Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261 (1997)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 94-1474. Argued October 16, 1996—Decided June 23, 1997

Alleging ownership in the submerged lands and bed of Lake Coeur d'Alene and various of its navigable tributaries and effluents lying within the original boundaries of the Coeur d'Alene Reservation (the submerged lands), the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and various of its members (collectively, the Tribe) filed this federal-court action against the State of Idaho, various state agencies, and numerous state officials in their individual capacities. The Tribe sought, inter alia, a declaratory judgment establishing its entitlement to the exclusive use and occupancy and the right to quiet enjoyment of the submerged lands, a declaration of the invalidity of all Idaho laws, customs, or usages purporting to regulate those lands, and a preliminary and permanent injunction prohibiting defendants from taking any action in violation of the Tribe's rights in the lands. The District Court dismissed the suit, but the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. As here relevant, the latter court agreed with the District Court that the Eleventh Amendment barred all claims against the State and its agencies, as well as the quiet title action against the officials. However, it found the doctrine of Ex parte Young, 209 U. S. 123, applicable and allowed the claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the officials to proceed insofar as they sought to preclude continuing violations of federal law. The court reasoned that those claims are based on Idaho's ongoing interference with the Tribe's alleged ownership rights, and found it conceivable that the Tribe could prove facts entitling it to relief on the claims.

Held: The judgment is reversed in part, and the case is remanded. 42 F. 3d 1244, reversed in part and remanded. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II-A, and III, concluding that the Tribe's suit against the state officials may not proceed in federal court. Pp. 267-270, 281-288. (a) Because States enjoy Eleventh Amendment immunity in suits by Indian tribes, Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U. S. 775, 782, the present suit is barred unless it falls within the exception this Court has recognized for certain suits seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against state officers in their individual capacities, see, e. g., Ex parte


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