Creative Advocacy | Practical Advice®

Swinomish BNSF

News and Events

TBS Client Swinomish Tribe Welcomes Federal Court Ruling in Lawsuit Against BNSF

Fidalgo Island – The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community today welcomed a decision from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in support of the Tribe’s summary judgment motion against BNSF Railway (BNSF).

In today’s ruling, the court found that the Tribe’s lawsuit against BNSF is not preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act and that the lawsuit to enforce the right-of-way easement agreement with BNSF will proceed.

The tribe filed suit against BNSF in April of 2015 for violating the terms of an easement agreement allowing trains to cross its Reservation in Skagit County. The Court also ruled that BNSF breached its promises under the easement agreement when it failed to disclose its cargo and “made no attempt to obtain the Tribe’s written agreement to an increase in traffic across the reservation until long after the unit train shipments had begun.”

“The court’s ruling today is a victory not just for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, but for all of Indian Country.” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “Again and again we have seen agreements with tribes ignored or just tossed aside when they are inconvenient. We are grateful that the Court has affirmed that agreements with tribes must be honored.”

“The Tribe takes its agreements seriously, and expects them to be honored,” continued Cladoosby, “whether it is the Treaty of Point Elliott or an easement across Tribal trust lands.”

Train tracks running across the northern edge of the Reservation were laid in the late 1800’s, without consent from the Swinomish or federal government. The tracks currently serve two Anacortes refineries. In 1991, the Tribe and BNSF signed an agreement settling a lawsuit filed by the Tribe and the United States in 1976 for nearly a century of trespass, and granting BNSF an easement but with important conditions: only one train of 25 railcars would cross the Reservation in each direction daily, and BNSF would regularly update the Tribe on the type of cargo. In return, the Tribe agreed not to “arbitrarily withhold permission” if there should be a future BNSF request to increase the number of trains or cars.

In late 2012, the Tribe learned from media reports that “unit trains” of 100 railcars or more were beginning to cross the Reservation. In April of 2015, BNSF was reportedly running six 100-car “unit trains” per week across the Reservation, more than four times as many railcars daily as permitted by the easement.

facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmail

More on Our Attorneys

Other Recent News

Jackie Leader and Cecily Shiel join Tousley Brain Stephens as Associates

Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC

SEATTLE, Washington – June 19, 2017 – Jackie M. Leader and Cecily C. Shiel have joined Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC as associates. The Seattle law firm has a nationally recognized litigation practice and a renowned Pacific Northwest transactional practice. “We are excited that Jackie and Cecily have joined our firm as associates,” said Janissa A. […]

Read More »

Swinomish Tribe Granted Motion for Reconsideration

Swinomish Reconsideration

On June 8, 2017, US District Judge Robert Lasnik, issued an Order Granting the Motion for Reconsideration in the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community vs. BNSF Railway lawsuit. In the ruling issued late Thursday, the court found that the Tribe’s lawsuit against BNSF is not preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act and that the lawsuit to enforce the […]

Read More »

Five TBS Attorneys Recognized as 2017 Washington Super Lawyers® / Rising Stars

Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC

Tousley Brain Stephens is pleased to announce Kevin Bay, Chris Brain, and Kim Stephens have been named as 2017 Washington Super Lawyers®, and Noelle Chung and Jake Humphreys have been selected as a 2017 Washington Rising Stars. Super Lawyers® is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained […]

Read More »

TBS Advises On Sale of Western Wholesale Supply

Western Wholesale

TBS congratulates Blaine Sorenson on his sale of Western Wholesale Supply to Multi-Craft Plastics Washington Inc. Western Wholesale Supply has been a leading supplier of A-frame signs and sign making materials since 1994. Multi-Craft Plastics Washington Inc. is a subsidiary of Multi-Craft Plastics Inc., a third-generation family business founded in 1946 in Portland, Oregon. The […]

Read More »

Three TBS lawyers named 2017 The Best Lawyers in America©

Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC

We are pleased to announce that three Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC attorneys, Kim Stephens, Chris Brain and Chase Alvord, have been selected by their peers for inclusion in the U.S. News 23nd Edition of The Best Lawyers in America©. In addition, special recognition was given to Kim Stephens as the 2017 Seattle Real Estate Litigation “Lawyer of […]

Read More »
1 2 3 28