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Gwitchyaa Zhee Corp. v. Alexander

United States District Court, D. Alaska

August 30, 2018

GWITCHYAA ZHEE CORPORATION and GWICHYAA ZHEE GWICH'IN TRIBAL GOVERNMENT, Plaintiffs,
v.
CLARENCE ALEXANDER and DACHO ALEXANDER, Defendants.

          ORDER

          H. RUSSEL HOLLAND UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Defendants' Motion to Join City or Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants move to either join the City of Fort Yukon as a party or to dismiss this action for failure to join a required party.[1] This motion is opposed.[2] Oral argument was not requested and is not deemed necessary.

         Background

         Plaintiffs are Gwitchyaa Zhee Corporation and Gwichyaa Zhee Gwich'in Tribal Government. Defendants are Clarence Alexander and Dacho Alexander.

Pursuant to § 14(c)(1) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (“ANCSA”), village corporations that received title to the surface estate of land formerly held by the federal government are required to convey title to property occupied by anyone that used the land as, among other things, a primary residence, a primary place of business, or a subsistence campsite (“§ 14(c)(1) Claim”).[3]

         Plaintiffs allege that in 2008, in order to comply with their obligations under § 14(c)(1) of ANCSA, they submitted a “Map of Boundaries” to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) “that identified . . . 14(c)(1) Claims . . . encompassing Fort Yukon and its nearby surroundings. . . .”[4] Plaintiffs allege that the Fort Yukon Map of Boundaries created Tracts 19 and 19A.[5] Plaintiffs allege that Tract 19 and Tract 19A are adjacent and that “[h]istorically, Tract 19A has been used as a public easement for community members to park and turnaround vehicles accessing the Yukon River and as a place for the community to view the Yukon River.”[6]

         Plaintiffs allege that survey drawings were done after the Fort Yukon Map of Boundaries was submitted to BLM but that the drawings for Tracts 19 and 19A were originally incorrect because defendants “convinced the surveyor to include more acreage in their § 14(c)(1) Claim than identified on the Fort Yukon Map of Boundaries.”[7] Plaintiffs allege that the survey drawings were corrected in 2014 “to provide the appropriate boundary for Tracts 19 and 19A.”[8] Plaintiffs allege that after they received the final survey drawings, “GZ Corporation began to execute deeds to provide formal documentation of the § 14(c)(1) Claims.”[9] Plaintiffs allege that they quitclaimed Tract 19 to Clarence Alexander in 2016 but that they retain title to Tract 19A.[10]

         Plaintiffs allege that defendants have “moved their belongings” onto Tract 19A and that although plaintiffs have asked them to remove all of their belongings from Tract 19A, defendants have instead posted no trespassing signs on the property and continue to occupy Tract 19A.[11 ]Plaintiffs commenced this action in order to eject defendants from Tract 19A.[12]

         Defendants contend that the boundaries on the Fort Yukon Map of Boundaries are incorrect and that Clarence Alexander's § 14(c)(1) claim includes some or all of Tract 19A.[13] Defendants also contend that there are issues as to whether plaintiffs complied with the regulatory requirements for § 14(c)(1) claims. Defendants have asserted four counterclaims against plaintiffs. In their first counterclaim, defendants seek a declaration that GZ Corporation's § 14(c)(1) processes and procedures were unconstitutional. In their second counterclaim, defendants seek a declaration that the one-year ANCSA statute of limitations does not apply to their claims involving Clarence Alexander's § 14(c)(1) claim. In their third counterclaim, defendants seek a declaration that Clarence Alexander is entitled to a de novo hearing on his § 14(c)(1) claim. In their fourth counterclaim, defendants assert a quiet title claim and request that “[f]ollowing a de novo hearing either before [p]laintiff GZ Corporation, or a de novo hearing before the [c]ourt, ” the court

quiet title by ruling in favor of [d]efendant Clarence Alexander's § 14(c)(1) claim and against [p]laintiffs' claims, to disputed property forming part of [d]efendant Clarence Alexander's original 1984 written § 14(c)(1) claim, all of which claim [p]laintiff[s] approved in 1990, but portions of which [p]laintiff GZ Corporation later removed or altered, failing to deed Clarence Alexander's entire, original 1984 claim to him in 2016[.[14]

         Pursuant to Rule 19 and Rule 12(b)(7), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, defendants now move to either join the City of Fort Yukon (“the City”) as a required party or to dismiss this action for failure to join a required party.

         Discussion

         As the moving parties, defendants have “the burden of persuasion in arguing” that the City is a required party. Makah Indian Tribe v. Verity, 910 F.2d 555, 558 (9th Cir. 1990). The issue of whether the City is a required party is governed by Rule 19(a). Under Rule 19(a), the court first considers whether it “could award complete relief to the parties present without joining the non-party.” Paiute-Shoshone Indians of Bishop Community of Bishop Colony, Cal. v. City of Los Angeles, 637 F.3d 993, 997 (9th Cir. 2011). “Alternatively, ” the court “ask[s] whether the non-party has a ‘legally protected interest' in this action that would be ‘impaired or impeded' by adjudicating the case without it.” Id. (quoting Yell ...


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