Friday, May 17, 2013

Miccosukee Tribe Of Indians Of Florida v. USA

May 15: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, Case No. 10-14271. Since 1995, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida (Tribe or Miccosukee tribe) has had a running battle with the federal government over the government's management of the Central and Southern Florida Project for Flood Control (C&SF Project) in the Everglades. This case is the most recent chapter. The gist of the four-count complaint the Tribe filed in this case is that the project diverts excessive flood waters over tribal lands -- in part to protect other land owners whose properties are located within the project. The District Court dismissed three of the complaint's counts for failure to state a claim for relief and the fourth on summary judgment. The Tribe appeals these decisions. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court dismissals and judgment. 
    The operational area of the C&SF Project is massive, comprising 16,000 square miles. The project stretches from the Kissimmee River Basin, just south of Orlando, to the southern tip of Florida, at Everglades National Park. To aid in administering this vast system, the Corps of Engineers has divided the Everglades into three areas: the Everglades Agricultural Area, the Water Conservation Area, and the Everglades National Park. These areas are contiguous and follow one after another, beginning at Lake Okeechobee and proceeding southward. The appeal involves an alleged clash between the Tribe's rights to use and enjoy these lands and the Corps's operational duties.
    In this highly complex case with extensive history, the Appeals Court indicates, "We cannot undertake a review of the District Court's ruling without pausing to comment on the quality of the Tribe's complaint. Most of the complaint's allegations are general and are devoted to description of the Tribe's history, the importance of the Everglades to the livelihood of its members, the evolution and implementation of the C&SF Project, and the injury the members suffer when tribal lands are flooded. The remaining allegations of the complaint are a tangled morass of vague and conclusory statements; thus, the theory of liability that each count asserts is, but for the count's title, difficult to discern. . . We find that the District Court, itself, had difficulty discerning the predicates for the theories of liability asserted. . .
    "The Corps should have moved the District Court to order the Tribe to provide it with a "more definite statement" under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(e), but it did not do so. . . because we believe that we can discern enough from the complaint's allegations to dispose of this appeal with confidence." The final decision includes rulings on several individual counts too complicated to adequately explain here.

    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Water, #CA11]
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