Ted Klaudt, Darrell Smith and C and S Cattlemen's Association (appellants) appeal from the district court's
Klaudt is a rancher who was issued a grazing permit by the Standing Rock Agency to graze cattle on trust land on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation from November, 1987, through October, 1992. Smith is also a rancher who was granted six five-year leases to trust land by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). Two of the leases expired in October of 1990. C and S is an organization of ranchers which leases trust land and grazing units on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation through leases and permits from the BIA. All appellants are residents of the Indian reservation; none of the appellants are members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The reservation encompasses land in both North and South Dakota.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe imposes a "Privilege of Doing Business Tax" on all persons, except tribal members, who lease or permit Indian lands.
Appellants filed an action setting forth eight claims for declaratory and injunctive relief, declaring the Privilege of Doing Business Tax invalid and enjoining the BIA from canceling leases and range unit permits, or refusing to issue them in the future, for failure to pay the tribal tax. Appellants' claims one and two alleged that the BIA, by threatening to cancel the leases, violated the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 25 U.S.C. § 1302(8). Claims three, seven, and eight alleged that the BIA acted contrary to 25 U.S.C. § 331, et seq., and failed to fulfill its trust responsibilities, when it allowed taxation of trust properties. Claims four and five alleged that the BIA failed to ensure that the tax was assessed and collected in a fair and uniform manner, and that is acted arbitrarily and inconsistently in its enforcement of the tax. Claim six alleged that the BIA violated 25 C.F.R. § 162 and the Fifth Amendment by threatening to cancel leases without providing procedural due process.
A. Counts One, Two, Three, Seven, and Eight
Appellants have failed to specifically notice their appeal from the 1991 order, dismissing counts one, two, three, seven, and eight. Appellants have, however, appealed from the 1992 order, dismissing counts four, five, and six. Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) requires a notice of appeal to "designate the judgment, order or part thereof appealed from". The requirements of the rules of procedure should be liberally construed, and mere technicalities should not foreclose our consideration of a case on its merits. Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. 312, 316, 108 S.Ct. 2405, 2408, 101 L.Ed.2d 285 (1988); Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 83 S.Ct. 227, 9 L.Ed.2d 222 (1962). This principle is particularly apt where the intent to appeal the judgment in question is apparent, and there is no prejudice to the adverse party. Berdella v. Delo, 972 F.2d 204, 207 (8th Cir.1992). However, "[P]ermitting imperfect but substantial compliance with a technical requirement is not the same as waiving the requirement altogether as a jurisdictional threshold". Torres v. Oakland Scavenger Co., 487 U.S. at 315-16, 108 S.Ct. at 2408 (where the notice of appeal under consideration failed to designate the specific individual seeking to appeal). We have previously held that omission of any reference to the order appealed from is more than a technical deficiency, and creates a jurisdictional bar to the appeal. Berdella v. Delo, 972 F.2d at 208. Likewise, in this instance we construe Rule 3(c) as a jurisdictional prerequisite. Thus, we lack jurisdiction to hear appellants' arguments arising from the district court's order of March, 1991.
B. Counts Four, Five, and Six
In these three counts, appellants alleged that the BIA did not administer the tax in a fair and uniform fashion, and that it acted arbitrarily and inconsistently in its enforcement of the tax. Further, appellants alleged that the BIA failed to follow its own due process requirements when it initiated action to cancel the grazing permits.
The federal regulations provide that administrative procedures must be followed before seeking relief in the court system.
Appellants are simply not entitled to a judicial hearing on the merits of their claim. See Myers v. Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp., 303 U.S. 41, 58 S.Ct. 459, 82 L.Ed. 638 (1938). In accordance with the teachings of West v. Bergland, 611 F.2d 710 (8th Cir.1979), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 821, 101 S.Ct. 79, 66 L.Ed.2d 23 (1980), and United States v. Newmann, 478 F.2d 829 (8th Cir.1973), we are to apply a balancing test, weighing the governmental interest in requiring exhaustion against the appellants'
The court below did not err in dismissing appellants' claims concerning administration of the tribal tax and procedural due process for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
For the foregoing reasons, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.