Judge says no jurisdiction for suit over
Tulelake Airport sale
Herald and News 10/6/2020
A case claiming the city of Tulelake, Federal Aviation
Administration and Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma/Modoc Nation acted
improperly in selling the land under the Tulelake Airport to the
Modoc Tribe has been dismissed.
The Tule Lake Committee, a group of Japanese-Americans who were
incarcerated at the Tule Lake Segregation Center during World
War II and their descendants, contested the legality of the sale
of the airport.
After hearing arguments, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb of
the Eastern District of California issued an order September 25,
dismissing the Tule Lake Committee’s case. Because of COVID-19
protocols, the case was heard September 21 via Zoom.
In the case filed earlier this year, the Tule Lake Committee
disputed the legality of Tulelake airfield sale, which they
asserted was “given away” for $17,500 to the Oklahoma-based
tribe by Tulelake city council during a special meeting in 2018.
The committee also alleged the FAA failed to address National
Historic Preservation Act obligations for the historically
significant incarceration camp site. The airport is located on
land that was a large portion of the World War II incarceration
The Tulelake city council unanimously approved the sale without
discussion at a special meeting even though Modoc County, which
owns the land where the airport is located, also offered $17,500
and the Tule Lake Committee offered $40,000.
The committee alleged that based on the 1951 federal land patent
that gave the former Tule Lake Segregation Center property to
the city, it lacked authority to transfer the land to a tribe
based in Oklahoma. The lawsuit also alleged Tulelake failed to
observe California’s open meeting laws when it approved the sale
the 359-acre airfield to the Modoc Nation for a price that only
covered the city’s legal fees.
In addition, the committee also alleged the FAA approved the
airfield “giveaway” without implementing mandatory historic and
environmental administrative review.
The judge’s order, however, ruled the FAA’s approval was not “a
‘final’ agency action” and dismissed the case for “lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.” The FAA was granted dismissal, as
was the city and the Modoc Nation.
“We believe there are issues that deserve additional judicial
review, and we are exploring our options,” said Yoshinori Himel,
one of the committee’s three attorneys. Barbara Takei, the
committee’s chief financial officer, said lawyers are
considering the legal options, including a possible appeal.
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