United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division
FIRST INTERSTATE BANCSYSTEM, INC. and FIRST INTERSTATE BANK, Plaintiffs,
ALVIN NOT AFRAID, JR., CARLSON GOES AHEAD, RUDOLPH KNUTE OLD CROW, RONALD ARNESON, FRANK WHITE CLAY, SHAWN BACK BONE, and CROW TRIBE OF INDIANS, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO QUASH, VACATING HEARING, AND
DISMISSING THE CASE
P. WATTERS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Defendant Frank White Clay's Motion to Quash
TRO (Doc. 15). The Court grants the motion, vacates the
preliminary injunction hearing and dismisses the case for the
reasons set forth below.
Court issued a temporary restraining order on February 8,
2019, to afford comity and recognize and enforce the Crow
Tribal Court's January 19, 2019, and January 29, 2019,
restraining orders. (Doc. 14). Upon review of White
Clay's motion to quash and the documents in support, the
Court determines that the Crow Tribal Civil Court's
January 29, 2019, restraining order maintains the status quo
that Not Afraid Jr. is the Tribe Chairman and prevents Goes
Ahead and Back Bone from assuming or occupying Not Afraid Jr.
and Old Crow's positions, titles, duties, and financial
signature authority. (Doc. 1-1 at 1-2). In other words, the
Crow Tribal Civil Court has already determined that Not
Afraid, Jr., not Goes Ahead or Back Bone, is entitled to
access funds belonging to the Crow Tribe currently held by
First Interstate Bank. Accordingly, a temporary restraining
order or injunction from this Court stating the same is
redundant and unnecessary.
Crow Tribal Civil Court's January 29, 2019, order also
resolves First Interstate Bank's cause of action.
"Interpleader is a procedural device used to resolve
conflicting claims to money or property. It enables a person
or entity in possession of a tangible res or fund of money
(the 'stakeholder') to join in a single suit two or
more 'claimants' asserting mutually exclusive claims
to that stake." Nevada v. Pioneer Cos., 245 F Supp.2d
1120, 1125 (D. Nev. 2003); see also Minnesota Mut. Life
Ins. Co. v. Ensley, 174 F.3d 977, 980 (9th Cir.1999)
("Section 1335 allows a stakeholder to file an
interpleader action to protect itself against the problems
posed by multiple claimants to a single fund.").
order to bring a statutory interpleader action, the plaintiff
must establish that there are "two or more adverse
claimants, of diverse citizenship ... [who] are claiming or
may claim to be entitled to such money or property" 28
U.S.C. § 1335(a)(1). Moreover, "in order to avail
itself of the interpleader remedy, a stakeholder must have a
good faith belief that there are or may be colorable
competing claims to the stake." Michelman v. Lincoln
Nat. Life Ins. Co., 685 F.3d 887, 894 (9th Cir. 2012).
issue between Not Afraid, Jr., and Goes Ahead is a dispute
over who has check writing authority on the First Interstate
Bank accounts. But in light of the Crow Tribal Civil
Court's January 29, 2019, order, neither Goes Ahead nor
Back Bone have any financial signature authority for the
tribal funds in the First Interstate Bank accounts at issue.
Neither Not Afraid Jr., nor Goes Ahead nor Back Bone have a
claim to the actual funds (the "stake"). The funds
belong to the Crow Tribe and only the Crow Tribe may claim
entitlement to the funds. See Libby, McNeill, & Libby v.
City Nat'l Bank, 592 F.2d 504, 508 (9th Cir. 1979)
(holding that, where "only one party makes a claim
against the fund that is insufficient [to confer statutory
interpleader jurisdiction]"). There is nothing before
the Court indicating that the Crow Tribe does not want the
funds to remain in the accounts at First Interstate Bank. To
that end, placing the funds with the Court would accomplish
nothing. Once a chairman is determined, the signing authority
issue will be resolved, and the chairman will need to access
the money on behalf of the Crow Tribe through the First
Interstate Bank accounts. The funds remain the Crow
Tribe's throughout this process. Accordingly, this Court
does not have interpleader jurisdiction over the present case
because First Interstate Bank has failed to establish that
there are two or more adverse claimants who "may
claim" entitlement to the tribal funds. See 28 U.S.C.
reasons set forth above, White Clay's Motion to Quash TRO
(Doc. 15) is GRANTED and his motion for hearing is DENIED as
moot. White Clay's Second Motion to Quash (Doc. 18) is
also DENIED as moot.
ORDERED that because this Court lacks jurisdiction pursuant
to the federal interpleader statute, this case is DISMISSED
without prejudice and the preliminary injunction hearing set