July 26, 2018

The Cayuga Nation Council won an appeal in New York’s Appellate Division in a suit seeking to reclaim Nation properties from a group who forcibly seized those properties in 2014, claiming to be the Nation’s lawful leaders.  The Cayuga people had definitively rejected those claims in 2016, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior then recognized our clients, the Cayuga Nation Council, as the Nation’s lawful governing body.  But nonetheless, those who had seized the Nation’s properties claimed that New York courts lacked jurisdiction to eject them, arguing that doing so would require the courts to impermissibly resolve internal disputes about tribal law or governance.  The trial court, however, rejected these arguments and granted the Nation Council a preliminary injunction.  And on appeal, the Fourth Department affirmed in a 3-2 decision, holding that it must “accord due deference to the [Bureau of Indian Affair]’s conclusion that the Nation … has resolved the dispute in favor of [the Cayuga Nation Council].”  Cayuga Nation v. Campbell, 163 A.D.3d 1500, 1504 (4th Dep’t 2018).

Partner David W. DeBruin, co-chair of the firm’s Indian law practice, argued the case, with assistance from Partner Zachary C. Schauf and former associate Kathryn Wynbrandt.