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
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
President of Alaska Native village highlights threat to community (9/3)
President Obama enjoys unique welcome in Alaska Native village (9/3)
Transcript: President Obama speaks in Native village of Kotzebue (9/3)
Native Sun News: City faces possible suit from Lakota 57 parents (9/3)
Lakota Country Times: Sinte Gleska University to expand campus (9/3)
Tim Giago: Republicans show hypocrisy on the 14th Amendment (9/3)
Ivan Star: 'English education' obliterated culture and language (9/3)
Gyasi Ross: Obama's checkered record on Native environment (9/3)
Opinion: Indian Child Welfare Act doesn't help Indian children (9/3)
Appeal planned in Grand Ronde Tribes disenrollment dispute (9/3)
Father of Native woman who died in jail cell considers lawsuit (9/3)
Oglala Sioux Tribe set to open $16.5M nursing home next year (9/3)
Donald Trump's campaign manager linked to Abramoff scandal (9/3)
Navajo Nation plans big development next to casino in Arizona (9/3)
Graton Rancheria breaks ground on $175M expansion at casino (9/3)
United Auburn Indian Community compact gains quick approval (9/3)
New Mexico tribes weren't involved in off-reservation casino bid (9/3)
Parents of Lakota 57 respond to not guilty verdict in Rapid City (9/2)
Grand Ronde Tribes to disenroll 86 descendants of treaty signer (9/2)
Lakota Country Times: New food bank on Pine Ridge Reservation (9/2)
Mark Trahant: FCC invents new law for tribal lands in Oklahoma (9/2)
Native Sun News Editorial: Republican attacks on Hillary Clinton (9/2)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux Tribe needs to establish 'virtual' school (9/2)
Steven Newcomb: The religious basis of Doctrine of Discovery (9/2)
Frank Bibeau: Ojibwe people assert treaty rights in Minnesota (9/2)
Carly McIntosh: Feeling love from elders at naming ceremony (9/2)
Winnebago Tribe reports results of primary election for council (9/2)
President Obama set for visit to Native communities in Alaska (9/2)
Alaska Native students being left behind in their own backyard (9/2)
Opinion: Alaska will lose appeal in BIA land-into-trust lawsuit (9/2)
Native children being removed at alarming rates in Manitoba (9/2)
Crow Tribe opens apartment complex for homeless veterans (9/2)
Mississippi Choctaw leader faces challenge in election drama (9/2)
Mohegan Tribe elects incumbents and newcomer for council (9/2)
Donald Trump wanted a casino with Seminole Tribe in Florida (9/2)
New Mexico tribes proposed casino in downtown Albuquerque (9/2)
Construction worker dies at site of Jamul Indian Village casino (9/2)
Lakota Country Times: Not guilty verdict after Lakota 57 trial (9/1)
President Obama meets Native leaders after landing in Alaska (9/1)
Rhonda Pitka: Alaska Natives put priority on subsistence rights (9/1)
Transcript: Obama remarks following Native leaders roundtable (9/1)
94-year-old Alaska Native elder greets Obama with Denali song (9/1)
Politicians in Ohio oppose return of Alaska Native name for peak (9/1)
Passamaquoddy Tribe takes a step toward marijuana cultivation (9/1)
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.