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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Rules Against Tribe|in Cigarette Sales Dispute

(CN) - The Nisqually Indian Tribe can't challenge Washington state's agreement with another tribe for the taxation and sale of cigarettes at a self-governing Indian community, the 9th Circuit ruled.

The Nisqually Indians argued that another tribe's tobacco sales at Frank's Landing, a patch of land held in trust for individual Indians, reduced cigarette sales on the Nisqually Reservation, resulting in lost revenue.

Frank's Landing consists of three parcels of land, none of which is on the Squaxin or Nisqually reservations.

Under state contracts, tribes can collect tribal taxes, in lieu of state and local sales and use taxes, when a tribal retailer sells tobacco in Indian country. To retain this tax revenue, tribes must use the funds for "essential" government services.

Nisqually challenged Washington's contract with Squaxin tribe, which sub-leased property on Frank's Landing from a member of the Frank's Landing Indian Community. The tribe then sold tobacco through a store on that land.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the laws under which the Nisqually tribe sued provide no private right of action.

The 9th Circuit agreed on appeal.

"[W]e find no private right of action under the relevant Washington laws," Judge N. Randy Smith wrote.

The three-judge panel also rejected the tribe's breach of contract claim, saying the Nisqually were never granted the exclusive right to sell cigarettes at Frank's Landing.

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