NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
DAVID PATCHAK, PETITIONER v.
RYAN ZINKE, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, et al.
on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit
[February 27, 2018]
Justice Thomas announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Justice Breyer, Justice Alito, and Justice Kagan join.
Petitioner, David Patchak, sued the Secretary of the Interior for taking land into trust on behalf of an Indian Tribe. While his suit was pending in the District Court, Congress enacted the Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act (Gun Lake Act or Act), Pub. L. 113–179,
1913, which provides that suits relating to the land “shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court and shall be promptly dismissed.” Patchak contends that, in enacting this statute, Congress impermissibly infringed the judicial power that Article III of the Constitution vests exclusively in the Judicial Branch. Because we disagree, we affirm the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Band) resides in southwestern Michigan, near the township of Wayland. The Band traces its relationship with the United States back hundreds of years, pointing to treaties it negotiated with the Federal Government as early as 1795. But the Secretary of the Interior did not formally recognize the Band until 1999. See 63 Fed. Reg. 56936 (1998); 65 Fed. Reg. 13298 (2000).
After obtaining formal recognition, the Band identified a 147-acre parcel of land in Wayland, known as the Bradley Property, where it wanted to build a casino. The Band asked the Secretary to invoke the Indian Reorganization Act, §5,
25 U. S. C. §5108, and take the Bradley Property into trust.[1
] In 2005, the Secretary agreed and posted a notice informing the public that the Bradley Property would be taken into trust for the Band. See 70 Fed. Reg. 25596 (2005).
The Michigan Gambling Opposition (MichGO) sued, alleging that the Secretary’s decision violated federal environmental and gaming laws. After several years of litigation, the D. C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of MichGo’s claims, and this Court denied certiorari. Michigan Gambling Opposition
, 525 F. 3d 23 (2008), cert. denied,
555 U. S. 1137 (2009)
. In January 2009, the Secretary formally took the Bradley Property into trust. And in February 2011, the Band opened its casino.
Before the Secretary formally took the land into trust, a nearby landowner, David Patchak, filed another lawsuit challenging the Secretary’s decision. Invoking the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U. S. C. §§702, 706(2), Patchak alleged that the Secretary lacked statutory authority to take the Bradley Property into trust for the Band. The Indian Reorganization Act does not allow the Secretary to take land into trust for tribes that were not under federal jurisdiction when the statute was enacted in 1934. See Carcieri
555 U. S. 379
–383 (2009). The Band was not federally recognized until 1999, which Patchak argued was more than 65 years too late. Based on this alleged statutory violation, Patchak sought to reverse the Secretary’s decision to take the Bradley Property into trust.
The Secretary raised preliminary objections to Patchak’s suit, contending that it was barred by sovereign immunity and that Patchak lacked prudential standing to bring it. The District Court granted the Secretary’s motion to dismiss, but the D. C. Circuit reversed. Patchak
, 646 F. Supp. 2d 72 (DC 2009), rev’d, 632 F. 3d 702 (2011). This Court granted certiorari and affirmed the D. C. Circuit. Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians
567 U. S. 209 (2012)
). This Court’s decision in Patchak I
held that Congress had waived the Secretary’s sovereign immunity from suits like Patchak’s. Id.,
at 215–224. It also held that Patchak had prudential standing because his suit arguably fell within the “zone of interests” protected by the Indian Reorganization Act. Id.,
at 224–228. Because Patchak had standing and the Secretary lacked immunity, this Court concluded that “Patchak’s suit may proceed,” id.,
at 212, and remanded for further proceedings, id.,
In September 2014, while Patchak’s suit was back in the District Court, Congress enacted the Gun Lake Act,
1913. Section 2(a) of the Act states that the Bradley Property “is reaffirmed as trust land, and the actions of the Secretary of the Interior in taking that land into trust are ratified and confirmed.” Section 2(b) then provides the following:
“No Claims.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an action (including an action pending in a Federal court as of the date of enactment of this Act) relating to the land described in subsection (a) shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court and shall be promptly dismissed.”
Based on §2(b), the District Court entered summary judgment against Patchak and dismissed his suit for lack of jurisdiction. 109 F. Supp. 3d 152 (DC 2015).
The D. C. Circuit affirmed. Patchak
, 828 F. 3d 995 (2016). It held that “[t]he language of the Gun Lake Act makes plain that Congress has stripped federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction” over suits, like Patchak’s, that relate to the Bradley Property. Id.,
at 1001. The D. C. Circuit rejected Patchak’s argument that §2(b) violates Article III of the Constitution. Id.,
at 1001–1003. Article III prohibits Congress from “direct[ing] the result of pending litigation,” the D. C. Circuit reasoned, but it does not prohibit Congress from “ ‘supply[ing] new law.’ ” Id.,
at 1002 (quoting Robertson
v. Seattle Audubon Soc.
503 U. S. 429,
). Section 2(b) supplies new law: “[I]f an action relates to the Bradley Property, it must promptly be dismissed.” 828 F. 3d, at 1003.
We granted certiorari to review whether §2(b) violates Article III of the Constitution.[2
] See 581 U. S. ___ (2017). Because it does not, we now affirm.
The Constitution creates three branches of Government and vests each branch with a different type of power. See Art. I, §1; Art. II, §1, cl. 1; Art. III, §1. “To the legislative department has been committed the duty of making laws; to the executive the duty of executing them; and to the judiciary the duty of interpreting and applying them in cases properly brought before the courts.” Massachusetts
262 U. S. 447,
; see also Wayman
, 10 Wheat. 1, 46 (1825) (Marshall, C. J.) (“[T]he legislature makes, the executive executes, and the judiciary construes the law”). By vesting each branch with an exclusive form of power, the Framers kept those powers separate. See INS
462 U. S. 919,
. Each branch “exercise[s] . . . the powers appropriate to its own department,” and no branch can “encroach upon the powers confided to the others.” Kilbourn
103 U. S. 168,
. This system prevents “[t]he accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands,” The Federalist No. 47, p. 301 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (J. Madison)—an accumulation that would pose an inherent “threat to liberty,” Clinton
v. City of New York
524 U. S. 417,
(Kennedy, J., concurring).
The separation of powers, among other things, prevents Congress from exercising the judicial power. See Plaut
v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc.
514 U. S. 211,
. One way that Congress can cross the line from legislative power to judicial power is by “usurp[ing] a court’s power to interpret and apply the law to the [circumstances] before it.” Bank Markazi
, 578 U. S. ___, ___ (2016) (slip op., at 12). The simplest example would be a statute that says, “In Smith
, Smith wins.” See id.,
at ___–___, n. 17 (slip op., at 12–13, n. 17). At the same time, the legislative power is the power to make law, and Congress can make laws that apply retroactively to pending lawsuits, even when it effectively ensures that one side wins. See id.,
at ___–___ (slip op., at 15–19).
To distinguish between permissible exercises of the legislative power and impermissible infringements of the judicial power, this Court’s precedents establish the following rule: Congress violates Article III when it “compel[s] . . . findings or results under old law.” Seattle Audubon
, at 438. But Congress does not violate Article III when it “changes the law.” Plaut
, at 218.
Section 2(b) changes the law. Specifically, it strips federal courts of jurisdiction over actions “relating to” the Bradley Property. Before the Gun Lake Act, federal courts had jurisdiction to hear these actions. See
28 U. S. C. §1331. Now they do not. This kind of legal change is well within Congress’ authority and does not violate Article III.
Section 2(b) strips federal jurisdiction over suits relating to the Bradley Property. The statute uses jurisdictional language. It states that an “action” relating to the Bradley Property “shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court.” It imposes jurisdictional consequences: Actions relating to the Bradley Property “shall be promptly dismissed.” See Ex parte McCardle
, 7 Wall. 506, 514 (1869) (“[W]hen [jurisdiction] ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause”). Section 2(b) has no exceptions. Cf. Reed Elsevier, Inc.
559 U. S. 154,
. And it applies “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law,” including the general grant of federal-question jurisdiction,
28 U. S. C. §1331. Although §2(b) does not use the word “jurisdiction,” this Court does not require jurisdictional statutes to “incant magic words.” Sebelius
v. Auburn Regional Medical Center
568 U. S. 145,
. Indeed, §2(b) uses language similar to other statutes that this Court has deemed jurisdictional. See, e.g.
565 U. S. 134,
(“ ‘an appeal may not be taken’ ” (quoting
28 U. S. C. §2253(c)(1))); Keene Corp.
v. United States
508 U. S. 200
–209 (1993) (“ ‘[n]o person shall file or prosecute’ ” (quoting
422 U. S. 749,
(“ ‘[n]o action . . . shall be brought under [
28 U. S. C. §1331]’ ” (quoting
42 U. S. C. §405(h))).
Our conclusion that §2(b) is jurisdictional is bolstered by the fact that it cannot plausibly be read as anything else. Section 2(b) is not one of the nonjurisdictional rules that this Court’s precedents have identified as “important and mandatory” but not governing “a court’s adjudicatory capacity.” Henderson
562 U. S. 428,
. Section 2(b) does not identify an “element of [the] plaintiff ’s claim for relief ” or otherwise define its “substantive adequacy.” Arbaugh
v. Y & H Corp.
546 U. S. 500,
. Nor is it a “claim-processing rule,” like a filing deadline or an exhaustion requirement, that requires the parties to “take certain procedural steps at certain specified times.” Henderson
, at 435.
Instead, §2(b) completely prohibits actions relating to the Bradley Property. Because §2(b) addresses “a court’s competence to adjudicate a particular category of cases,” Wachovia Bank, N. A.
546 U. S. 303,
, it is best read as a jurisdiction-stripping statute.
Statutes that strip jurisdiction “chang[e] the law” for the purpose of Article III, Plaut
, at 218, just as much as other exercises of Congress’ legislative authority. Article I permits Congress “[t]o constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court,” §8, and Article III vests the judicial power “in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish,” §1. These provisions reflect the so-called Madison- ian Compromise, which resolved the Framers’ disagreement about creating lower federal courts by leaving that decision to Congress. See Printz
v. United States
521 U. S. 898,
; 1 Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, p. 125 (M. Farrand ed. 1911). Congress’ greater power to create lower federal courts includes its lesser power to “limit the jurisdiction of those Courts.” United States
, 7 Cranch 32, 33 (1812); accord, Lockerty
319 U. S. 182,
. So long as Congress does not violate other constitutional provisions, its “control over the jurisdiction of the federal courts” is “plenary.” Trainmen
v. Toledo, P. & W. R. Co.
321 U. S. 50
–64 (1944); see also Bowles
551 U. S. 205,
(“Within constitutional bounds, Congress decides what cases the federal courts have jurisdiction to consider”). Thus, when Congress strips federal courts of jurisdic- tion, it exercises a valid legislative power no less than when it lays taxes, coins money, declares war, or invokes any other power that the Constitution grants it.
Indeed, this Court has held that Congress generally does not violate Article III when it strips federal jurisdiction over a class of cases.[3
] Shortly after the Civil War, for example, Congress repealed this Court’s appellate jurisdiction over certain habeas corpus cases. See Act of Mar. 27, 1868, ch. 34, §2,
44; see also U. S. Const., Art. III, §2 (permitting Congress to make “Exceptions” to this Court’s appellate jurisdiction). William McCardle, a military prisoner whose appeal was pending at the time, argued that the repealing statute was “an exercise by the Congress of judicial power.” 7 Wall., at 510. This Court disagreed. Jurisdiction-stripping statutes, the Court explained, do not involve “the exercise of judicial power” or “legislative interference with courts in the exercising of continuing jurisdiction.” Id.,
at 514. Because jurisdiction is the “power to declare the law” in the first place, “judicial duty is not less fitly performed by declining ungranted jurisdiction than in exercising firmly that which the Constitution and the laws confer.” Id.,
This Court has reaffirmed these principles on many occasions. Congress generally does not infringe the judicial power when it strips jurisdiction because, with limited exceptions, a congressional grant of jurisdiction is a prerequisite
to the exercise of judicial power. See Steel Co.
v. Citizens for Better Environment
523 U. S. 83
–95 (1998) (“The requirement that jurisdiction be established as a threshold matter ‘spring[s] from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States’ ” (quoting Mansfield, C. & L. M. R. Co.
111 U. S. 379,
, 3 How. 236, 245 (1845) (“[T]he judicial power of the United States . . . is (except in enumerated instances, applicable exclusively to this court) dependent . . . entirely upon the action of Congress”); Hudson
, at 33 (similar). “To deny this position” would undermine the separation of powers by “elevat[ing] the judicial over the legislative branch.” Cary
, at 245. Congress’ power over federal jurisdiction is “an essential ingredient of separation and equilibration of powers, restraining the courts from acting at certain times, and even restraining them from acting permanently regarding certain subjects.” Steel Co.
, at 101.
In sum, §2(b) strips jurisdiction over suits relating to the Bradley Property. It is a valid exercise of Congress’ legislative power. And because it changes the law, it does not infringe the judicial power. The constitutionality of jurisdiction-stripping statutes like this one is well established.
Patchak does not dispute Congress’ power to withdraw jurisdiction from the federal courts. He instead raises two arguments why §2(b) violates Article III, even if it strips jurisdiction. First, relying on United States
, 13 Wall. 128 (1872), Patchak argues that §2(b) flatly directs federal courts to dismiss lawsuits without allowing them to interpret or apply any new law. Second, relying on Plaut
514 U. S. 211
, Patchak argues that §2(b) attempts to interfere with this Court’s decision in Patchak I
—specifically, its conclusion that his suit “may proceed,” 567 U. S., at 212. We reject both arguments.
Section 2(b) does not flatly direct federal courts to dismiss lawsuits under old law. It creates new law for suits relating to the Bradley Property, and the District Court interpreted and applied that new law in Patchak’s suit. Section 2(b)’s “relating to” standard effectively guaranteed that Patchak’s suit would be dismissed. But “a statute does not impinge on judicial power when it directs courts to apply a new legal standard to undisputed facts.” Bank Markazi
, 578 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 17). “[I]t is not any the less a case or controversy upon which a court possessing the federal judicial power may rightly give judgment” when the arguments before the court are “uncontested or incontestable.” Pope
v. United States
323 U. S. 1,
Patchak argues that the last four words of §2(b)—“shall be promptly dismissed”—direct courts to reach a particular outcome. But a statute does not violate Article III merely because it uses mandatory language. See Seattle Audubon
, 503 U. S., at 439. Instead of directing outcomes, the mandatory language in §2(b) “simply imposes the consequences” of a court’s determination that it lacks jurisdiction because a suit relates to the Bradley Property. Miller
530 U. S. 327,
; see McCardle
, 7 Wall., at 514.[5
Patchak compares §2(b) to the statute this Court held unconstitutional in Klein
. In that case, the administrator of the estate of V. F. Wilson, a former Confederate soldier, sued to recover the value of some cotton that the Government had seized during the war. 13 Wall., at 132. The relevant statute required claimants to prove their loyalty in order to reclaim their property. Ch. 120, §3,
820. Wilson had received a pardon before he died, 13 Wall., at 132, and this Court had held that pardons conclusively prove loyalty under the statute, see United States
, 9 Wall. 531, 543 (1870). But after Wilson’s administrator secured a judgment in his favor, 13 Wall., at 132, Congress passed a statute making pardons proof of disloyalty and declaring that, if a claimant had accepted one, “the jurisdiction of the court in the case shall cease, and the court shall forthwith dismiss the suit of such claimant.” Act of July 12, 1870,
235. If the court had already entered judgment in favor of a pardoned claimant and the Government had appealed, the statute instructed this Court to dismiss the whole suit for lack of jurisdiction. See ibid. Klein
held that this statute infringed the executive power by attempting to “change the effect of . . . a pardon.” Id.,
at 148. Klein
also held that the statute infringed the judicial power, see id.,
at 147, although its reasons for this latter holding were not entirely clear.
This Court has since explained that “the statute in Klein
infringed the judicial power, not because it left too little for courts to do, but because it attempted to direct the result without altering the legal standards governing the effect of a pardon—standards Congress was powerless to prescribe.” Bank Markazi
, at ___ (slip op., at 15). Congress had no authority to declare that pardons are not evidence of loyalty, so it could not achieve the same result by stripping jurisdiction whenever claimants cited pardons as evidence of loyalty. See Klein
, 13 Wall., at 147–148. Nor could Congress confer jurisdiction to a federal court but then strip jurisdiction from that same court once the court concluded that a pardoned claimant should prevail under the statute. See id.,
Patchak’s attempts to compare §2(b) to the statute in Klein
are unpersuasive. Section 2(b) does not attempt to exercise a power that the Constitution vests in another branch. And unlike the selective jurisdiction-stripping statute in Klein
, §2(b) strips jurisdiction over every suit relating to the Bradley Property. Indeed, Klein
itself explained that statutes that do “nothing more” than strip jurisdiction over “a particular class of cases” are constitutional. Id
., at 145. That is precisely what §2(b) does.
Section 2(b) does not unconstitutionally interfere with this Court’s decision in Patchak I
. Article III, this Court explained in Plaut
, prohibits Congress from “retroactively commanding the federal courts to reopen final judgments.” 514 U. S., at 219. But Patchak I
did not finally conclude Patchak’s case. See Bradley
v. School Bd. of Richmond
416 U. S. 696
, n. 14 (1974). When this Court said that his suit “may proceed,” 567 U. S., at 212, it meant that the Secretary’s preliminary defenses lacked merit and that Patchak could return to the District Court for further proceedings. It did not mean that Congress was powerless to change the law that governs his case. As this Court emphasized in Plaut
, Article III does not prohibit Congress from enacting new laws that apply to pending civil cases. See 514 U. S., at 226–227. When a new law clearly governs pending cases, Article III does not prevent courts from applying it because “each court, at every level, must ‘decide according to existing laws.’ ” Ibid.
(quoting United States
v. Schooner Peggy
, 1 Cranch 103, 109 (1801)). This principle applies equally to statutes that strip jurisdiction. See Landgraf
v. USI Film Products
511 U. S. 244,
v. Burke Constr. Co.
260 U. S. 226,
239 U. S. 506,
. Because §2(b) expressly references “pending” cases, it applies to Patchak’s suit. And because Patchak’s suit is not final, applying §2(b) here does not offend Article III.[6
Of course, we recognize that the Gun Lake Act was a response to this Court’s decision in Patchak I
. The text of the Act, after all, cites both the administrative decision and the property at issue in that case. See §§2(a)–(b). And we understand why Patchak would view the Gun Lake Act as unfair. By all accounts, the Band exercised its political influence to persuade Congress to enact a narrow jurisdiction-stripping provision that effectively ends all lawsuits threatening its casino, including Patchak’s.
But the question in this case is “[n]ot favoritism, nor even corruption, but power
, at 228; see also McCardle
, 7 Wall., at 514 (“We are not at liberty to inquire into the motives of the legislature. We can only examine into its power under the Constitution”). Under this Court’s precedents, Congress has the power to “apply newly enacted, outcome-altering legislation in pending civil cases,” Bank Markazi
, 578 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 16), even when the legislation “govern[s] one or a very small number of specific subjects,” id.
, at ___ (slip op., at 21). For example, this Court has upheld narrow statutes that identified specific cases by caption and docket number in their text. See id.,
at ___ (slip op., at 19); Seattle Audubon
, 503 U. S., at 440. And this Court has approvingly cited a D. C. Circuit decision, which upheld a statute that retroactively stripped jurisdiction over suits challenging “a single memorial.” Bank Markazi
at ___ (slip op., at 22) (citing National Coalition To Save Our Mall
, 269 F. 3d 1092 (2001)). If these targeted statutes did not cross the line from legislative to judicial power, then §2(b) does not either.
The dissent offers a different theory for why §2(b) violates Article III. A statute impermissibly exercises the judicial power, the dissent contends, when it “targets” a particular suit and “manipulates” jurisdiction to direct the outcome, “practical[ly] operat[es]” to affect only one suit, and announces a legal standard that does not “imply some measure of generality” or “preserv[e] . . . an adjudicative role for the courts.” Post
, at 8, 11.
We doubt that the constitutional line separating the legislative and judicial powers turns on factors such as a court’s doubts about Congress’ unexpressed motives, the number of “cases [that] were pending when the provision was enacted,” or the time left on the statute of limitations. Post
, at 8. But even if it did, we disagree with the dissent’s characterization of §2(b). Nothing on the face of §2(b) is limited to Patchak’s case, or even to his challenge under the Indian Reorganization Act. Instead, the text extends to all suits “relating to” the Bradley Property. Thus, §2(b) survives even under the dissent’s theory: It “prospectively govern[s] an open-ended class of disputes,” post,
at 6, and its “relating to” standard “preserv[es] . . . an adjudicative role for the courts,” post
, at 11. While §2(b)’s “relating to” standard is not difficult to interpret or apply, this Court’s precedents encourage
Congress to draft jurisdictional statutes in this manner. See Hertz Corp.
559 U. S. 77,
(“[A]dministrative simplic- ity is a major virtue in a jurisdictional statute. . . . [C]ourts benefit from straightforward rules under which they can readily assure themselves of their power to hear a case”).[7
* * *
We conclude that §2(b) of the Gun Lake Act does not violate Article III of the Constitution. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is, therefore, affirmed.
It is so ordered.