United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
P. WATTERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is the Defendants' motion to dismiss the
complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. (Doc. 12).
For the following reasons, the Court denies the motion.
Facts alleged in complaint
White was employed as a registered nurse at the Awe
Kualawaache Care Center. The Care Center is an entity owned
by the Crow Tribe of Indians. One day, a patient at the Care
Center informed White that he had been molested during
transport. White reported the conversation to her supervisor.
When nothing was done, White reported the incident to law
enforcement. White was subsequently harassed by her
supervisor and terminated from employment by the Care Center.
White filed suit in federal district court, alleging solely
that she was entitled to damages under the Racketeer
Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §
1961 et seq., (RICO). The Defendants filed a motion to
dismiss White's claim for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1).
Standard of review
district court's order dismissing claims for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction is reviewed de novo. Leeson
v. Transamerica Disability Income Plan, 671 F.3d 969,
974 (9th Cir. 2012).
Defendants argue the Court does not have subject matter
jurisdiction for three reasons. First, the Defendants argue
the tribe has exclusive jurisdiction over White's claim.
Second, the Defendants argue White is required to exhaust
tribal remedies before filing her claim in federal court.
Third, the Defendants argue tribes should be exempted from
RICO under the first and third Coeur D 'Alene
The tribe does not have exclusive jurisdiction over
White's claim because RICO plainly confers subject matter
jurisdiction on federal courts
Defendants argue the tribe has exclusive jurisdiction over
White's claim because she voluntarily entered a
consensual employment relationship with the tribe, citing the
first Montana exception. Montana v. United
States, 450 U.S. 544, 548 (1981). The Defendants are
mistaken. Whether the tribe has jurisdiction over a
hypothetical wrongful discharge claim is irrelevant. White is
not suing for wrongful discharge. White is suing for a
violation of RICO. RICO criminalizes racketeering and corrupt
activities that harm persons and businesses engaged in
interstate commerce. 18 U.S.C. § 1962. RICO also
provides a civil cause of action for persons injured in their
business or property by persons who violated the criminal
provision. 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). The action may be
brought "in any appropriate United States district
court." 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). The Court thus has
subject matter jurisdiction over claims brought under RICO.
The motion is denied.
White is not required to exhaust tribal remedies because RICO
grants the Court specific jurisdiction to hear the
Defendants argue White must exhaust tribal remedies before a
federal court may hear her claim, citing Booze v.
Wilder, 381 F.3d 931, 935 (9th Cir. 2004). The
Defendants are mistaken and Booze offers no support
for their position. Booze stands for the proposition
that a federal court should refrain from accepting
jurisdiction over a claim challenging tribal court
jurisdiction of a matter currently pending before a tribal
court until after the matter is fully exhausted in the tribal
court system. 381 F.3d at 934-935. In other words,
Booze and its ilk prevent entities from wriggling
out of tribal court jurisdiction-after a claim has been filed
against them in tribal court-until after the tribal court has
fully adjudicated the claim. Booze does not force
persons to sue in tribal court in the first instance,
however, and has no application to a case brought under RICO,
which specifically grants federal courts jurisdiction to hear
the claim. 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). The motion is denied.
The first and third Coeur d'Alene exceptions are
Defendants argue tribes should be exempted from RICO under
the first and ...