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Federal Court: New York counties can’t foreclose on Oneida land

Vernoa, New York (AP) May 2010

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 during April reaffirms that federal law forbids lawsuits against a tribe unless authorized by Congress or the tribe waives immunity.

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.

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