and several federal officials (collectively,
the "Federal Defendants"). AQTT alleged that
certain property known as the Wetumka Project lands were
purchased under OIWA for the benefit of AQTT. It requested a
declaratory judgment and an order compelling the government
to assign the Wetumka Project lands to AQTT and provide AQTT
with a full and complete accounting of related trust funds
Federal Defendants' motion for judgment on the pleadings,
the district court dismissed AQTT's claim for land
assignment and denied the motion as to an accounting of trust
assets. The parties then promptly filed cross-motions for
summary judgment. All were denied. The case was remanded to
the Interior Board of Indian Appeals ("IBIA") for
further development of the trust accounting issue. After the
IBIA decided that the government did not hold any funds in
trust for AQTT, the case returned to district court.
filed an amended complaint, now adding the Creek Nation as a
defendant and arguing that the IBIA's decision was
arbitrary and capricious. The Creek Nation filed a motion to
dismiss. That motion was granted on sovereign immunity
grounds. In the amended complaint, AQTT also attempted to
revive its land assignment claim based on newly discovered
evidence. The district court again dismissed the claim. AQTT
and the Federal Defendants then renewed their cross-motions
for summary judgment. The district court upheld the
IBIA's decision. The matter is now before us on appeal.
granting the government's motion for partial judgment on
the pleadings, the district court dismissed AQTT's claims
for assignment of the Wetumka Project lands for failure to
join the Creek Nation, an indispensable party.
"[W]hether an absent party is necessary and/or
indispensable is resolved by applying Rule 19 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure." Davis v. United
States, 192 F.3d 951, 957 (10th Cir. 1999). Although we
review a district court's Rule 19 determinations for
abuse of discretion, "[u]nderlying legal conclusions
supporting" those determinations are reviewed de novo.
Id. Whether an absent party is indispensable
involves a two-part analysis. Rishell v. Jane Phillips
Episcopal Mem'l Med. Ctr., 94 F.3d 1407, 1411 (10th
Cir. 1996). Initially, we consider "whether the party is
necessary to the suit." Id. If "the absent
party is necessary but cannot be joined, the court must then
determine under Rule 19(b) whether the party is
absent party is necessary to a suit if: (1) "in that
person's absence, the court cannot accord complete relief
among the existing parties" or (2) "that person
claims an interest relating to the subject of the action and
is so situated that disposing of the action in the
person's absence may" either "as a practical
matter impair or impede the person's ability to protect
the interest" or "leave an existing party subject
to a substantial risk of incurring double, ...