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Marlon Comes appealed a district court’s second amended criminal judgment entered over twenty years after the original criminal judgment. In 1996, North Dakota charged Comes with murder (class AA felony) and robbery (class A felony). Comes pleaded guilty to both charges and the district court sentenced him on the murder charge to life imprisonment at the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (“DOCR”) with the possibility of parole, and a concurrent 10 years for robbery, with 307 days credit for time served. Comes has filed several previous post-conviction relief petitions that were denied. In August 2018, the district court issued a memorandum of law and order for second amended judgment. No post-conviction relief petition was filed prompting the court’s action. While there was nothing in the record to reflect why the court acted, based on the court’s memorandum, the court was apparently responding to a request from DOCR for an amended judgment “that contains a calculation of [Comes’] life expectancy, in order for DOC[R] to determine when he becomes eligible for parole.” The court relied on a table specific to American Indian mortality rates to calculate Comes’ life expectancy of 52 years rather than following the mortality table promulgated by N.D. Sup. Ct. Admin. R. 51. The court’s second amended judgment indicates Comes must serve 44 years and 73 days, taking into account the credit for 307 days previously served. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the trial court abused its discretion in sua sponte amending the judgment without providing notice, the arguments Comes made regarding the propriety of the court’s application of N.D.C.C. 12.1-32-09.1, including its 1997 amendments, to his second amended judgment could be considered on remand once notice was provided to both parties. View "North Dakota v. Comes" on Justia Law

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Steve H. and Lucy A. were the parents of Donald, an Indian child2 born in April 2013. By the time Donald was born, Steve and Lucy were no longer in a relationship and Steve no longer lived in Anchorage. Donald lived with Lucy until the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) assumed emergency custody of him due to alcohol-related neglect shortly after he was born. Although Steve knew that Lucy had substance abuse problems, he left Donald in her care. When OCS took emergency custody of Donald in June 2013, Steve was “unreachable.” Donald was placed in a foster home. Steve appealed the superior court’s decision terminating his parental rights. He argued the superior court clearly erred in finding that he abandoned his son under the Child in Need of Aid (CINA) statutes. He also argued there was insufficient evidence to support termination, claiming that the record did not support the superior court’s findings that returning his son to his care would risk emotional or physical harm and that termination was in his son’s best interests. Because the superior court did not clearly err in making these findings, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s decision. View "Steve H. v. Alaska, DHSS, OCS" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for two counts of fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer in violation of Oregon Revised Statutes 811.540(1), as assimilated by 18 U.S.C. 13, the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA), and 18 U.S.C. 1152, the Indian Country Crimes Act (ICCA). Defendant argued that the federal government lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him for his violation of state law in Indian country because the ACA does not apply to Indian country. The panel affirmed the conviction and held that the ACA applies to Indian country, based on the panel's own precedent and through the operation of 18 U.S.C. 7 and 1152. Furthermore, neither the ICCA nor the Major Crimes Act precluded the federal government from exercising its jurisdiction to prosecute defendant for his violations of section 811.540(1) under the ACA. Accordingly, the court upheld the district court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. View "United States v. Smith" on Justia Law

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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