Joe Martin: Tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians
"On April 14, the Supreme Court heard the case Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co. It’s a case where a cattle farmer, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, fell upon hard times one winter, losing his livestock. The bank foreclosed (using the tribe’s court), and sold his property to a non-Indian at a better rate than was offered to the Longs. The Longs sued alleging breach of contract and discrimination and won in tribal court. The bank in turn appealed, claiming that the courts lacked civil jurisdiction, losing at every level up to the Supreme Court.

The court could uphold tribal civil jurisdiction, but the case could have a devastating impact on Indian country. The potential negative rulings are that non-Indian and tribal entities must consent to tribal civil jurisdiction. The court could rule that tribes have no jurisdiction over non-Indians, civil or criminal. Either of those could severely hamper commerce and any business dealings between tribal members and non-Indians (like the Eastern Band of Cherokee and Harrah’s).

Since divorces, child custody agreements and protective orders all are civil remedies, any ruling that limits tribal civil jurisdiction would remove the only legal protection many tribal members have.

Woody Woodring, who charged into a women’s shelter in Sylva, killing his wife, was once married to a member of the Eastern Cherokee. Imagine what could she have done if the tribe had no civil jurisdiction in her case? The court must uphold tribal civil jurisdiction and should revisit the Oliphant decision."

Get the Story:
Joe Martin: Supreme Court must uphold tribal civil jurisdiction (The Asheville Citizen-Times 5/1)

Relevant Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | 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)

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