Oneida Nation injunction against foreclosure upheld by court of appeals

VERONA, N.Y. (AP/WKTV) - A federal appeals court has upheld lower court rulings that two New York counties can't foreclose on land
owned by the Oneida Indian Nation to settle a property tax dispute.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals says U.S. District Judge David Hurd was right when he decided in 2005 that Madison and Oneida counties could impose taxes on tribal land, but they couldn't seize it for nonpayment.

The ruling released Tuesday reaffirms that federal law forbids lawsuits against a tribe unless authorized by Congress or the tribe waives immunity.

"The Oneida Nation is pleased with the Court's decision," said Mark Emery, director of media relations for the Oneida Indian Nation. "We regret though that it took litigation to resolve it when the preferred path is negotiation. Now that the Court has resolved the issue once and for all , it is time to move forward and put the disputes behind us."

The dispute involves about 17,000 acres, including 13,000 the federal government has agreed to put into trust. That would exempt most of the land from taxation, but the state, counties and local citizen groups have sued to block the 2008 trust agreement.

"As the court properly stated, this is but the latest chapter in a lengthy dispute over the payment of state and local taxes," said Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente. "I continue to maintain that the best solution is a negotiated settlement. I fear that we are coming closer to an ultimate decision that in the end will yield us nothing. A compromise is needed to move this county forward and avoid more costly litigation."

For the full-length court of appeals decision, click here.

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