Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff cardrooms, filed suit challenging the Secretary's approval of a Nevada-style casino project on off-reservation land in the County of Madera, California by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, a federally recognized tribe. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Department and Secretary. The Ninth Circuit held that the Tribe's jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel operates as a matter of law and the Tribe clearly exercised governmental power when it entered into agreements with local governments and enacted ordinances concerning the property; because neither the Enclave Clause nor 40 U.S.C. 3112 are implicated here, neither the State's consent nor cession is required for the Tribe to acquire any jurisdiction over the Madera Parcel; and the Indian Reorganization Act does not offend the Tenth Amendment because Congress has plenary authority to regulate Indian affairs. Therefore, the Secretary's actions were not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. View "Club One Casino, Inc. v. Bernhardt" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Jordan Sandoval pleaded guilty to committing an assault in Indian Country which resulted in serious bodily injury. He was sentenced to a prison term of 27 months. Sandoval appealed the district court’s sentence as disproportionate by noting crimes either committed with greater intent or causing death are afforded only slightly higher sentencing ranges under the Guidelines. In the alternative, he argued his sentence was substantively unreasonable. Finding that the district court carefully considered Sandoval's arguments before sentencing, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court did not abuse its discretion in arriving at his sentence. View "United States v. Sandoval" on Justia Law

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In 1854, the Washington Territory and nine Native American tribes, including the Squaxin Island Tribe (the Tribe), entered into the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek (the Treaty), under which the Tribe relinquished their rights to land but retained “the right of taking fish at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations . . . , in common with all citizens of the Territory.” The District Court for the Western District of Washington has interpreted “fish” under the Treaty to include shellfish. In 1978, Leslie and Harlene Robbins (Robbins) purchased property in Mason County, Washington that included tidelands with manila clam beds. In connection with the purchase of the property, Robbins obtained a standard policy of title insurance from Mason County Title Insurance Company (MCTI) which provided MCTI would insure Robbins “against loss or damage sustained by reason of: . . . [a]ny defect in, or lien or encumbrance on, said title existing at the date hereof.” For years Robbins had contracted with commercial shellfish harvesters to enter Robbins’s property to harvest shellfish from the tidelands. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether MCTI had a duty to defend Robbins when the Tribe announced it planned to assert its treaty right to harvest shellfish from the property. The Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the superior court for further proceedings. The Supreme Court held that because the insurance policy conceivably covered the treaty right and no exceptions to coverage applied, MCTI owed the property owners a duty to defend and, in failing to do so, breached the duty. Because this breach was unreasonable given the uncertainty in the law, MCTI acted in bad faith. Further, because the property owners did not seek summary judgment on MCTI’s affirmative defenses, the Supreme Court remanded to the superior court for consideration of the defenses. View "Robbins v. Mason County Title Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Under the Arizona-Florida Land Exchange Act (AFLEA), 102 Stat. 4571, 72 acres of the Phoenix Indian School Property were conveyed to Collier in exchange for Collier’s Florida lands plus $34.9 million. The Arizona InterTribal Trust Fund (AITF) was established for the benefit of ITCA-member Arizona tribes for “the cash amount required to be paid . . . by Collier upon closing.” In 1991, over ITCA's objections, the Secretary of the Interior agreed to allow Collier to make annual payments rather than full payment at closing. For several years, the Government released its liens on the Phoenix property. In 2013, Collier stated its intent to “no longer make payments” because the value of the remaining 15-acre Phoenix Property had decreased. Under a 2017 settlement agreement, Collier paid $16 million to the Government, which then sold the 15-acre Property for $18.5 million. ITCA sued, alleging that the Government breached its AFLEA fiduciary duties. The Claims Court dismissed in part. The Federal Circuit reversed in part. The Claims Court erred in dismissing the failure-to-maintain-sufficient-security portion of Claim I but properly dismissed the portion of that claim regarding the Government’s alleged failure to ensure adequate security when it negotiated the TFPA. The court properly dismissed Claim II, which alleged that the AFLEA “required the [Government] to collect from Collier all Trust Fund Payments required under the [AFLEA], and that the [Government’s] failure to collect all of the payments is a breach of trust.” View "Inter-tribal Council of Arizona v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's jurisdictional and dispositional orders concerning seven of Mother's children. Leslie is the presumed father of the four older children and Edward is the presumed father of the three younger children. The court held that the juvenile court had subject matter jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In this case, California was the children's home state for purposes of the UCCJEA, and thus California courts have jurisdiction to make an initial child custody determination. The court also held that the duties under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 were not met with respect to Edward's side of the family, but were met with respect to Mother's and Leslie's side of the family. View "In re Austin J." on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit held that the Restoration Act governs the legality of the Tribe's gaming operations, which bars gaming that violates Texas law, rather than the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which establishes federal standards for gaming on Indian lands. The court also held that the district court correctly enjoined the Tribe's gaming operations because the Tribe's operations run contrary to Texas's gaming law and the balance of the equities weighed in favor of the State. Finally, the court held that the Texas Attorney General had authority to bring suit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Texas v. Ysleta del Sur Pueblo" on Justia Law

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A.M. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating her parental rights as to her two children, 11-year-old A.M. and six-year-old J.T., Jr. In late 2017, DPSS received an immediate response referral with allegations of general neglect and sexual abuse. It was reported that Mother had allowed her two sons to go into a hotel room for hours with an 18-year-old male stranger who sexually abused them. After Mother discovered the sexual abuse, she failed to report the alleged crime to law enforcement. Instead, the suspect disclosed what he had done to his mother, who then drove the suspect to the police station to turn himself in. On appeal, Mother argued: (1) the order terminating her parental rights should have been reversed because the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to comply with the inquiry and notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and with Welfare and Institutions Code section 224 et seq; and (2) all orders had to be reversed because the juvenile court failed to comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) because California did not have subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal rejected Mother’s contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law

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M.J. (Mother) appeals the order entered following the jurisdiction and disposition hearing in the juvenile dependency case of her minor child, D.S. D.S. was living with his paternal aunt (Aunt), later determined to be his presumed mother. The Agency alleged D.S.'s father was deceased, Mother had previously caused the death of another minor, and Aunt was no longer able to care for D.S. As discussed in the detention report, Mother's parental rights were terminated after she was charged and convicted of killing D.S.'s brother. D.S. had been placed in the care of his father, who subsequently died suddenly in March 2018. Aunt assumed care for D.S., but reported to the Agency that she could not currently care for D.S. due to her own health issues. In a report prepared for the jurisdiction and disposition hearing, the Agency detailed its inquiry into whether the Indian Child Welfare Act applied to the proceedings. The Agency stated: (1) Mother denied having any Indian heritage; (2) D.S.'s great-grandmother stated that her great-grandmother (D.S.'s great-great-great-great-grandmother) was "affiliated with the Sioux and Blackfeet tribes;" (3) Aunt denied that she or [her grandmother] have ever lived on an Indian reservation, have a tribal enrollment number or identification card indicating membership/citizenship in an Indian tribe; and (4) Aunt denied she has any reason to believe D.S. was an Indian child. Mother contended the court erred by not complying with the inquiry provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Court of Appeal concluded after review that the juvenile court's finding that the Agency completed its further inquiry was supported by the evidence. Similarly, there is substantial evidence supporting the juvenile court's conclusion that "there is no reason to believe or know that [ICWA] applies." View "In re D.S." on Justia Law

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At issue in consolidated appeals before the Alaska Supreme Court were the custody proceedings involving the same child before two courts of independent sovereignty: the State of Alaska and the Native Village of Barrow (NVB). A child custody case was initiated in the Utqiagvik superior court. Thereafter, NVB, through its tribal court, took custody of the child in a tribal child in need of aid (CINA) case. In 2016 the superior court ultimately denied the mother’s state court motion to modify custody. NVB sought to intervene in the state custody case, but the superior court denied its motion. The mother appealed the superior court’s denial of her motion to modify custody; NVB appealed the order denying its motion to intervene. The Alaska Supreme Court determined that under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), a superior court receiving a tribal court order to determine whether the order was issued in an ICWA-defined child custody proceeding and, if it was, was mandated to follow ICWA section 1911(d)’s full faith and credit mandate. The superior court erred in ruling that the NVB tribal court lacked jurisdiction without following the procedures underlying the process for giving full faith and credit to a tribal court order. View "Native Village of Barrow v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal conditionally reversed the juvenile court's disposition order removing father's children from his custody and continuing their placement in foster care. The court held that CWS was required to complete its Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) inquiry and notification process at least 10 days before the disposition hearing, because CWS sought continuance of foster care. Accordingly, the court remanded to the juvenile court for the limited purpose of allowing CWS to comply with ICWA. View "In re N.D." on Justia Law