August 16, 2013

Judge tosses land-claim section

AKWESASNE — Foreclosure proceedings can begin on land within the disputed Hogansburg/Bombay Triangle, following dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe.

But the parcels will not be sold while possible settlement of land-claim issues between the tribe, the state, Franklin County and St. Lawrence County remains on the table.

U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn ruled this week that his court lacks jurisdiction over state and municipal building codes, licensing and taxing powers for the roughly 2,000 acres of land that the tribe says was taken illegally from its designated reservation boundaries that were established in 1796.

The St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council issued a statement, saying the judge did not respond to the legal question posed to him in the 2009 lawsuit and that the tribe still holds out hope a settlement can be reached between all parties.

“Judge Kahn has ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the tribe’s claim that the Hogansburg Triangle continued to be part of the tribe’s reservation on the legally erroneous ground that the tribe was seeking to have him interpret a federal law that defines the extent of the state’s jurisdiction,” the statement reads.

“The tribe did not ask him to interpret that law, and the tribe was not relying on that law to establish the court’s jurisdiction. In a wholly muddled ruling, the court has answered a question that was not asked and failed to answer the federal question that was asked — is the triangle within the boundaries of the reservation?

“That question having been left unresolved, the tribe and its members will continue to refuse to comply with any state or local laws since, in the tribe’s view, the land is reservation land and not within the jurisdiction of the state or local authorities except as defined by Congress.

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