Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries
United States v. Slinkard
In 2011, defendant-appellant Joshua Slinkard pleaded guilty in Oklahoma state court to child sex abuse, lewd molestation, and possession of child pornography. The state court sentenced him to 30 years in prison. But in May 2021 the State vacated Slinkard’s conviction for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020). Slinkard was then indicted in federal district court on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country, and one count of possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty on all three counts without the benefit of a plea bargain. After adopting the factual recitations of the PSR and confirming Slinkard’s advisory guideline sentence, the district court recited the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and offered defense counsel the opportunity to be heard on the application of those factors in Slinkard’s case. Defense counsel asked the court to consider an oral motion for a downward variance based in part on Slinkard having already served 12 years in state prison. The government requested a life sentence. The court stated it would not vary from the advisory guideline for sentencing. The court then asked Slinkard if he wished to make a statement, but he declined. After the government made a statement on behalf of the victim, the court imposed a sentence of two terms of life in prison and one term of 240 months, all to run concurrently. In his single issue on appeal, Slinkard contended the district court plainly erred when it conclusively announced his sentence before permitting him to allocute. To this, the Tenth Circuit concurred: the court’s pre-allocution statement was a definitive announcement of sentence, in violation of Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(i)(4)(A)(ii) and Tenth Circuit precedent. The sentence was vacated and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Slinkard" on Justia Law
United States v. Polk
Defendant-appellant Conner Polk appealed his four-year prison sentence under the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA), 18 U.S.C. § 13, for committing a state-law offense on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Polk argued the district court should have considered imposing a shorter prison term under an Oklahoma statute that permitted a departure from a mandatory minimum sentence in certain circumstances. Because this state law conflicted with federal sentencing policy, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court properly declined to apply it. The Court, therefore, affirmed Polk’s sentence. View "United States v. Polk" on Justia Law
Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Becerra, et al.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Indian Health Service (IHS) entered into a contract under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act for the Tribe to operate a federal healthcare program. Under the contract, the Tribe provided healthcare services to Indians and other eligible beneficiaries. In exchange, the Tribe was entitled to receive reimbursements from IHS for certain categories of expenditures, including “contract support costs.” The contract anticipates that the Tribe will bill third-party insurers such as Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The Tribe contended that overhead costs associated with setting up and administering this third-party billing infrastructure, as well as the administrative costs associated with recirculating the third-party revenue it received, qualified as reimbursable contract support costs under the Self-Determination Act and the Tribe’s agreement with the IHS. But when the Tribe attempted to collect those reimbursements, IHS disagreed and refused to pay. Contending it had been shortchanged, the Tribe sued the government. The district court, agreeing with the government’s reading of the Self-Determination Act and the contract, granted the government’s motion to dismiss. A divided panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to reverse (for different reasons). Under either of the jurists' interpretations, the administrative expenditures associated with collecting and expending revenue obtained from third-party insurers qualified as reimbursable contract support costs. View "Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Becerra, et al." on Justia Law
M.T. (Mother) v. State of Alaska DHSS, OCS
Mother Miranda T. appealed the superior court’s entry of a disposition order in child in need of aid (CINA) proceedings. She contended the court erred by moving forward with an adjudication hearing without having considered her request for a review hearing on a previously stipulated temporary custody and placement arrangement. She contended the court also erred by later refusing to enforce two subsequent agreements she had reached with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) about placements for her daughter. Furthermore, Mother contended the evidence did not support the disposition order’s predicate findings that (1) OCS had made sufficiently active efforts to reunify the family and (2) removal of the daughter from the family home was necessary to avoid harm to her. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected the mother’s claims of error and affirmed the superior court’s disposition order. View "M.T. (Mother) v. State of Alaska DHSS, OCS" on Justia Law
In re A.A.
C.G. (Mother) and R.A. (Father) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to three of their minor children. Father’s parents repeatedly denied any Indian ancestry, but Mother reported she was affiliated with the Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico. Father eventually denied having any Indian ancestry or tribal affiliation. The juvenile court found the children might be Indian children and ordered notice to be reported to the Jemez Pueblo tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The Jemez Pueblo tribe required individuals to have a 1/4 Jemez Pueblo blood quantum. Mother provided verification of her tribal registration status with the tribe, which confirmed her Jemez Pueblo blood quantum was over 1/4. A social worker from the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (the Department) contacted the Jemez Pueblo and was told that none of the children were registered members of the tribe. The social worker reported she contacted Annette Gachupin, a Child Advocate for the Jemez Pueblo and the tribe’s ICWA Representative. Gachupin confirmed that Mother was an enrolled member of the Jemez Pueblo tribe, but the children were not eligible to become registered members because their blood quantum was too low to meet requirements for tribal membership. Instead, the children were eligible for “naturalization,” which would only qualify them for tribal health services while excluding them from receiving federal funds that Jemez Pueblo members receive. Mother never completed the paperwork to have the children naturalized. The Department asked the juvenile court to find that ICWA did not apply because the children were not Indian children. The parents did not object, nor did the children’s attorney. The juvenile court found that the children were not Indian children and therefore ICWA did not apply. The lack of objections notwithstanding, the parents appealed the termination and the ICWA ruling. The Court of Appeal concluded the juvenile court did not err: Indian tribes determine whether a child is a member of the tribe or eligible for membership. Substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that N., H., and A. were not “Indian children” for ICWA purposes. View "In re A.A." on Justia Law
D.S. v. Super. Ct.
Petitioner D.S. (Mother) was the adoptive mother of A.S. In 2021, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) petitioned on behalf of A.S. in response to allegations of physical abuse. During the pendency of the proceedings, Mother petitioned to have A.S. placed back in her home. She appealed the summary denial of her petition. However, on appeal, Mother did not address any issue encompassed by her petition, nor did she seek reversal of the order denying her petition or reversal of any prior jurisdictional or dispositional orders. Instead, Mother’s opening brief was entirely devoted to seeking review of the adequacy of the juvenile court and CFS’s efforts to fulfill their obligations under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) seeking only to have the matter “remanded with instructions for the juvenile court to order full compliance with the inquiry provisions of the ICWA.” Consequently, the Court of Appeal construed Mother's appeal as a petition for extraordinary writ seeking an order directing the juvenile court and CFS to comply with their statutory duties under ICWA and the related California statutes. Upon consideration of the matter on the merits, the Court granted the requested relief. View "D.S. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
In re Jayden G.
Mother S.G. appealed after the juvenile court terminated her parental rights to her son. She raised two challenges. First, she faults the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) for failing to exercise due diligence in locating her son’s father (Father). Mother argued this failure to locate Father, which included ignoring information she provided on how to locate him, invalidated the notice the court deemed proper for Father. Second, she contends DCFS did not comply with its initial duty of inquiry under Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2,1 subdivision (b) when it failed to ask maternal and paternal extended family members about Indian ancestry within the meaning of Section 1903 of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The Second Appellate District conditionally reversed the juvenile court’s order terminating parental rights and directed the juvenile court to order DCFS to complete its duty of due diligence to discover the whereabouts of Father and complete its initial inquiry of available maternal and paternal relatives into familial Indian ancestry. The court explained that this dependency proceeding lasted over two years. In that time, DCFS made two attempts to locate Father, and it did so using database search resources only. It made no attempt to inquire about Indian ancestry after obtaining Mother’s denial of such ancestry. The court found that DCFS did not exercise reasonable due diligence in its attempts to locate Father. The court also found that DCFS erred in determining that ICWA did not apply without inquiring about available family members for whom it had contact information. View "In re Jayden G." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Native American Law
METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL
Members of the Metlakatlan Indian Community (“the Community”) and their Tsimshian ancestors have inhabited the coast of the Pacific Northwest and fished in its waters. In 1891, Congress passed a statute (the “1891 Act”) recognizing the Community and establishing the Annette Islands Reserve as its reservation. In 2020, in response to Alaska’s attempt to subject the Metlakatlans to its limited entry program, the Community sued Alaskan officials in federal district court. The Community contended that the 1891 Act grants to the Community and its members the right to fish in the off-reservation waters where Community members have traditionally fished. The district court disagreed, holding that the Act provides no such right. The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending its opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of the Metlakatlan Indian Community’s suit against Alaskan officials. The panel applied the Indian canon of construction, which required it to construe the 1891 Act liberally in favor of the Community and to infer rights that supported the purpose of the reservation. At issue was the scope of that right. The panel concluded that a central purpose of the reservation, understood in light of the history of the Community, was that the Metlakatlans would continue to support themselves by fishing. The panel, therefore, held that the 1891 Act preserved for the Community and its members an implied right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing for personal consumption and ceremonial purposes, as well as for commercial purposes. View "METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL" on Justia Law
Seneca Nation v. Hochul
Plaintiff Seneca Nation brought a lawsuit seeking relief from New York State, the New York Thruway Authority, and the Thruway Authority’s Executive Director (collectively “Defendants”) for ongoing use of an invalid easement over its tribal land. Defendants appealed the denial of their motion to dismiss. Defendants contend that the Nation is collaterally estopped from bringing this present action based on a 2004 judgment of this court and that this lawsuit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that Seneca Nation does not assert property rights over land to which New York State has traditionally held the title and does not seek a declaration that the State’s laws and regulations do not apply to the area in dispute. Therefore, the quiet title exception to Ex parte Young outlined by the Court in Coeur d’Alene Tribe has no application here. Accordingly, the lawsuit falls under the Ex parte Young exception to the Eleventh Amendment. Thus, neither collateral estoppel nor the Eleventh Amendment bars the Nation from proceeding in this case. View "Seneca Nation v. Hochul" on Justia Law
Lula Williams v. Matt Martorello
In a class-action proceeding related to a lending scheme allegedly designed to circumvent state usury laws, Defendant appealed from three district court rulings that (1) reconsidered prior factual findings based on a new finding that Defendant made misrepresentations that substantially impacted the litigation, (2) found that Plaintiffs—Virginia citizens who took out loans (the “Borrowers”)—did not waive their right to participate in a class-action suit against him, and (3) granted class certification. Defendant argued that the district court violated the mandate rule by making factual findings related to the misrepresentations that contradicted the Fourth Circuit’s holding in the prior appeal and then relying on those factual findings when granting class certification. He also contends that the Borrowers entered into enforceable loan agreements with lending entities in which they waived their right to bring class claims against him. In addition, he asserts that common issues do not predominate so as to permit class treatment in this case. The Fourth Circuit affirmed. The court concluded that the district court did not violate the mandate rule and that the Borrowers did not waive the right to pursue the resolution of their dispute against him in a class-action proceeding. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting class certification because common issues predominate. View "Lula Williams v. Matt Martorello" on Justia Law