by
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

by
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

by
Sally H. (Mother) appealed a judgment terminating her parental rights to her child, E.H. Mother's sole claim on appeal was that the juvenile court erred in terminating her parental rights because the court failed to ensure that the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (Agency) fully complied with the inquiry and notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 and related law. Among other alleged errors, Mother contended the Agency failed to fulfill its duty to inquire of E.H.'s maternal great-grandmother, Sally Y.H., in order to obtain identifying information pertaining to Sally Y.H.'s father, and failed to provide notice of such information to an Indian tribe named the Tohono O'odham Nation. Mother further contended the failure to provide notice of Sally Y.H.'s father's identifying information to the Tohono O'odham Nation was prejudicial because he was likely the source of E.H.'s possible American Indian heritage. The Court of Appeal agreed with Mother that, considering Sally Y.H.'s statement to the Agency that her paternal family had Tohono O'odham Nation heritage, the Agency had a duty to attempt to obtain Sally Y.H.'s father's identifying information and to provide notice of any such information obtained to the Tohono O'odham Nation. If Bruno Y. was Sally Y.H.'s father, and E.H.'s great-great-grandfather, the Agency failed to properly describe his ancestral relationship to E.H. on the notice provided to the Tohono O'odham Nation. Finally, given that Sally Y.H. told the Agency that her paternal family had heritage from the Tohono O'odham Nation, the Court could not conclude the Agency's errors were harmless. Accordingly, the trial court judgment was reversed for the limited purpose of having the Agency provide the Tohono O'odham Nation with proper notice of the proceedings in this case. View "In re E.H." on Justia Law

by
The First Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of the complaint filed by the Narragansett Indian Tribe against federal and Rhode Island agencies concerning a highway bridge reconstruction over historic tribal land, holding that the Tribe’s claim was not the type of claim federal courts may adjudicate. The Tribe filed suit in federal district court alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The heart of the Tribe’s claim contended that the state of Rhode Island broke a promise made to the Tribe. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss, concluding (1) as to the federal defendants, none of the three statutes identified in the complaint waived the federal government’s sovereign immunity as to the Tribe’s claims; and (2) as to the state defendants, the Tribe alleged no basis to support the court’s exercise of jurisdiction. The First Circuit affirmed, holding (1) the National Historic Preservation Act does not waive the federal government’s sovereign immunity in connection with the bringing of this suit; and (2) as to the state agencies, the complaint lacked any basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction. View "Narragansett Indian Tribe v. Rhode Island Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

by
Raymond and Linus Poitra appealed a judgment quieting title in two parcels of land on the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in Darrel Gustafson, and ordering the Poitras to pay Gustafson $67,567.98 in damages and $6,620 in attorney's fees. In 2015, Gustafson sued the Poitras and all others claiming an interest in two parcels of land, alleging Gustafson was a non-Indian fee owner of the two parcels located in Rolette County, North Dakota within the exterior boundaries of the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation by virtue of a 2007 foreclosure judgment and a 2008 sheriff's deed. The Poitras argued the district court erred in deciding the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court did not have jurisdiction over Gustafson's action. The North Dakota Supreme Court determined the inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe generally do not extend to activities of nonmembers on non-Indian fee land, but a tribe may regulate through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members, through commercial dealings, contracts, leases or other arrangements, and a tribe may also exercise civil authority over the conduct of non-Indians on fee lands within the reservation when the conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe. The Court concluded the tribal court indeed did not have jurisdiction over Gustafson's action to quiet title and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Gustafson v. Poitra" on Justia Law

by
A jury convicted defendant-appellant Nikolle Dixon on one count of embezzlement and theft from an Indian tribal organization. Before trial, Dixon filed a Notice of Defense of duress, on the theory that she faced an imminent threat of sexual assault from her stepfather and that her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) caused her to believe that no recourse to escape that assault was available except through theft. More specifically, Dixon asked the court to consider her theory of duress under the elements for that defense spelled out in Tenth Circuit Pattern Jury Instruction No. 1.36. In response, the government filed a motion in limine, asking the court to reject the defense and to exclude all evidence and testimony relevant to the defense. The court granted the government’s motion. To ensure preservation of her objection, shortly before trial, Dixon’s counsel offered Pattern Instruction 1.36 for the court’s possible presentation to the jury and filed a written proffer of the expert testimony that would be elicited in support of her duress defense. At trial, however, the court maintained its previous ruling, which rejected the defense, and the jury convicted Dixon. On appeal, Dixon asked the Tenth Circuit to reverse the district court’s decision rejecting her duress defense, specifically, her related request for a jury instruction. After review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit rejected Dixon's contentions and affirmed her convictions. View "United States v. Dixon" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court terminating the parental rights of A.M., the putative father of P.T.D., holding that the district court was not required to comply with the requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) when terminating A.M.’s parental rights. After P.T.D. was removed from Mother’s custody, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division identified P.T.D. as an Indian child subject to the ICWA. See 25 U.S.C. 1912. Later, the Department filed a petition to terminate A.M.’s parental rights as P.T.D.’s putative father. By that time, P.T.D. had been in foster care for nearly two years, and A.M. had no meaningful contact with P.T.D., nor had he established a relationship with the child. The district court determined that termination of A.M.’s parental rights was in P.T.D.’s best interest. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the requirements of ICWA were inapplicable to the facts of this case and that the district court’s decision to terminate A.M.’s parental rights was not clearly erroneous. View "In re P.T.D." on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of the Department's decision ordering the Tribe to provide relief to a member that was removed from the Tribe's governing body in retaliation for his whistleblowing. The member informed the Department that some members of the Tribe's governing body (the Business Committee) were misusing federal stimulus funds. The panel held that the member was an employee and thus eligible for whistleblower protection under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; the Department's order did not infringe on the Tribe's sovereignty and powers of self-governance; the Tribe voluntarily agreed to federal oversight when it accepted the stimulus funds; the Tribe did not have a due process right to a hearing with cross-examination before the Department reached its conclusion; although the Department did commit a procedural error where the Tribe did not have access to the Inspector General's report until the Department issued its preliminary decision, the error was harmless; and the Department did not err in finding that the removal of St. Marks was retaliatory. Finally, the court rejected the Tribe's argument regarding the monetary reward because it was raised for the first time on appeal. View "Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation v. USDOI" on Justia Law

by
The Missouri River overlies the western boundary of South Dakota's Crow Creek Indian Reservation, established in 1863. Under the Supreme Court’s 1908 “Winters” decision, the creation of a Reservation carries an implied right to unappropriated water “to the extent needed to accomplish the purpose of the reservation.” The Tribe possesses “Winters rights.” The Tribe sued, seeking $200 million in damages for the taking of its water rights. The complaint notes the federal Pick-Sloan flood control project on the River, with construction of the Fort Randall and Big Bend Dams; a 1996 statute that established a trust fund for the Tribe, funded with $27.5 million in hydroelectric-power revenue from Pick-Sloan; a 2012 settlement between the Tribe and the government, unrelated to water rights; and the generally poor economic prospects of the Reservation; it alleged that the government breached its fiduciary duty to “[a]ppropriately manag[e] the natural resources" of the Reservation, 25 U.S.C. 162a(d)(8). The complaint did not allege that the government’s actions deprived the Tribe of sufficient water to fulfill the reservation’s purposes or that those actions would cause the Tribe to lack sufficient water in the future. The Claims Court dismissed, stating that the complaint did not suggest that the Tribe is experiencing a water shortage and that it could not identify an injury "that has yet occurred.” The Federal Circuit affirmed, concluding that the Tribe failed to even allege that it has suffered the requisite injury in fact. View "Crow Creek Sioux Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

by
In 1999, Native American farmers sued, alleging that the USDA had discriminated against them with respect to farm loans and other benefits. The court certified a class, including LaBatte, a farmer and member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Tribe. Under a settlement, the government would provide a $680 million compensation fund. The Track A claims process was limited to claimants seeking standard payments of $50,000. Track A did not require proof of discrimination. Under Track B, a claimant could seek up to $250,000 by establishing that his treatment by USDA was "less favorable than that accorded a specifically identified, similarly situated white farmer(s),” which could be established “by a credible sworn statement based on personal knowledge by an individual who is not a member of the Claimant’s family.” A "Neutral" would review the record without a hearing; there was no appeal of the decision. LaBatte's Track B claim identified two individuals who had personal knowledge of the USDA’s treatment of similarly-situated white farmers. Both worked for the government's Bureau of Indian Affairs. Before LaBatte could finalize their declarations, the government directed the two not to sign the declarations. The Neutral denied LaBatte’s claim. The Claims Court affirmed the dismissal of LaBatte’s appeal, acknowledging that it had jurisdiction over breach of settlement claims, but concluding that it lacked jurisdiction over LaBatte’s case because LaBatte had, in the Track B process, waived his right to judicial review to challenge the breach of the agreement. The Federal Circuit reversed. There is no language in the agreement that suggests that breach of the agreement would not give rise to a new cause of action. View "LaBatte v. United States" on Justia Law