The historic Seminole Council Oak Tree in Hollywood, Florida. Photo: Pietro

Seminole Tribe loses appeal in long-running taxation dispute

The Seminole Tribe must pay utility taxes to the state of Florida, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for a second time in the long-running dispute.

In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the court said it previously determined that the taxes do not violate federal law or infringe on the tribe's sovereignty. Therefore the tribe cannot raise the same issues again, the court said.

"As we have explained above, the tribe had a full and fair opportunity to litigate its challenge to the utility tax and could have advanced its more specific arguments in the first action," the unpublished opinion reads. "Because the tribe has already had its day in court, it cannot now continue to litigate its challenge with the benefit of our analysis of the shortcomings of its earlier arguments."

The 11th Circuit's prior ruling in the case was issued in August 2015. The court struck down a rental tax imposed on the reservation but preserved the utility tax because it determined that the legal incidence fell on non-Indian utilities, not on the tribe, and is not pre-empted by federal laws or regulations.

The tribe sought further clarification of the utility tax with a second lawsuit. The complaint had explained how the tax affects its self-governance, News Service of Florida reported.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Seminole Tribe v. Biegalski.

Read More on the Story
Seminoles lose appeal over electricity tax (The News Service of Florida December 10, 2018)

11th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions
Seminole Tribe v. Biegalski (December 7, 2018)
Seminole Tribe v. Stranburg (August 26, 2015)

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