Federal Court Rules in Favor of Swinomish Tribe in Right-of Way Litigation

Fidalgo Island – On March 15, 2018, US District Judge Robert S. Lasnik, issued an Order Denying BNSF’s Motion to Reconsider his prior June 2017 ruling granting Summary Judgment to the Swinomish Indian Community.  Judge Lasnik restated his previous ruling was not preempted by the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act which created the Surface Transportation Board.  BNSF claimed in its Reconsideration Motion that the Tribe did not own the land under the rail line.

Judge Lasnik confirmed in his order that the Tribe’s claims for trespass and contract breach arise under federal law, and are based on rights of exclusive use granted by the Treaty of Point Elliott executed in 1855.  The Tribe is now able to proceed with its case for injunctive relief against BNSF.

The Tribe learned in 2012, that BNSF was running more than four times as many railcars daily then were permitted by the right-of-way easement agreement.  In April 2015, the Tribe sued BNSF for violating the terms of an agreement allowing trains to cross its Reservation in Skagit County.

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is represented by the TBS team of Chris Brain and Chase Alvord.  For more information on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, click here.

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