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
Bush brief backs tribal court jurisdiction
Monday, March 24, 2008
Filed Under: Law

The Bush administration is standing up for tribal court jurisdiction in a U.S. Supreme Court case that is drawing a high level of attention.

In a brief filed last week, the Department of Justice heralded tribal courts as playing a "vital role" in tribal self-governance. Citing long-standing federal policy and acts of Congress, government attorneys urged the high court to respect the decisions of tribal judicial systems.

"While their jurisdiction may not be exclusive, a sovereign tribe should be entitled to interpret and enforce its own law in the first instance," Solicitor General Paul D. Clement wrote in the 41-page filing. "Tribal authority over nonmembers on non-Indian land is already limited ... but when those criteria are met, tribal courts should be entitled to consider claims of noncompliance with legitimate tribal requirements."

The brief is just one of several placed before the justices as they prepare for oral arguments. The case, Plains Commerce Bank v. Long, will be heard April 14 and is one of two Indian law cases on the docket this term.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, where the dispute originated, the National Congress of American Indians, the Navajo Nation and advocates for Native women are joining the administration in supporting tribal court jurisdiction.

But the opposing side -- a non-Indian bank that is challenging a nearly $900,000 tribal court verdict -- is being backed by nine states, four counties, a conservative legal group, the Association of American Railroads and the American Bankers Association.

"The banking lobby is very, very strong," NCAI executive director Jackie Johnson told tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

The case began when Ronnie and Lila Long, members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe who own a cattle operation on the reservation, filed suit in tribal court against Plains Commerce Bank. The Longs accused the bank of breach of contract and discrimination.

A tribal jury sided with the Longs but the bank went to federal court to challenge the award on the grounds that the tribe lacks jurisdiction over non-Indian entities. A federal judge and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, rejected the challenge.

Plains Commerce now has one last shot at avoiding tribal jurisdiction. The bank is citing a Supreme Court case from 1981 that limited tribal authority over non-Indians.

But the decision in Montana v. U.S. set out two exceptions to the general rule. The ruling stated:
A tribe may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealing, contracts, leases, or other arrangements. A tribe may also retain inherent power to exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within its reservation when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe.

The 8th Circuit said both conditions were met in the Plains Commerce case. The bank established a consensual relationship with the Longs and the tribe has a sovereign interest in regulating how businesses interact with its members, the court ruled.

Despite the favorable ruling, Indian law practitioners say the Montana exceptions are very hard to meet. "In a series of decisions issued over the last thirty years, the Supreme Court has largely limited the jurisdiction of tribal courts to disputes involving Indians, not outsiders," said Steven J. Gunn, an associate professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, which has provided legal assistance to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in the case.

But the tide might be turning as more case law develops. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006 upheld tribal jurisdiction in a decision that has opened the doors for at least one other tribal plaintiff to pursue claims against a non-Indian entity.

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 07-411 | Briefs on the Merits

Appeals Court Decision:
Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Company (June 26, 2007)

Lower Court Decision:
Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Company (July 18, 2006)

Related Decision:
Smith v. Salish Kootenai College (January 10, 2006)

Related Stories:
Opinion: No tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians (3/3)
Supreme Court agrees to hear tribal jurisdiction case (1/8)
Appeals court upholds tribal verdict in bank loan case (6/28)
9th Circuit vacates tribal jurisdiction ruling (2/2)
Court subjects non-Indian bank to tribal laws (7/20)
Appeals court upholds tribal jurisdiction after rehearing (01/11)



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

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Wrapup from National Congress of American Indians DC meeting (2/27)
Native Sun News: Rapid City leader calls for tax on alcohol sales (2/27)
Mark Trahant: Beautiful trend emerges with power of Native vote (2/27)
Ivan Star: Lakota traditional history tells the true untold stories (2/27)
Audio: House Appropriations Committee hearing on BIA budget (2/27)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on irrigation bill (2/27)
National Indian Gaming Commission choice gets another hearing (2/27)
Kevin Abourezk: Omaha language advocate passes on at age 58 (2/27)
Gyasi Ross: Yawna Allen shares her Native and African ancestry (2/27)
Frank Hopper: Alaska Native Brotherhood was about resistance (2/27)
Stanley Heller: Don't forget the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado (2/27)
Cherokee Nation chief faces at least four challengers in election (2/27)
BIA and DOJ seek to mediate Cayuga Nation leadership dispute (2/27)
Non-Indians guilty for hunting incidents on Montana reservation (2/27)
Man from Te-Moak Tribe pleads guilty to voluntary manslaughter (2/27)
Administrator for Alaska tribe cuts her position out of the budget (2/27)
Opinion: Find common ground on Indian mascots in Connecticut (2/27)
Hannahville Indian Community starts $8M casino expansion work (2/27)
Wilton Rancheria still waiting for BIA movement on casino project (2/27)
Lytton Band paid $4.6M to use land as parking for Class II facility (2/27)
Opinion: Menominee Nation might turn to tokers instead of poker (2/27)
Opinion: Poarch Creeks come with slot machines and marijuana (2/27)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians meet in DC (2/26)
Native Sun News: Rosebud Sioux Tribe leader sidelined by council (2/26)
James Giago Davies: Native activism must embrace all relations (2/26)
Donna Ennis: Obama budget supports tribal self-determination (2/26)
Rich Winter: Let's keep Lakota Nation Invitational in Rapid City (2/26)
Oglala Sioux Tribe wants Lakota Nation Invitational out of Rapid (2/26)
Former Sisseton Wahpeton chairman joins marijuana company (2/26)
Hoopa Valley Tribe places marijuana referendum on April ballot (2/26)
Blog: Firm saves billions by exploiting Native 'loophole' at FCC (2/26)
Klamath Tribes aid investigation into stolen artifacts in Oregon (2/26)
Alaska Native community still waiting on funding for relocation (2/26)
Alaska Native lawmaker in hospital after emergency at capitol (2/26)
Elise Patkotak: Alaska must acknowledge high rate of violence (2/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe waits for decision in recognition lawsuit (2/26)
Muscogee Nation seeks 5000 workers for big casino expansion (2/26)
Little River Band expects wait for $180M off-reservation casino (2/26)
Northern Arapaho Tribe plans to open casino food court in May (2/26)
Cherokee Nation promotes citizen to manager of $80M casino (2/26)
Tribes share nearly $16M in casino revenues with New Mexico (2/26)
Connecticut tribes face threat from casinos in Massachusetts (2/26)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians meeting (2/25)
Native Sun News: Artist Del Iron Cloud wins top award at show (2/25)
Witness List: Senate Indian Affairs Committee budget hearing (2/25)
Steve Russell: Cherokees learned discrimination from colonists (2/25)
Mary Pember: Tlingit masks appraised on 'Antiques Roadshow' (2/25)
Julianne Jennings: Keep talking about race in American history (2/25)
Bill to create day to honor late Elouise Cobell stalls in Montana (2/25)
Washington tribes head to trial in dispute over fishing grounds (2/25)
Mobile dental clinic takes service to Navajo Nation communities (2/25)
Shingle Springs Band gun range draws questions from neighbors (2/25)
NCPR: St. Regis Mohawk Tribe continues land claim negotiations (2/25)
Opinion: Oklahoma attempts to rewrite role of Whites in history (2/25)
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.