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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

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The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama and Coushatta Indian Tribes of Texas Restoration Act restored the Tribe's status as a federally-recognized tribe and limited its gaming operations according to state law. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) broadly established federal standards for gaming on Indian lands. After IGRA was enacted, the Fifth Circuit determined that the Restoration Act and IGRA conflict and that the Restoration Act governs the Tribe's gaming activities. (Ysleta I). When the Tribe conducted gaming operations in violation of Texas law, the district court permanently enjoined that activity as a violation of the Restoration Act. The court affirmed the district court's refusal to dissolve the permanent injunction and held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying relief from the permanent injunction. The court held that the Restoration Act and the Texas law it invokes—and not IGRA—governed the permissibility of gaming operations on the Tribe's lands. The court held that IGRA did not apply to the Tribe, and the National Indian Gaming Commission did not have jurisdiction over the Tribe. View "Texas v. Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action challenging a tribal court's subject matter jurisdiction over tort claims brought by the tribe against a nonmember employee. The panel previously held that a tribe's inherent sovereign power to exclude nonmembers from tribal land is an independent source of regulatory power over nonmember conduct on tribal land. In this case, the panel held that a tribe's regulatory power over nonmembers on tribal land does not solely derive from an Indian tribe’s exclusionary power, but also derives separately from its inherent sovereign power to protect self government and control internal relations. The panel held that the tribal court has jurisdiction over the tribe's claim under the circumstances presented here, 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 tribe has authority to regulate the nonmember employee's conduct at issue pursuant to its inherent power to exclude nonmembers from tribal lands, and in the alternative, the tribe has regulatory authority over the nonmember employee's conduct under both Montana exceptions. View "Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria of Northern Paiute Indians" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government defendants, in an action brought by the Community challenging Interior's determination that it is ineligible for gaming for purposes of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The panel held that the agency's determination was correct, because the IGRA clearly and unambiguously requires federal recognition by the Secretary of the Department of the Interior before a tribe may qualify to participate in Indian gaming. The panel also held that the Frank's Landing Act did not authorize the Community to engage in class II gaming. View "Frank's Landing Indian Community v. National Indian Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) took custody of a three-month-old child after he was found outside alone on a cold winter day. The child’s mother had an alcohol abuse problem and had failed repeated attempts at treatment. The father also had problems with alcohol abuse, never completing treatment, and spending much of the relevant time period in jail or on probation. The mother and father had a second child while OCS’s case was pending, and the agency took custody of that child as too. OCS then petitioned to terminate parental rights to both children. The superior court granted OCS’s petition following trial. The parents appealed: the father argued the superior court erred when it found OCS’s proposed expert witness, an experienced attorney and guardian ad litem, qualified to testify about whether the children would likely suffer emotional or physical harm if returned to their parents’ care. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the record did not support a conclusion that the witness met the heightened standard for expert testimony under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA); for that reason the Court reversed the termination order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Eva H. v. Alaska, Dept. of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services" on Justia Law

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In 2000, the Tribe had agreed to pay Monroe $265 million for Monroe’s 50% ownership interest in the Casino, giving the Tribe a 100% ownership interest. In 2002, the Tribe agreed to another $200 million debt in exchange for a continued gaming license from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB). In 2005, the Tribe created a new entity (Holdings), which became the Casino’s owner; pre-existing entities owned by the Tribe became Holdings' owners to allow the Tribe to refinance and raise capital to meet its financial obligations. The restructuring was approved by the MGCB, conditioned on the Tribe’s adherence to strict financial covenants. In 2005, Holdings transferred approximately $177 million to various entities. At least $145.5 million went to the original owners of Monroe. At least $6 million went to the Tribe. For three years, the Tribe unsuccessfully attempted to raise additional capital to meet its financial obligations. In 2008, the related corporate entities) filed voluntary petitions for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Trustee alleged that the 2005 transfers were fraudulent and sought recovery under 11 U.S.C. 544, 550. The district court and Sixth Circuit affirmed the bankruptcy court’s dismissal of the complaint on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. The court rejected arguments that Congress intended to abrogate the sovereign immunity of Indian tribes in 11 U.S.C. 106, 101(27). View "Buchwald Capital Advisors LLC v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe" on Justia Law