indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe gears up for uranium battle (8/20)
Eyapaha Today: J. Waylon Miller leads Friends of Cesar Romero (8/20)
Sandra Fox: Fixing the education system for our Indian children (8/20)
Mark Rogers: One more day with post-traumatic stress disorder (8/20)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe gains support for land claim agreement (8/20)
Delaware Tribe to discuss plans for land with officials in Kansas (8/20)
Wind River Reservation students enjoy back-to-school haircuts (8/20)
Review: Native man serves as anti-hero in 'Winter In The Blood' (8/20)
Governor pressed on Menominee Nation off-reservation casino (8/20)
Group seeks referendum on Tohono O'odham Nation casino deal (8/20)
Lawmakers approve Class III gaming compact with Karuk Tribe (8/20)
Enterprise Rancheria awaits action on Class III gaming compact (8/20)
Wampanoag casino opponents hope to catch Obama's attention (8/20)
Opinion: Tribal gaming creates short term and long term benefits (8/20)
Native Sun News: Oglala man's business dealings under scrutiny (8/19)
Mark Trahant: Behind the scenes of Obamacare in Indian Country (8/19)
Peter d'Errico: Book told from perspective of the colonial invaders (8/19)
Brian Pierson: Recent federal court decisions affecting Indian law (8/19)
Opinion: Elder of Wukchumni Tribe working to keep language alive (8/19)
Large crowd turns out to denounce supremacist group's activities (8/19)
Oglala Sioux Tribe suspends officer who repeatedly used stun gun (8/19)
Alaska Native man being treated after being shot by police officer (8/19)
Another guilty plea comes in Chippewa Cree Tribe corruption case (8/19)
Leader of Muscogee Nation goes on trial in theft case next month (8/19)
Court in California won't let Choctaw girl be placed with relatives (8/19)
Tribes hail Oregon decision to deny permit for coal export project (8/19)
Al Jazeera: State struggles with Native language voting material (8/19)
NPR: Osage Nation disputes wind development on mineral estate (8/19)
Chickasaw Nation sell new blend of coffee made from chocolate (8/19)
Activists won't sue over school's Warriors mascot in Minnesota (8/19)
Broadcasters won't use racist mascot of Washington NFL team (8/19)
NIGA to hold mid-year conference at Chickasaw Nation casino (8/19)
Court won't allow former casino workers to sue Morongo Band (8/19)
Official from wine group likens a tribal casino to 'foreign nation' (8/19)
MPR: City pushes for casino amid battle with Fond du Lac Band (8/19)
Editorial: Karuk Tribe casino poses competition to Coquille Tribe (8/19)
Tim Giago: Media was well represented at Wounded Knee 1973 (8/18)
Native Sun News: GOP candidate rejects Senate debate at UTTC (8/18)
Clara Caufield: A Cheyenne Voice celebrates another milestone (8/18)
US House candidate John Lewis proud of Warm Springs heritage (8/18)
Aaron Payment: Story missed the boat on Soo Tribe gaming bid (8/18)
Michael Baines: Stop fighting land decision for Alaska Natives (8/18)
Albert Bender: Fair treatment needed for indigenous migrants (8/18)
John Christian Hopkins: How I became a writer at a young age (8/18)
Neil Young and Willie Nelson stage anti-Keystone benefit show (8/18)
Authorities in Manitoba probe murder of 15-year-old Native girl (8/18)
Judge dismisses case against Fort Peck Tribes housing official (8/18)
Museum in Germany balks at repatriating scalps to tribes in US (8/18)
Hundreds mourn death of six-year-old girl from Nooksack Tribe (8/18)
Indian residents of city in Montana upset by supremacist fliers (8/18)
Opinion: Tribes need greater control of justice on reservations (8/18)
KGOU: Cherokee man creates living map of indigenous nations (8/18)
Alaska Natives look to Obamacare to cover IHS budget shortfall (8/18)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes update health system (8/18)
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.