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Atakapa Indian De Creole Nation v. State of Louisiana

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 10, 2019

ATAKAPA INDIAN DE CREOLE NATION, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
STATE OF LOUISIANA, Office of Indian Affairs; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants-Appellees

          Appeals from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana

          Before OWEN, Chief Judge, and BARKSDALE and DUNCAN, Circuit Judges.

          STUART KYLE DUNCAN, Circuit Judge:

         The plaintiff, a lawyer who styles himself both a monarch and a deity, brought claims on behalf of an Indian tribe alleging that the defendants have, among other misdeeds, monopolized "intergalactic foreign trade." The district court dismissed the case based on sovereign immunity. We affirm on the alternate basis that the plaintiff's claims are frivolous and the district court therefore lacked jurisdiction to entertain them. See Southpark Square Ltd. v. City of Jackson, Miss., 565 F.2d 338, 344 (5th Cir. 1977).

         I.

         This action was originally brought as a habeas corpus proceeding by Edward Moses, Jr., a lawyer who calls himself the trustee of the "Atakapa Indian de Creole Nation." This group is not a federally recognized Indian tribe, and its precise nature is unclear. See Indian Entities Recognized by and Eligible To Receive Services from the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, 84 Fed. Reg. 1200 (Feb. 1, 2019). The initial complaint alleged the Atakapa "are being held as wards of the State through the Louisiana Governor's Office of Indian Affairs" and "in pupilage under the United States," and sought formal recognition as "indigenous to Louisiana." The claims were based on a gumbo of federal and state laws, including eighteenth-century federal treaties with France and Spain, as well as sources such as the "Pactum De Singularis Caelum, [or] the Covenant of One Heaven." The plaintiff subsequently filed something resembling an amended complaint, which sought to reclassify the action as a "libel suit" under maritime jurisdiction.

         The United States and Louisiana moved to dismiss, arguing the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The magistrate judge recommended granting the motion. The plaintiff objected and moved to file a second amended complaint, alleging jurisdiction under federal antitrust laws and Title VII. The district court dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It also denied the plaintiff's separate motions for new trial and reconsideration, for leave to file a third amended complaint, and for an emergency injunction. Finally, the court issued an order finding the plaintiff's filings "constitute[d] potential violations under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 that would require an imposition of sanctions by this Court on Plaintiff's counsel."

         The plaintiff appeals the dismissal of his claims as well as the denial of various motions. The appeals have been consolidated.

         II.

         We review de novo the district court's dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Rothe Dev., Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Def., 666 F.3d 336, 338 (5th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted).

         III.

         The district court dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds, but we need not go that far to resolve this appeal. The plaintiffs claims are entirely frivolous and the district court therefore lacked power to entertain them.

         Some claims are "so insubstantial, implausible, . . . or otherwise completely devoid of merit as not to involve a federal controversy." See Oneida Indian Nation of N.Y. v. Oneida Cty., 414 U.S. 661, 666 (1974). Federal courts lack power to entertain these "wholly insubstantial and frivolous" claims. Southpark Square, 565 F.2d at 343-44. Determining whether a claim is "wholly insubstantial and frivolous" requires asking whether it is "obviously without merit" or whether the claim's "unsoundness so clearly results from the previous decisions of (the Supreme Court) as to foreclose the subject." Id. at 342.

         Unsurprisingly, we can find no Supreme Court precedent controlling or even addressing the plaintiffs exotic claims. We must therefore ask: are the claims ...


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