States oppose tribal jurisdiction in upcoming Supreme Court case

Dollar General opened its 11,000th store in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in 2012. Photo from Facebook

Six states have filed a brief in opposition to tribal jurisdiction in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a case that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The states of Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah, Michigan, Arizona and Alabama represent a large number of tribes. But that isn't stopping them from arguing that the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians should not be able to exercise authority over Dollar General, a non-Indian company with $17.5 billion in revenues.

"A tribe’s authority to 'exclude outsiders from entering tribal land' has never been understood to equate to a general 'authority over non-Indians who come within their borders,' and this case provides no compelling justification for abandoning that longstanding rule," the September 4 brief stated.

The filing drew a rebuke from Arizona Rep. Albert Hale (D), a member of the Navajo Nation. He criticized Attorney General Mark Brnovich for signing onto the brief, noting that the state of Mississippi supports the tribe's jurisdiction.

"Arizona’s decision to sign on to Oklahoma’s amicus brief flies in the face of Mississippi’s sovereign prerogatives on how to interact with Indian Nations within Mississippi’s borders," Hale wrote in a September 18 letter that was posted by Turtle Talk. "This is disrespectful; Arizona should stay out of Mississippi’s tribal affairs decisions."

The Supreme Court is still accepting briefs from the parties. But so far, only states and groups supporting Dollar General have been filed.

Dollar General operates a store on the reservation and has an agreement to lease trust land from the tribe. The company, though, claims it can't be forced to answer to a lawsuit in tribal court.

The lawsuit arose after a minor tribal member was allegedly abused by the non-Indian manager of the store. The minor was participating in an internship program offered by the tribe.

Oral arguments haven't been scheduled.

Get the Story:
Court decision alters law presentaton (Tulsa Business and Legal News 10/7)

5th Circuit Decision:
Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (March 14, 2014)
Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (March 14, 2014)

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