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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court terminating Mother’s parental rights to her two children, holding that the district court erred when it proceeded with termination of Mother’s parental rights before it had a conclusive determination of the children’s status in the Chippewa Cree Tribe and when it did not address whether the Department of Public Health and Human Services made “active efforts” to prevent the breakup of the Indian family and that those efforts were unsuccessful. Specifically, the Court held (1) where the district court had reason to believe that the children may be eligible for enrollment in the Chippewa Cree Tribe, the court failed to satisfy the threshold requirement of the Indian Child Welfare Act to verify the children’s eligibility; (2) the district court did not err when it did not address whether the Department provided “active efforts” pursuant to 25 U.S.C. 1912(d); and (3) Mother’s due process were not violated when the Department raised the issue of abandonment during closing arguments at the termination hearing and Mother’s counsel did not object. View "In re L.A.G." on Justia Law

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Mother and Father appealed the juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their children. The Court of Appeal held that the juvenile court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) after a Nevada juvenile court declined to exercise jurisdiction. The court conditionally reversed and remanded, holding that the investigation required by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was not complete. In this case, HSA conceded that it had not substantially complied with the ICWA notice requirements, the order terminating parental rights should be vacated, and reversal was required to determine the applicability of the ICWA. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a police officer and a towing company after the officer seized plaintiff's truck on the Lummi reservation. Plaintiff was stopped by Lummi police and marijuana was found in his truck. The officer cited a violation of tribal drug laws and issued a notice of forfeiture and took possession of the truck. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment against plaintiff because plaintiff failed to exhaust his tribal remedies against the towing company. Applying principles of comity, the panel held that the Lummi Tribal Court must be given the opportunity to first address the question of whether tribal jurisdiction exists. The panel held that the district court properly substituted the United States as a party for the tribal police officer pursuant to the Westfall Act, and that plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies against the United States pursuant to the two-step test in Shirk v. U.S. ex rel. Dep't of Interior, 773 F.3d 999, 1006 (9th Cir. 2014), which determined whether a tribal employee could be deemed a federal Bureau of Indian Affairs employee for the purposes of Federal Tort Claims Act liability. Finally, the panel vacated the district court's dismissal and remanded with instructions to dismiss the action without prejudice to refiling after plaintiff has exhausted the appropriate remedies. View "Wilson v. Horton's Towing" on Justia Law

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A mother appealed the termination of her parental rights to her son, an Indian child. She argued the trial court violated the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by finding that the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) made active efforts and that her continued custody of her son was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to him. She also argued that the trial court’s latter finding was not supported by the testimony of a qualified expert as required by ICWA. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s order terminating her parental rights because its findings satisfied ICWA’s requirements. View "Demetria H. v. Alaska, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services" on Justia Law

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Huber runs a sole proprietorship out of her home, selling cigarettes at retail and wholesale. After 2007 she sold exclusively Native American brands: “cigarettes manufactured by Indians on Indian lands, . . . shipped and sold through Indian and tribally-owned distributors to Indian and tribally-owned retail smokeshops located on Indian lands.” Customers include tribe members and nonmembers. The wholesale component of the enterprise is with “over two dozen Indian smokeshops owned either by Indian tribes or [i]ndividual tribal members and operated within [other] . . . recognized Indian reservation[s].” Deliveries are made to “inter-tribal” customers by truck, using California highways. Huber is licensed to do business under the Wiyot Tribal Business Code and the Wiyot Tribal Tobacco Licensing Ordinance. The trial court entered a summary adjudication order and permanent injunction in an enforcement action by the Attorney General for violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL), the Tax Stamp Act (Rev. & Tax. Code, 30161), the Directory Act (Rev. & Tax. Code, 30165.1(e)(2)), and the Fire Safety Act (Health & Saf. Code 14951(a)). The court of appeal reversed in part, finding that, under a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1360, granting California courts plenary criminal jurisdiction but limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations, the trial court lacked power to proceed on the UCL claims in this case. The court otherwise affirmed. View "People v. Huber" on Justia Law

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After attempting to persuade the Tribe to pay him for services provided under construction and rental agreements, Findleton requested that the Tribe mediate and arbitrate pursuant to clauses in the agreements. The Tribe failed to respond. Findleton filed a petition in March 2012, in the Mendocino County Superior Court to compel mediation and arbitration. The court held the Tribe had not waived its sovereign immunity. The Tribe sought attorney fees it had incurred in defending against Findleton’s petition, which the superior court granted. The court of appeal remanded, finding the Tribe had waived its sovereign immunity, reversing the award of fees. On remand, Findleton again filed a petition to compel mediation and arbitration and sought contractual attorney fees he had incurred in the prior appellate proceedings. The Tribe did not oppose the fee motion on the merits but requested that the court defer ruling until the Tribe filed a demurrer challenging the court’s jurisdiction. The superior court rejected that request and granted Findleton’s motion, awarding costs ($4,591.79) and attorney fees ($28,148.75). The court of appeal affirmed. The Tribe has not demonstrated that tribal remedy exhaustion was required here nor would requiring exhaustion at this late date serve any purpose other than further delay of a case that is already six years old. View "Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant, S.A. (Mother), appealed the termination of her parental rights to N.G., a boy born in 2005. She argued the juvenile court erroneously failed to ensure that plaintiff-respondent, Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), fully investigated N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry and gave adequate notices of the proceedings to all federally recognized Cherokee tribes and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and related California law. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed Mother’s claim had merit and conditionally reversed the judgment. The Court also concluded that DPSS had to be ordered to further investigate N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry, and include any newly discovered information concerning N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry in the ICWA notices to all federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the BIA, and all previously noticed tribes. DPSS was also ordered to inquire whether N.G. may have maternal lineal ancestry and, if so, send additional ICWA notices, as appropriate. View "In re N.G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this action for summary judgment, holding that an exculpatory clause in a contract between the parties unambiguously insulated Defendants for liability in tort and contract for their good-faith acts and failures to act under the authority granted to them by the contract and contract documents. At issue was the enforceability of exculpatory clauses insulating a third party from claims of negligent design and negligent administration and interpretation of a contract. The Supreme Court held that Defendants, who were hired by the Oglala Sioux Tribe to design a road reconstruction project, were entitled to summary judgment where (1) Plaintiff failed to establish that the clause at issue contravened public policy; (2) Defendants established a prima facie case of good faith, and there was no material issue of fact in dispute on the issue of Defendants’ good-faith acts and failures to act in the interpretation and application of the contract documents; and (3) no genuine material issue existed for trial that Defendants’ design and drafting fell below a professional standard of care. View "Domson, Inc. v. Kadrmas Lee & Jackson, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant, the noncustodial biological father of the minor K.L., appealed the juvenile court’s dispositional judgment, removing the minor from his mother and placing him with his presumed father, L.V. In August 2014, the Siskiyou County Health and Human Services Agency filed a section 300 petition on behalf of the two-year-old minor and his older half sibling, after mother was arrested for child cruelty and possession of a controlled substance. Shortly after the minor was born, L.V. took the minor into his home where he lived for several months. Initially, L.V. believed he was quite probably the minor’s father and treated him as such. A DNA test, requested by mother, confirmed L.V. was not the minor’s biological father. Nonetheless, L.V. continued to treat the minor as his own. The juvenile court found L.V. to be the minor’s presumed father. The Agency thereafter placed the minor and his half sibling with L.V. Shortly after these proceedings commenced, paternity test results revealed appellant to be the minor’s biological father. Appellant had never met the minor and had only recently learned of the minor’s existence. Appellant was an enrolled member of the federally recognized Karuk Indian Tribe . The Karuk Indian Tribe intervened on appeal, contending the juvenile court failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 ("ICWA") in entering its dispositional judgment. The Court of Appeal found the provisions of ICWA did not apply in this case and affirmed the juvenile court's judgment. View "In re K.L." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, challenging procedures used in proceedings brought by the State to remove Native American children temporarily from their homes in exigent circumstances. The district court denied defendants' motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds and granted partial summary judgment for plaintiffs. The district court then entered a declaratory judgment and permanent injunction. The Eighth Circuit held that the district court should have abstained from exercising jurisdiction under principles of federal-state comity articulated in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and later cases. In this case, even setting aside the question of “ongoing” temporary custody proceedings, plaintiffs may not circumvent the abstention doctrine by attempting to accomplish the same type of interference with state proceedings through a claim for prospective relief. Therefore, the court vacated the district court's order and remanded with instructions to dismiss the claims that gave rise to the orders. View "Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Vargo" on Justia Law