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Caitlyn E., a Yupik woman, was the mother of Maggie and Bridget, ages nine and six at trial, who are Indian children within the meaning of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) based on their affiliation with the Orutsararmiut Native Council (the Tribe). Caitlyn struggled with abuse of both legal and illegal drugs since a young age. Maggie tested positive for cocaine and marijuana when she was born. The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) received other reports of harm; at a doctor’s visit when the girls were toddlers, they reportedly had multiple impetigo sores on their bodies and had to be cleaned by the doctor, and Caitlyn smelled like marijuana. Caitlyn was also reported to have been violent toward both her daughters, kicking Maggie and giving her a bloody nose, and, while drunk, swinging Bridget around “like a rag doll.” The superior court terminated a Caitlyn's parental rights to the two girls. She appealed, contesting the qualification of the ICWA-required expert witness and the finding that OCS made active efforts to prevent the breakup of the Indian family. Because the superior court’s decision to qualify the expert witness was not an abuse of discretion, and because the superior court’s active efforts finding was not erroneous, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the termination of the mother’s parental rights. View "Caitlyn E. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Svcs." on Justia Law

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25 U.S.C. 1911(b) of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) addresses transfer only of foster care replacement and termination-of-parental-rights actions and does not apply to state preadoptive and adoptive placements. The Department of Child Safety moved to terminate the parental rights of the parents of A.D., a member of the Gila River Indian Community. After the juvenile court terminated the rights of A.D.’s parents the foster parents intervened and filed a petition to adopt A.D. The Community moved to transfer the proceedings to its tribal court under section 1911(b). The juvenile court denied the motion, finding that the foster parents had met their burden of showing that good cause existed under section 1911(b) to deny the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of the Community’s motion to transfer, holding that ICWA does not govern the transfer of preadoptive and adoptive placement actions, but state courts may nonetheless transfer such cases involving Indian children to tribal courts. View "Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law

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The Wyandot Nation of Kansas, a Native American tribe allegedly tracing its ancestry to the Historic Wyandot Nation, claims to be a federally recognized Indian tribe and a successor-in-interest to treaties between the Historic Wyandot Nation and the United States. Wyandot Nation filed suit, alleging that the government had breached its trust and fiduciary obligations with respect to trusts that resulted from those treaties, including one related to amounts payable under an 1867 treaty and one related to the Huron Cemetery. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed for lack of jurisdiction and standing. The Federal Circuit affirmed. Tribal recognition is within the primary jurisdiction of the Department of Interior; a court cannot independently make a determination of the effects of the various treaties or resolve the various conflicting legal and factual contentions. Wyandot Nation petitioned the Department of Interior in 1996 for federal recognition pursuant to the List Act regulations. Interior preliminarily determined that “the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, which consists of the descendants of the citizen Wyandotts of Kansas terminated in 1855, [does not qualify for] Federal acknowledgment through the administrative process and can only become a Federally recognized Indian Tribe by an act of Congress.” The Nation did not pursue further administrative or judicial review. View "Wyandot Nation of Kansas v. United States" on Justia Law

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Unable to win the consent of all necessary landowners, a public utility company contended it had a statutory right to condemn a right-of-way on two parcels of land in New Mexico. Because federal law did not permit condemnation of tribal land, the Navajo Nation’s ownership of undivided fractional interests in the parcels presented a problem for the company. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the condemnation action against the two land parcels in which the Navajo Nation held an interest. View "Public Service Company of NM v. Barboan" on Justia Law

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After discovering methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the home of Mother, Mother’s three children were removed from the home. The State initiated abuse and neglect proceedings against Mother, an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (Tribe). More than one year later, the Tribe and Mother submitted motions to transfer the proceedings to the Tribe’s jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motions. Following a final dispositional hearing, the court terminated Mother’s parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Mother was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether good cause existed to deny the motions to transfer jurisdiction to the Tribe, and therefore, the circuit court abused its discretion by denying the motions. View "In re Interest of A.O." on Justia Law

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The Lewises, driving on a Connecticut interstate, were struck by a vehicle driven by Clarke, a Tribal Gaming Authority employee, who was transporting Mohegan Sun Casino patrons. The Lewises sued Clarke in his individual capacity. The Supreme Court of Connecticut held that tribal sovereign immunity barred the suit because Clarke was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred and did not consider whether Clarke should be entitled to sovereign immunity based on an indemnification statute. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed. In a suit against a tribal employee in his individual capacity, the employee, not the tribe, is the real party in interest; tribal sovereign immunity is not implicated. The suit is based on Clarke's personal actions. Clarke, not the Gaming Authority, is the real party in interest. The Connecticut Supreme Court extended sovereign immunity for tribal employees beyond what common-law sovereign immunity principles would recognize for either state or federal employees. An indemnification provision cannot, as a matter of law, extend sovereign immunity to individual employees who would otherwise not fall under its protective cloak. Connecticut courts exercise no jurisdiction over the Tribe or Gaming Authority and indemnification is not a certainty, because Clarke will not be indemnified should the Gaming Authority determine that he engaged in “wanton, reckless, or malicious” activity. View "Lewis v. Clarke" on Justia Law

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The State of New Mexico sued the Department of the Interior (“DOI”) to challenge its authority to promulgate the regulations found at 25 C.F.R. 291 et seq. (“Part 291”). The challenged regulations concerned the process under which Indian tribes and states negotiate compacts to allow gaming on Indian lands. Congress established in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”). The Supreme Court would later decide, however, Congress lacked the authority to make states subject to suit by Indian tribes in federal court. However, the Court left intact the bulk of IGRA, and Congress has not amended it in the intervening years. As relevant here, the Part 291 process was implicated after the Pueblo of Pojoaque tribe sued New Mexico under IGRA and the State asserted sovereign immunity. Following the dismissal of the case on sovereign-immunity grounds, the Pojoaque asked the Secretary to prescribe gaming procedures pursuant to Part 291. Before the Secretary did so, New Mexico filed the underlying suit, seeking a declaration that the Part 291 regulations were not a valid exercise of the Secretary’s authority. The Pojoaque intervened. The district court granted New Mexico’s motion for summary judgment and denied that of DOI, holding that the Part 291 regulations were invalid and barred the Secretary from taking any further action on the Pojoaque’s request for the issuance of gaming procedures under them. DOI and the Pojoaque appealed that order, challenging the State’s standing, the ripeness of the dispute, and the district court’s holding that Part 291 was an invalid exercise of the Secretary’s authority. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "New Mexico v. Dept. of the Interior" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants, a certified class of Osage tribal members who owned headrights, appealed the district court’s accounting order. Plaintiffs alleged that the government was improperly distributing royalties to non-Osage tribal members, which diluted the royalties for the Osage tribal members, the rightful headright owners. The complaint attributed this misdistribution to the government’s mismanagement of the trust assets and the government’s failure to perform an accounting. Thus, Plaintiffs sought to compel the government to perform an accounting and to prospectively restrict royalty payments to Osage tribal members and their heirs. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ accounting claim because it found that the applicable statute only required the government to account for deposits, not withdrawals, and that such an accounting would not support Plaintiffs’ misdistribution claim. After review, the Tenth Circuit could not say the district court abused its discretion. "The accounting the district court fashioned will certainly inform Plaintiffs of the trust receipts and disbursements and to whom those disbursements were made." View "Fletcher v. United States" on Justia Law

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Officials of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the Department) challenged the trial court's order granting a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by Gregory Rhoades, a Native American prisoner incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison (Calipatria). In granting Rhoades's petition, the trial court concluded that the prohibition on the use of straight tobacco during prisoners' Native American religious ceremonies violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and it ordered the California Department of Corrections to "formulate and implement policies permitting and reasonably regulating the possession and use of straight tobacco" during those ceremonies. The Court of Appeals concluded the trial court improperly granted relief in favor of Rhoades without holding an evidentiary hearing on disputed factual issues, and reversed and remanded matter with directions that the trial court hold an evidentiary hearing. View "In re Rhoades" on Justia Law

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K.B. appealed a judgment terminating her parental rights to her two children, Jc.L. and Ja.L. K.B. contended the juvenile court erred in terminating her parental rights because the court failed to comply with "the inquiry/notice requirements" of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). After review of the trial court record, the Court of appeals concluded the trial court properly determined that the Agency did not violate ICWA's inquiry and notice provisions. View "In re J.L." on Justia Law