indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Sovereignty and E-Commerce:  Innovating and Reshaping the  Borders of Indian Country - Arizona State University Third Annual Tribal Government E-Commerce CLE Conference
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Supreme Court move settles tribal authority cases
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Tribal jurisdiction over all Indians appears to be safe after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected two cases, including a long-running challenge from activist Russell Means.

Means, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is accused of committing a crime on the Navajo Nation in 1997. He has repeatedly claimed that the can't be held responsible because he isn't a Navajo citizen.

But after a string of appeals in tribal and federal court, the author and actor can now be prosecuted for allegedly beating up his former father-in-law during a domestic violence incident. The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear his case clears the way for tribal jurisdiction.

And in a separate action, the Supreme Court rejected the case of an Ojibwe man whose family belongs to the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, an anti-treaty right group. Thomas Lee Morris was given a ticket for speeding on the Flathead Reservation in Montana but he claimed the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes had no authority over him.

Monday's actions put to rest some of the lingering questions over inherent tribal sovereignty. Congress, through a piece of legislation known as the "Duro" fix -- named for a Supreme Court case from 1990 -- has recognized tribal jurisdiction over "all" Indians.

In a critical 2004 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the Duro fix as a proper exercise of Congressional power. In US v. Lara, the court also said tribal prosecution does not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution because tribes are separate sovereigns.

Means and Morris took the constitutional issues further by raising Due Process and Equal Protection questions. Tribal advocates were worried that the Supreme Court could have eroded the Duro fix but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' decisions in both cases now stand.

Despite the rejection of the cases, Kevin Gover, the former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, said the current makeup of the court could pose problems for sovereignty in the future. Of the seven justices that ruled in favor of the Duro fix back in 2004, two of them -- the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- are no longer part of the court.

Of the remaining five, Gover pointed out that two of them -- Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas -- didn't agree with the reasoning behind the decision. The opinion by Thomas raised the question that tribal sovereignty is "inconsistent" with the Congressional power at issue in the Duro fix.

"I think that's a little scary," Gover said at the National Congress of American Indians annual conference last week in Sacramento.

The two justices who voted against the Duro fix -- David H. Souter and Antonin Scalia -- remain on the court. With the views of new Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito -- who is often considered a protege of Scalia -- an unknown, Gover said it's very risky for tribes to have sovereignty cases in the courts.

"We don't know right now where the majority of the court is," he told tribal leaders.

Gover, who is now a law professor at Arizona State University, urged tribes to treat Congress as an "ally" on sovereignty issues. "The courts can't be doing this," he said. "Only Congress can jack us around."

Tribes have sought to extend their authority over Indians and non-Indians through acts of Congress. Gover said blanket jurisdiction over non-Indians is a highly controversial and political issue that may not ever see fruition.

Jurisdiction over non-Indians in discrete cases -- such as domestic violence, homeland security or drug trafficking -- might be more palatable to members of Congress, he added. But in order to achieve that goal, tribes must be willing to negotiate, he said.

"The tribe are going to have to give something to get something," said Gover, a member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.

Russell Means Jurisdiction Decision:
Russell Means v. Navajo Nation (August 23, 2005)

Thomas Lee Morris Jurisdiction Decision:
Morris v. Tanner (December 22, 2005)

US v. Lara Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Breyer] | Concurrence [Stevens] | Concurrence [Kennedy | Concurrence [Thomas] | Dissent [Souter]

Relevant Links:
Russell Means - http://www.russellmeans.com
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://doc.narf.org/sc/index.html

Related Stories:
U.S. Supreme Court refuses Russell Means case (10/10)
High court prepares for term (9/27)
Navajo Nation Supreme Court takes case on the road (02/15)
Navajo Nation 'ready to prosecute' Means (09/23)
Appeals court opens Means to tribal prosecution (08/24)
Federal courts try to decide who is legally Indian (08/24)
Means loses lawsuit against Oglala Sioux election (03/09)
Judge denies tribal jurisdiction over Indian descendant (12/08)
Russell Means sues after losing Pine Ridge election (12/03)
Harjo: Pine Ridge election about character (10/29)
Russell Means arrested for missing court date (10/25)
Russell Means top vote-getter in Pine Ridge primary (10/7)
Russell Means not welcome as Republican either (07/30)
Tribal authority over all Indians still unsettled question (06/23)
Russell Means ready to give up on Republican Party (06/03)
Supreme Court affirms tribal powers over all Indians (04/20)
Thune gains endorsement from odd source: Russell Means (02/05)
Supreme Court hears tribal powers case (01/22)
Supreme Court case on jurisdiction attracts attention (01/08)
DOJ's Supreme Court brief backs sovereignty (7/30)
Tribal jurisdiction faces test before Supreme Court (07/03)

Copyright 2000-2006 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe blasts Trump claim of 'constant contact' (2/24)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe calls out Trump 'lies' on Dakota Access (2/24)
Native Sun News Today: Pine Ridge residents worried about water (2/24)
Editorial: Shutting down Whiteclay won't address our addictions (2/24)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Indigenous people still struggle in America (2/24)
Steve Russell: To all the indigenous writers being born out there (2/24)
Connecticut tribes plan to announce site for potential new casino (2/24)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe slams Trump for lack of consultation (2/23)
Native Sun News Today: Tribes asked to participate in 'land grab' (2/23)
Mark Trahant: A victory on Indian health from Washington state (2/23)
James Giago Davies: We've become too proud of our ignorance (2/23)
Cronkite News: Plant closure impacts Hopi and Navajo workers (2/23)
Peter d'Errico: Book is yet another in series of genocide deniers (2/23)
Tanya Lee: Republicans run amok as America focuses on Trump (2/23)
Radio show host in Montana calls Indian basketball fans 'unruly' (2/23)
Congressman who was advocate for Indian Country passes on (2/23)
Yakama Nation debuts hotel as part of $90M casino expansion (2/23)
Meskwaki Tribe ordered to pay damages for incident at casino (2/23)
Indian Country joins legal push to block Dakota Access Pipeline (2/22)
Dakota Access offers up March 6 as earliest date for completion (2/22)
Trump administration opposes injunction against Dakota Access (2/22)
Trump team puts hold on pro-tribal Dakota Access legal opinion (2/22)
Arne Vainio: Finding some medicine in the woods and by the fire (2/22)
Wyoming tribes lose major ruling in reservation boundary case (2/22)
Native Sun News Today: #NoDAPL campsites see their final days (2/22)
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Dakota Access is everything wrong with US (2/22)
United Keetoowah Band interested in pursuing casino in Georgia (2/22)
Kalispel Tribe announces $20M casino expansion in Washington (2/22)
Bureau of Indian Affairs still failing on online security measures (2/21)
Mary Annette Pember: Indigenous people can't ever back down (2/21)
Harold Monteau: Democrats to blame for President Donald Trump (2/21)
Tohono O'odham Nation leaders share concerns about border wall (2/21)
Pacific Northwest tribes finally rebury remains of Kennewick Man (2/21)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe affirms election results after recount (2/21)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe hopes to see return of casino business (2/21)
Bureau of Indian Affairs confirms Wilton Rancheria casino in trust (2/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.