indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Court dismisses California membership lawsuit
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Filed Under: Law | National | Politics

A California tribe that was terminated did not lose the right to define its membership after regaining recognition, a federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday.

In a unanimous decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said it would be wrong to treat restored tribes different from other tribes. Despite being terminated in 1958, the Mooretown Rancheria retained the right to set its membership criteria, a three-judge panel ruled.

"The termination and restoration of Mooretown Rancheria does not justify depriving it of its sovereign power to define its membership when it organized a tribal government in 1987," Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld wrote.

The decision means the Bureau of Indian Affairs can't force the rancheria to enroll dozens of people who might otherwise qualify for membership. It was the plaintiffs, in fact, who were part of the landmark Tillie Hardwick litigation that resulted in several California tribes being restored to recognition.

But the plaintiffs were excluded from the Mooretown Rancheria because a different group established the tribe's membership criteria. As a result, their voting rights are restricted and they cannot share in profits from a successful casino.

"Thus, although the plaintiffs are Concow-Maidu Indians descended from people who have lived at Mooretown Rancheria for a very long time, they lack the rights of full members of the Mooretown Rancheria tribe," the court noted.

Despite the history, the court said it lacked the power to force the BIA to act. The judges noted that the agency -- which agreed to restore the tribes as part of the Hardwick litigation -- did not play a role in reorganizing the rancheria.

"Uncontradicted evidence establishes that Mooretown Rancheria itself squeezed them out, and that it did not act at the behest of the BIA," the court said. "It did not need the BIA’s permission and did not ask for it, and the BIA never purported to tell it how to define its membership."

At the same time, the 9th Circuit noted that tribal sovereignty can be affected by the federal government. "An Indian tribe has the power to define membership as it chooses, subject to the plenary power of Congress," Kleinfeld wrote for the panel.

Even then, the judges said sovereign immunity protects a tribe from suit without a voluntary waiver or a waiver from Congress. Citing U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the panel stated that "tribes remain quasi-sovereign nations which, by government structure, culture, and source of sovereignty are in many ways foreign to the constitutional institutions of the federal and state governments."

The Mooretown plaintiffs sued the BIA in hopes of overcoming the tribal sovereignty hurdles. Other disenrolled California Indians have adopted similar strategies but the state and federal courts have refused to intervene in membership disputes so far.

Recognizing Congress' plenary power and pointing to the ouster of at least 1,500 California Indians, the American Indian Rights and Resource Organization has been seeking changes in federal law to allow membership disputes to be heard in federal court. Some leaders in the California Democratic party have taken up the cause amid charges that wealthy tribes are ousting people in order to limit per capita gaming payments.

Nationally, the issue has gained media and Congressional attention due to the ouster of the Freedmen, the descendants of African slaves, from the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Rep. Diane Watson (D-California) is introducing a bill to cut federal funding to the tribe until it restores citizenship to the Freedmen.

Court Decision:
Williams v. Gover (June 20, 2007)

Relevant Links:
Mooretown Rancheria history - http://www.featherfallscasino.com/history.html
American Indian Rights and Resource Organization - http://www.airro.org
Pechanga Tribal Disenrollment - http://www.pechanga.info
Tribal Corruption - http://www.tribalcorruption.com

Related Stories:
Ousted Redding Rancheria families protest (6/21)
Rep. Watson to introduce Cherokee Freedmen bill (6/21)
Column: Bill helps wealthy tribes purge members (06/14)
Disenrolled Indians oppose exclusion bill in California (6/7)
AIM leader criticizes tribal disenrollments (5/3)
California Democrats consider ICRA resolution (04/25)
Man seeks healing over Pechanga disenrollment (03/13)
Pechanga Band runs ad against disenrollment story (2/21)
Women disenrolled after criticizing leaders (12/13)
USA Today: Tribes remove thousands from rolls (11/29)
Chukchansi Tribe latest to disenroll members (11/27)
Disenrolled Indians tie ouster to tribal greed (11/24)
California Indians cite growing disenrollments (11/08)
Former members protest Enterprise Rancheria (10/05)
Expert disputes Pechanga Band on disenrollment (09/25)
Opinion: Pechanga Band purges family of heritage (09/05)
Column: Tribal nations evict their own people (8/25)
Column: Pechanga family and Pluto demoted (8/25)
Column: Pechanga Band decimating Indians (8/22)
Pechanga Band removes another family from roll (8/21)
Disenrolled Indians seek accountability (08/07)
Disenrollment an issue in Pechanga Band election (07/13)
Greed, politics behind tribal enrollment spats (07/06)
Ex-Table Mountain members protest at powwow (06/12)
Editorial: Supreme Court passes on sovereignty (05/29)
Pechanga Band calls refusal of membership case a win (5/24)
Tribal membership case rejected by U.S. Supreme Court (5/23)
California Indians protest removal from tribes (05/01)
Campbell amendment put to test in court case (4/21)
Another Pechanga family faces removal from tribe (03/21)
Ousted Pechangas take case to U.S. Supreme Court (3/17)
Identity Theft: California Indians lose tribal rights (01/26)
BIA asked to rule on rancheria membership dispute (1/20)
Disenrolled Indians to hold rally in Palm Springs (1/10)
Disenrolled Pechangas to take case to Supreme Court (12/15)
Per capita payments under tribal, federal scrutiny (09/26)
Court won't take on tribal enrollment dispute (9/14)
Pechanga Band says money not behind enrollment (08/10)
Disenrollment suit dismissed in California (8/9)
Ousted Pechangas plan appeal of enrollment lawsuit (8/9)
Disenrolled Pechangas seek $38M in damages (08/04)
Pechanga Band enrollment dispute closely watched (07/11)
Court hears Pechanga Band enrollment dispute (7/7)
McKosato: Greed behind ouster of tribal members (05/23)
Opinion: Gaming has turned tribes on other tribes (5/20)
Ousted Redding Rancheria members head to forum (5/19)
Forum calls attention to tribal disenrollments (5/18)
Family fights disenrollment from Sauk-Suiattle Tribe (5/18)
California AIM blames greed for mass disenrollments (5/16)
Editorial: Disenrollment becoming too common (04/01)
Ousted Pechangas file another lawsuit against tribe (03/28)
California tribe changes status of some members (3/28)
Pechanga Band avoids dedication of city park (03/09)
Woman ejected from Pechanga Band in despair (01/27)
County investigates shooting on Pechanga land (01/14)
State judge won't dismiss lawsuit over tribal enrollment (07/27)
Pechanga Band votes to retain Macarro as chairman (07/19)
Battle for top Pechanga post heats up before vote (7/16)
Disenrolled tribal members call for more oversight (07/15)
Ousted tribal members appeal to Pechanga council (07/02)
Pechanga chairman faces election challenge (07/02)
Judge weighs ruling in Pechanga disenrollment (04/20)
2,000 California Indians face disenrollment (04/14)
Pechanga descendants protest against enrollment policy (04/06)
Opinion: Greed, spite, history behind disenrollment (4/5)
Opinion: Calif. tribes disenrolling more people (4/1)
Pechanga tribal committee disenrolls 130 people (03/22)
Calif. judge waits on Pechanga enrollment dispute (02/18)
Calif. judge delays Pechanga Tribe's disenrollment (02/05)
Judge won't protect 130 from disenrollment (2/3)
Case tests Pechanga Tribe's right to disenroll 130 (02/02)
Adopted man protests exclusion Pechanga Tribe (01/15)
Pechanga tribe threatens to cut off newspaper (03/14)
Pechanga disenrollment campaign to continue (02/25)
Pechanga chairman surprised by his 'racist' statement (2/24)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Businesses show support for LNI tournament (3/27)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux fighter climbing in the ranks (3/27)
Mark Trahant: Alaska Natives look 10,000 years into the future (3/27)
Ivan Star: The influences of boarding school and Vietnam War (3/27)
Gyasi Ross: Funerals become family reunions in Indian Country (3/27)
Tim Giago hands over the reins as publisher of Native Sun News (3/27)
House committee passes Native American Children's Safety Act (3/27)
Bill to benefit Miami Nation moves forward in House and Senate (3/27)
City extended contract to send treated sewage to sacred peaks (3/27)
Oneida Nation welcomes ruling backing land-into-trust request (3/27)
Lawmakers want BIA to delay new federal recognition reforms (3/27)
Another conviction from Chippewa Cree Tribe corruption probe (3/27)
Editorial: Shakopee Tribe contributes $5M for health initiative (3/27)
Opinion: Navajo Nation enacts 'sin tax' on unhealthy products (3/27)
Editorial: Opposition to Pamunkey Tribe recognition 'revolting' (3/27)
Dennis Jenkins: Hypocrisy for new tribal casinos in Connecticut (3/27)
Supreme Court asked to hear Kialegee Tribal Town gaming case (3/27)
Ho-Chunk Nation extends agreement for off-reservation casino (3/27)
Indiana lawmakers seek role in Pokagon Band gaming compact (3/27)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux leader not pleased with boycott (3/26)
Lakota Country Times: Lakota Nation Invitational stays in Rapid (3/26)
Native Sun News: Mayor of Rapid City addresses race relations (3/26)
Jane Daugherty: Tribal e-commerce continues to draw scrutiny (3/26)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee's field hearing (3/26)
Richard Iron Cloud: Remove murderer's name from sacred peak (3/26)
Native Youth: Bring dental therapy providers to Indian Country (3/26)
Steven Newcomb: Tribal nations still under dominating process (3/26)
Law firm hosts tribes for session on marijuana in Indian Country (3/26)
Judge upholds BIA decision on Oneida Nation land-into-trust bid (3/26)
Appeals court rules against Crow Tribe in housing grant dispute (3/26)
Ho-Chunk Nation raises minimum wage to $2.75 above federal (3/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe to appeal decision in recognition lawsuit (3/26)
Racist emails of former Montana federal judge to be preserved (3/26)
Shingle Springs Band considered but rejected indoor gun range (3/26)
House panel backs bill to block Tohono O'odham Nation casino (3/26)
Quapaw Tribe did not include casino on land-into-trust request (3/26)
Chumash Tribe never got apology for diplomat's casino remark (3/26)
Governor won't sign casino compact with Fort Sill Apache Tribe (3/26)
Cherokee Nation approves $6.9M renovation project for casino (3/26)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux veteran training for Paralympics (3/25)
Alaska Native musher Chuck Schaeffer completes 2015 Iditarod (3/25)
LTBB News: Michigan tribes come together for historic meeting (3/25)
Lecture focuses on repatriation of tribal intellectual properties (3/25)
Board still working on delivering money for Cobell scholarships (3/25)
Sen. Barrasso to chair field hearing on drugs in Indian Country (3/25)
Bill for tribal marijuana compacts up for hearing in Washington (3/25)
Choctaw Nation chief hopes to travel to Ireland for monument (3/25)
HHS urged to do more to help tribes with foster care programs (3/25)
Eastern Cherokees work to teach language to new generations (3/25)
Another suggestion for Indian woman on $20 bill -- Sakakawea (3/25)
Man from Crow Tribe cites self-defense in fatal casino shooting (3/25)
Shawnee Tribe sees opposition to off-reservation gaming plan (3/25)
Navajo Nation signs Class III casino compact with New Mexico (3/25)
Quapaw Tribe insists a casino isn't focus of Arkansas land plan (3/25)
Suquamish Tribe reaches deal to allow highway work at casino (3/25)
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.