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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the district court terminating the parental rights of Mother and Father to their child pursuant to Maine's Child and Family Services and Child Protection Act, 22 Me. Rev. Stat. 4001 to 4099-H, and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C.S. 1901-1963, holding that the district court did not err in terminating the parents' parental rights and denying their other requests for relief. Specifically, the Court held (1) the district court did not err by concluding that active efforts had been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, as required by ICWA; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the court's determination that Mother was parentally unfit within the meaning of state law; (3) the district court did not err in denying Father's two motions to transfer the case to the Penobscot Nation Tribal Court; and (4) the district court did not err in denying Father's post-judgment motion alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. View "In re Child of Radience K." on Justia Law

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An 1868 treaty between the United States and the Crow Tribe promised that in exchange for the Tribe’s territory in modern-day Montana and Wyoming, its members would “have the right to hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon . . . and peace subsists,” 15 Stat. 650. In 2014, Wyoming charged Herrera with off-season hunting in Bighorn National Forest. The state court held that the treaty right expired upon Wyoming’s statehood and that, in any event, the national forest became categorically "occupied" when it was created. The Supreme Court vacated. Hunting rights under the Treaty did not expire upon Wyoming’s statehood. The crucial inquiry is whether Congress “clearly express[ed]” an intent to abrogate an Indian treaty right or whether a termination point identified in the treaty has been satisfied, The Wyoming Statehood Act does not clearly express an intent to end the Treaty's hunting right. There is no evidence in the Treaty that Congress intended the hunting right to expire at statehood, or that the Tribe would have understood it to do so. Bighorn National Forest did not become categorically “occupied” within the meaning of the Treaty when the national forest was created. Construing the treaty’s terms as “they would naturally be understood by the Indians,” the word “unoccupied” denoted an area free of residence or settlement by non-Indians. Nor would mining and logging of the forest lands before 1897 have caused the Tribe to view the Bighorn Mountains as occupied. The Court clarified that Bighorn National Forest is not categorically occupied, but that not all areas within the forest are necessarily unoccupied and did not address whether Wyoming could regulate the Treaty right “in the interest of conservation.” View "Herrera v. Wyoming" on Justia Law

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The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701–21, allows some gambling on land held in trust for tribes, in every state, without prior approval. Class III gambling, which includes slot machines and table games such as blackjack, may be offered only in certain states if the tribe and state enter into a contract. Since 199,2 Stockbridge-Munsee Community, a federally-recognized tribe, has conducted gaming in Shawano County, Wisconsin. In 2008 Ho-Chunk, another federally-recognized tribe, opened a casino in Shawano County. Both feature class III gaming, authorized by contracts. In 2016 Ho-Chunk announced plans to add more slot machines and gaming tables, plus a restaurant, a bar, and a hotel. The Community sought an injunction, arguing that the Ho-Chunk land was not held in trust for the tribe on October 17, 1988. The parcel was conveyed to the tribe in 1969, but with a condition that was not lifted until 1989; in 1986, the Department of the Interior declared the parcel to be Ho-Chunk’s trust land. The Community argued that Ho-Chunk’s state contract treats its casino as an “ancillary” gaming facility and that the state has not enforced that limitation. The court dismissed the suit as untimely, reasoning that the Community knew or could have learned of both issues by 2008. The Act does not contain a statute of limitations, so the court looked to the Wisconsin limitations period for breach of contract or the Administrative Procedure Act's limitations period—each set a six-year limit. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, applying Wisconsin law. View "Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff's petition for panel rehearing was granted an this superseding opinion was filed. This case related to tort claims brought by the tribe against a nonmember employed by the tribe. At issue was whether the tribal court has jurisdiction to adjudicate tribal claims against its nonmember employee, where the tribe's personnel policies and procedures manual regulated the nonmember's conduct at issue and provided that the tribal council would address violations by the nonmember during the course of her employment, and the tribal court and tribal judicial code were established and enacted after the nonmember left her employment with the tribe. The Ninth Circuit held that, under the circumstances presented here, the tribe has authority to regulate the nonmember employee's conduct at issue pursuant to its inherent power to exclude nonmembers from tribal lands. The panel also held that, in the alternative, the tribe has regulatory authority over the nonmember employee's conduct under both exceptions under Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981). Therefore, given the existence of regulatory authority, the sovereign interests at stake, and the congressional interest in promoting tribal self-government, the panel held that the tribal court had jurisdiction over the tribe's claims. View "Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria of Northern Paiute Indians" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court granting the Oglala Sioux Tribe's motion to transfer jurisdiction of an abuse and neglect proceeding to tribal court, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe's motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child's physician. After the child in this case was born, the State alleged that the child was abused or neglected. At the outset of what was to have been the final disposition hearing, the Tribe orally moved to transfer the abuse and neglect case to tribal court. The circuit court ultimately granted the Tribe's motion to transfer. The child's counsel appealed, challenging the circuit court's order transferring jurisdiction to tribal court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion when it granted the Tribe's motion to transfer without hearing the testimony of the child's physician, who was present in the courtroom. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings to determine the Tribe's motion for transfer anew. View "In re Interest of E.T." on Justia Law

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Arnold Jones pleaded guilty to child abuse for driving on a reservation while intoxicated with his minor son in the car. He entered a guilty plea both before a tribal court and, after serving his tribal sentence, before a federal district court. Although child abuse itself was not a federal offense, federal law incorporated state law offenses committed by Native Americans on tribal land. After Jones pleaded guilty in federal court, the district court imposed a forty-month sentence. But, as all parties agreed, the district court made a miscalculation, imposing twelve unintended months. Jones appealed, asking the Tenth Circuit to vacate his sentence and to remand for imposition of the intended sentence. The government requested that the Court affirm the erroneous sentence because, it argued, the miscalculation was harmless due to the district court’s failure to impose a six-year mandatory minimum sentence. Concluding that the error was not harmless, the Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded for the district court to correct the sentence. View "United States v. Jones" on Justia Law

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In this dispute over custody of a child, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court granting Mother's motion to strike Father's motion for an order relinquishing permanent child custody jurisdiction to the tribal court, holding that the district court properly concluded that it retained exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make permanent custody determinations regarding the child. The district court granted Mother primary custody of the parties' child. Father, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, kept the child on the South Dakota reservation and refused to relinquish custody to Mother. Father sought orders from the district court and the trial court transferring jurisdiction over the custody matter to the tribal court. The tribal court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction because the custody action was pending in the district court and Mother was not a tribal matter. In the district court, Father argued that the tribal court acquired jurisdiction over the custody matter by issuing emergency child custody and/or protection orders. The district court granted Mother's motion to strike Father's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly concluded that it retained exclusive continuing jurisdiction to make permanent custody determinations regarding the child. View "Mitchell v. Preston" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order granting summary judgment to the state in an action brought by Indian tribes under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). California permits certain forms of class III gaming under an effective tribal-state gaming compact. At issue was the termination provision in a 1999 compact. The panel held that the plain language of the IGRA permits tribes and states to negotiate the duration of a compact governing the conduct of a tribe's class III gaming activities. Therefore, the panel held that the termination provision in the compact at issue was not void under the IGRA. View "Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. Newsom" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendant's motion to suppress evidence obtained when a tribal officer twice searched defendant's truck. The officer initially pulled up behind the truck, which was parked on the side of the highway, to see if defendant and his young child needed assistance. The panel could not agree that the officer appropriately determined that defendant was a non-Indian just by looking at him. The panel held that the officer acted outside of his jurisdiction as a tribal officer when he detained defendant, a non-Indian, and searched his vehicle without first making any attempt to determine whether defendant was in fact an Indian. The panel held that the exclusionary rule applies in federal court prosecutions to evidence obtained in violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act's (ICRA) Fourth Amendment counterpart. The panel also held that a tribal officer does not necessarily conduct an unreasonable search or seizure for ICRA purposes when he acts beyond his tribal jurisdiction. However, tribal authority consideration is highly pertinent to determining whether a search or seizure is unreasonable under the ICRA. In this case, the officer violated the ICRA Fourth Amendment analogue by seizing defendant, a non-Indian, while operating outside the Crow Tribe's jurisdiction. View "United States v. Cooley" on Justia Law

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The State of Washington taxes “motor vehicle fuel importer[s]” who bring large quantities of fuel into the state by “ground transportation,” Wash. Code 82.36.010(4), (12), (16). Cougar, a wholesale fuel importer owned by a member of the Yakama Nation, imports fuel over Washington’s public highways for sale to Yakama-owned retail gas stations located within the reservation. In 2013, the state assessed Cougar $3.6 million in taxes, penalties, and licensing fees for importing motor vehicle fuel. Cougar argued that the tax, as applied to its activities, is preempted by an 1855 treaty between the United States and the Yakama Nation that reserves the Yakamas’ “right, in common with citizens of the United States, to travel upon all public highways,” 12 Stat. 953. The Washington Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed. The statute taxes the importation of fuel, which is the transportation of fuel, so travel on public highways is directly at issue. In previous cases involving the treaty, the Court has stressed that its language should be understood as bearing the meaning that the Yakamas understood it to have in 1855; the historical record adopted by the agency and the courts below indicates that the treaty negotiations and the government’s representatives’ statements to the Yakamas would have led the Yakamas to understand that the treaty’s protection of the right to travel on the public highways included the right to travel with goods for purposes of trade. To impose a tax upon traveling with certain goods burdens that travel. View "Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc." on Justia Law