Law

9th Circuit allows BIA to deny policing contracts in PL280 states





The Bureau of Indian Affairs can deny law enforcement contracts to tribes in Public Law 280 states, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today.

The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians sought law enforcement funds to combat crime on its remote reservation in southern California. But the BIA claimed it didn't have enough money to enter into a contract with the tribe under the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act.

The tribe claimed the real reason was that California falls under Public Law 280. The law, which was passed during the termination era, granted criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country to the state.

The 9th Circuit, however, said the BIA was within its discretion to reject the contract. In a unanimous decision, the court said the self-determination law only comes into play when a tribe seeks to manage an existing federal program.

"Where there is no existing BIA program, there is nothing that the BIA would have spent on the program, and therefore nothing to transfer to the tribe," the decision stated. "That there is no existing BIA law enforcement program on the Los Coyotes Reservation is a result of the agency’s decision to allocate resources elsewhere."

The decision acknowledged that high rates of crime in Indian Country -- including violence against Indian women -- can be tied to a lack of adequate resources. But the court said it is up to the BIA to decide how to spend law enforcement funds.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians v. Jewell.

9th Circuit Decision:
Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeno Indians v. Jewell.