Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries
Brice v. Plain Green, LLC
Plaintiffs obtained short-term, high-interest loans from lenders owned by the Tribes. The standard loan contracts contained an agreement to arbitrate any dispute arising under the contract and a delegation provision requiring an arbitrator—not a court—to decide “any issue concerning the validity, enforceability, or scope of [the loan] agreement or [arbitration agreement].” The contracts stated that they were governed by tribal law and that an arbitrator must apply tribal law. Plaintiffs filed class-action RICO complaints against the Tribal Lenders. The district court denied the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration, reasoning that the arbitration agreement as a whole in each contract was unenforceable because it prospectively waived plaintiffs’ right to pursue federal statutory claims by requiring arbitrators to apply tribal law.The Ninth Circuit reversed. Rather than asking first whether the arbitration agreement was enforceable as a whole, the court must consider first the enforceability of the delegation provision specifically. The delegation provision was enforceable because it did not preclude plaintiffs from arguing to an arbitrator that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable under the prospective-waiver doctrine. The general enforceability issue must, therefore, be decided by an arbitrator. The choice-of-law provisions were not to the contrary because they did not prevent plaintiffs from pursuing their prospective-waiver enforcement challenge in arbitration. View "Brice v. Plain Green, LLC" on Justia Law
Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P.
In 2017, Andeavor agreed with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, to renew the right-of-way over tribal lands, and to pay trespass damages for continued operation of an oil pipeline after expiration. Andeavor then began renewal negotiations with individual Indian landowners. In 2018, the Allottees filed a putative class action seeking compensatory and punitive damages for ongoing trespass and injunctive relief requiring Andeavor to dismantle the pipeline. The district court granted Andeavor's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Allottees failed to exhaust administrative remedies with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).The Eighth Circuit concluded that the case turns on issues sufficiently within the primary jurisdiction of the BIA to warrant a stay, rather than dismissal, to give the BIA opportunity to take further action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied the Allottees' motion to dismiss Robin Fredericks as a plaintiff. View "Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P." on Justia Law
Interest of K.B.
J.B. appealed a juvenile court order terminating her parental rights to her two children. She argued there was not evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support the court’s determination under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that continued custody by J.B. was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the children. Retaining jurisdiction under N.D.R.App.P. 35(a)(3), the North Dakota Supreme Court remanded to the juvenile court for detailed findings under ICWA, allowing for additional testimony from the qualified expert witness if necessary to make the required findings. After receiving additional testimony, the district court made additional findings, denied the petition to terminate J.B.’s parental rights, and ordered the children be removed from J.B.’s custody for nine months. No party requested additional briefing or argument following the order on remand. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court order. View "Interest of K.B." on Justia Law
City of Council Bluffs v. U.S. Department of the Interior
After determining that it had appellate jurisdiction, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order concluding that the National Indian Gaming Commission correctly determined that the Ponca Restoration Act does not preclude gambling on a parcel of land in Iowa that is held in trust by the United States for the Tribe because the land is eligible as part of the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition. However, because the Commission failed to consider a relevant factor in evaluating whether the parcel is restored land for the Tribe, the court remanded to the Commission for further consideration. View "City of Council Bluffs v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law
In re A.L.
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded the order of the district court terminating Mother's parental rights in her child, holding that, while the trial court properly applied North Carolina law in terminating Mother's parental rights, the case is remanded for further proceedings to ensure compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act.After a termination hearing, the trial court entered can order concluding that grounds existed to terminate Mother's rights in her child pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1111(a)(1)(2), and (3). Mother appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not err in determining that Mother's parental rights were subject to termination pursuant to section 7B-1111(a)(2); and (2) because the determination of whether there was reason to know the child was an Indian child could not be made on the record, a remand was required. View "In re A.L." on Justia Law
Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment declaring that the United States has a duty to provide "competent physician-led healthcare" to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and its members. In light of the promises the United States made to the Tribe more than 150 years ago in the Fort Laramie Treaty, and relevant legislation since that time, such as the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the district court correctly articulated the existence and scope of the duty and declaratory judgment was proper. View "Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law
Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. v. Mandregan
Cook Inlet Tribal Council, representing federally recognized tribes in Alaska, opened an alcohol recovery center through a contract with the Indian Health Service. The Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. 5321, requires that the Service pay the secretarial amount, a negotiated sum that cannot be less than what the Service would have spent on the program if it directly provided care, and pay contract support costs to reimburse tribes for expenses the Service does not incur when it runs the program, like workers’ compensation premiums.In 1992, the Service agreed to pay the Council $150,000; $11,838.50 paid for facility costs (rent and a partial salary for a facilities coordinator) as expenses the Service would have incurred if it ran the recovery center. The Service paid the facility costs from the secretarial amount. In 2014, the Council received $2,000,000 from the Service. In 2014, the Council unsuccessfully proposed to add $400,000 in annual facility costs to be paid as contract support costs to supplement secretarial funds already applied to facility costs. The Council did not request an increase in the annual secretarial amount to cover the unfunded facility costs.The district court awarded judgment to the Council. The D.C. Circuit reversed. The Act does not require the government to pay contract support costs for expenses the Service normally pays when it runs a health program. Those expenses are eligible for reimbursement only under the secretarial amount. View "Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc. v. Mandregan" on Justia Law
Snoqualmie Indian Tribe v. Washingtonx
The Snoqualmie Indian Tribe and the Samish Indian Nation have been disputing the Treaty of Point Elliott for decades. The Snoqualmie sought a declaration that it is a signatory to the Treaty and that its reserved off-reservation hunting and gathering rights under the Treaty continue. Prior litigation has involved fishing rights. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit on issue preclusion grounds. Prior appeals, 40 years ago, resolved that the Snoqualmie is not a treaty tribe under the Treaty. Treaty-tribe status is established when a group of Indians is “descended from a treaty signatory” and has “maintained an organized tribal structure.” The Snoqualmie Tribe, though descended from a treaty-signatory tribe, has not maintained an organized tribal structure and is not entitled to exercise rights under the Treaty because it lacks treaty-tribe status. View "Snoqualmie Indian Tribe v. Washingtonx" on Justia Law
L. B. v. United States
L.B. lived within the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. L.B. and her mother went to a bar and had alcoholic drinks. After they returned home, L.B.’s mother went for a drive. L.B. called the police and reported that her mother was driving while intoxicated. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Officer Bullcoming determined that L.B.’s mother was safe and then went to L.B.’s residence, where her children were asleep in the other room. L.B. admitted to consuming alcoholic drinks. Bullcoming threatened to arrest L.B. for child endangerment because she was intoxicated while in the presence of her children. L.B. pleaded with Bullcoming not to arrest her because she would lose her job as a school bus driver. Bullcoming took L.B. outside for a breathalyzer test. L.B. believed that her choices were to go to jail or have sex with Bullcoming. L.B. and Bullcoming had unprotected sexual intercourse. L.B. became pregnant as a result of the encounter and gave birth.L.B. brought a Federal Tort Claims Act suit, seeking to hold the government liable for Bullcoming’s misconduct. The government asserted that Bullcoming was not acting within the scope of his employment when he sexually assaulted L.B so his actions fell outside the scope of the FTCA’s limited waiver of sovereign immunity. The Ninth Circuit certified the question to the Montana Supreme Court: whether, under Montana law, OBullcoming’s sexual assault of L.B. was within the scope of his employment as a law enforcement officer. View "L. B. v. United States" on Justia Law
Sisto v. United States
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) case brought by plaintiffs, alleging negligence by an emergency room physician. The physician treated Tyrone Sisto at the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation hospital and failed to diagnose Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Plaintiffs claimed that the physician was an "employee of the United States" under the FTCA and the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA), 25 U.S.C. 5301 et seq., and that he negligently failed to diagnose the disease that led to Sisto's death.The panel agreed with the district court that the FTCA and section 5321(d) do not waive the United States' sovereign immunity with respect to claims based on the negligence of employees of independent contractors providing health care pursuant to a self-determination contract under the ISDEAA. Therefore, the panel concluded that the physician was an employee of T-EM rather than the hospital, and that the FTCA and section 5321(d) do not authorize a suit against the United States based on his alleged negligence. In this case, the physician had only a contract with T-EM and he was not an individual who provided health care services pursuant to a personal services contract with a tribal organization and was therefore not an employee of the Public Health Service under section 5321(d); because hospital privileges were not issued to the physician on the condition that he provide services covered by the FTCA, neither 25 U.S.C. 1680c(e)(1) nor 25 C.F.R. 900.199 confers FTCA coverage; and the hospital did not control the physician's actions in administering care to a degree or in a manner that rendered him an employee of the government when he treated Sisto. View "Sisto v. United States" on Justia Law