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
Supreme Court limits tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Filed Under: Law

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday limited tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians in a 5-4 decision that was split along conservative and liberal lines.

In the eyes of many in Indian Country, Plains Commerce Bank v. Long was a contract dispute between two members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and a non-Indian bank. Since Plains Commerce Bank in South Dakota voluntarily entered into an agreement with Ron and Lila Long, tribal advocates believed the case would withstand scrutiny.

But Chief Justice John G. Roberts recast the dispute in a way that precluded tribal jurisdiction. Writing for the majority, he said just everything about the case was non-Indian in nature.

"This case concerns the sale of fee land on a tribal reservation by a non-Indian bank to non-Indian individuals," Roberts wrote in his opening.

By noting that the Longs mortgaged fee land to the bank, Roberts was able to rely on Supreme Court precedents that limit tribal jurisdiction over lands that are not held in trust.

"Our cases have made clear that once tribal land is converted into fee simple, the tribe loses plenary jurisdiction over it," Roberts noted.

Roberts, a nominee of President Bush, was joined in the decision by two of the most conservative members on the court -- Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito, another conservative Bush nominee, gave Roberts four votes.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, often considered a swing vote, joined the majority, tipping the decision to the conservative side of the court.

The more liberal justices sided with the Longs in upholding tribal court jurisdiction. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg disagreed with the characterization of the case as one over fee land.

"Resolving this case on a ground neither argued nor addressed below, the court holds that a tribe may not impose any regulation -- not even a nondiscrimination requirement -- on a bank's dealings with tribal members regarding on-reservation fee lands," Ginsburg wrote.

But even if the case were about the sale of fee land, Ginsburg said tribal courts are the proper place to resolve a dispute involving a non-Indian bank that voluntarily entered into a business agreement with tribal members. "Sales of land -- and related conduct -- are surely 'activities' within the ordinary sense of the word," she wrote, citing some of the same precedents that Roberts relied on.

Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice David Souter and Justice Stephen G. Breyer, who often side with tribes in Indian law disputes, joined the dissent.

The decision means the Longs are not entitled to a $750,000 jury verdict awarded by a Cheyenne River Sioux court. With interest, the judgment would have to about $870,000.

The case was Alito's first Indian law case since he joined the court in February 2006. He previously served as a judge for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, where there are no federally recognized tribes.

The court's next big Indian law case is Carcieri v. Kempthorne, which challenges the ability of the Interior Department to acquire land for the Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island.

A date for oral arguments hasn't been set but the case will be heard after the court reconvenes in October 2008.

The Tribal Supreme Court Project, a joint effort of NCAI and the Native American Rights Fund, is keeping track of five other cases that could be heard in the coming term. One is US v. Navajo Nation, a breach of trust case that previously went before the justices during the 2002 term.

Supreme Court Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Roberts] | Dissent [Ginsburg]

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)

Related Stories:
Supreme Court rulings awaited in Indian Country (6/24)
Ruling in Plains Commerce case expected by July (6/5)
Joe Martin: Tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians (5/1)
Opinion: Disrespect at the Supreme Court (4/28)
Supreme Court hears tribal jurisdiction case (4/15)
Legal Times: Italians and Indians at high court (4/15)
Supreme Court to hear jurisdiction case (4/14)
DOJ to join argument in tribal court jurisdiction case (4/3)
Bush brief backs tribal court jurisdiction (3/24)
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:
Native Sun News: Designation sought for Cheyenne warrior site (3/30)
Lakota Country Times: Efforts to rename sacred peak ramp up (3/30)
Mark Charles: Nation was built on the dehumanization of others (3/30)
Navajo Nation considers agreement for land-buy back program (3/30)
US Attorneys named to lead DOJ Native American subcommittee (3/30)
Kevin Abourezk: Students retrace journey of Chief Standing Bear (3/30)
Patricia Paul: Overcoming hardships and becoming a tribal judge (3/30)
Julianne Jennings: Taking care of our eyesight in Indian Country (3/30)
Police looking for clues after murders of Indian man and woman (3/30)
Chairman Michael Jandreau of Lower Brule Sioux Tribe in hospital (3/30)
Hundreds pay respects to Navajo Nation officer killed on the job (3/30)
Police officer who kicked Native man reinstated in Saskatchewan (3/30)
Native boy with rare disease granted wish to join favorite team (3/30)
Jury rules against Cheyenne River Sioux man in 'KKK' scar case (3/30)
BIA official expected to be released from hospital after stabbing (3/30)
BIA delays ruling on Pamunkey Tribe federal recognition petition (3/30)
Alex White Plume aims to grow hemp on Pine Ridge Reservation (3/30)
Blackfeet Nation opposes energy development on sacred lands (3/30)
Opinion: Don't include Indian Country in BLM fracking regulation (3/30)
Fort Peck Tribes might scale back plans for first gaming facility (3/30)
BIA rejects Menominee Nation off-reservation gaming compact (3/30)
Pokagon Band faces hurdles for a gaming compact with Indiana (3/30)
Nisqually Tribe to open second phase of $45M casino expansion (3/30)
Opinion: Expansion of gaming options not a good idea for Texas (3/30)
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)
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.