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The Tribe filed suit seeking a declaration that it has the right to investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law, detain, and transport or deliver a non-Indian violator encountered on the reservation to the proper authorities. The Ninth Circuit held that the first amended complaint raised a federal question that provided federal courts with subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331; the Tribe has presented a prudentially ripe case or controversy and the case is constitutionally ripe as well; and the district court's conclusion that the Tribe's response letter mooted all controversies between the parties was erroneous. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Pueblo of Pojoaque appealed a district court’s dismissal of its claim for declaratory and injunctive relief based on the New Mexico’s alleged unlawful interference with Class III gaming operations on the Pueblo’s lands. In July 2005, the Pueblo and New Mexico executed a Class III gaming compact pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) that allowed it to operate casino-style gaming on its lands. Prior to the expiration of the compact, the New Mexico Gaming Control Board (“the Gaming Board”) sought to perform its annual compliance review of the Pueblo’s gaming operations. The Pueblo complied on June 24; on June 30, 2015, the compact expired at midnight. The Gaming Board announced that despite the U.S. Attorney’s decision allowing the Pueblo’s gaming operations to continue pending the review, the Pueblo’s casinos were operating illegally due to the absence of a compact, and it placed in abeyance approval of any license application or renewal for vendors who did business with the Pueblo. The Pueblo commenced this action, asserting in part that New Mexico failed to conduct compact negotiations in good faith in violation of IGRA and that individual defendants conspired under the color of state law to “deprive the federal right of the Pueblo and its members to be free of state jurisdiction over activities that occur on the Pueblo lands.” The Pueblo sought an injunction, contending that the Gaming Board’s actions were an impermissible attempt to assert jurisdiction over gaming operations on tribal lands, despite the termination of New Mexico’s jurisdiction over such activities upon the expiration of the compact. The district court entered final judgment, stayed the effects of the preliminary injunction, and issued an indicative ruling that it would vacate or dissolve the preliminary injunction on remand. The Pueblo sought to stay the district court’s judgment and restore the preliminary injunction. The district court declined to do so, but the Tenth Circuit extended a temporary injunction against the State mirroring the preliminary injunction entered by the district court. On appeal, the Pueblo argued the district court did not have jurisdiction to proceed to the merits given the interlocutory appeal of the preliminary injunction and, even if it did, it erred in concluding that IGRA did not preempt New Mexico’s regulatory action. The Tenth Circuit found the text of IGRA clearly evinced congressional intent that Class III gaming would not occur in the absence of a compact, and no such compact existed. Accordingly, conflict preemption also does not apply. For similar reasons, the Court rejected the Pueblo’s argument that the Gaming Board’s determination as to the unlawful nature of the Pueblo’s gaming activities was an improper assertion of jurisdiction preempted by IGRA. Because the Pueblo’s gaming activities are not conducted pursuant to a compact or an alternative mechanism permitted under IGRA, the Pueblo’s present gaming is unlawful under federal law, and the State’s conclusion to this effect was not an exercise of jurisdiction that IGRA preempts. View "Pueblo of Pojoaque v. New Mexico" on Justia Law

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“Custody does not automatically render [every] exchange an interrogation,” and the Tenth Circuit determined that certain statements defendant Gavin Yepa made while “tired, intoxicated and under tremendous emotional stress” were not the result of police interrogation warranting suppression. Defendant was convicted by a jury of first-degree felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated sexual abuse in Indian country. The sole issue on appeal was whether self-incriminating statements by defendant during a search of his person authorized by a warrant were spontaneous or were the result of interrogation. After a review of the circumstances of the statements, the Tenth Circuit found the district court did not clearly err in finding defendant’s statements were spontaneous and not by virtue of police interrogation. View "United States v. Yepa" on Justia Law

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This matter arose from the death of Todd Murray, a Ute tribal member, following a police pursuit on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. Murray’s parents, his estate, and the Ute Indian Tribe (the “Tribal Plaintiffs”) sued the officers involved in Ute Tribal Court for wrongful death, trespass, and other torts. The officers then filed suit in federal court against the Tribe, its Business Committee, the Tribal Court, the Acting Chief Judge of the Tribal Court, and the other Tribal Plaintiffs. The district court enjoined the Tribal Court action, holding that Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353 (2001), barred tribal civil jurisdiction over the officers, making exhaustion of tribal court remedies unnecessary. It further determined that certain defendants were not entitled to tribal sovereign immunity. After review, the Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erred in excusing the officers from exhaustion of tribal remedies with respect to the Tribe’s trespass claim; that claim at least arguably implicates the Tribe’s core sovereign rights to exclude and to self-govern. The Court further concluded this claim was not barred by Hicks. However, the Court agreed the remaining Tribal Court claims were not subject to tribal jurisdiction and thus exhaustion was unnecessary. The Court reversed the district court’s denial of tribal sovereign immunity as to the Tribe, its Business Committee, and the Tribal Court. View "Norton v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of relators' qui tam action alleging that the College violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by knowingly providing false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies. The panel held that the Tribe is not a "person" under the FCA. The panel remanded for further jurisdictional factfinding on whether the College was an arm of the Tribe that shares the Tribe's status for purposes of the FCA. View "United States ex rel Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc." on Justia Law

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Eight-year-old KV accused her 17-year-old uncle, JAS, of vaginally raping her on tribal land. The FBI interviewed KV, who described the assault to an interviewer who had conducted more than 5,000 such interviews. JAS was charged with an act of juvenile delinquency: sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12, 18 U.S.C. 2241(c). The district court found beyond a reasonable doubt that JAS had sexually assaulted KV as charged. Although the Sentencing Guidelines would have recommended a life sentence had JAS been an adult, his maximum sentence as a juvenile was five years of “official detention,” 18 U.S.C. 5037(c)(2)(A); the district court sentenced him to three. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, rejecting JAS’s arguments that the court improperly admitted the video of the victim’s FBI interview and that the evidence was insufficient to support the finding that he sexually assaulted KV. The court cited Rule 801(d)(1)(B)(ii), which allows the admission of prior out-of-court statements of a trial witness (KV) if: the statements are consistent with the witness’s testimony; the statements are offered to rehabilitate the witness after an opposing party has tried to impeach her “on another ground”; and the opposing party is able to cross-examine the witness about the prior statements. View "United States v. J.A.S." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision to enjoin further tribal proceedings regarding whether the Navajo tribal court has jurisdiction over public school districts' employment decisions and practices conducted on the Navajo Reservation. The panel held that the employment-related claims arose from conduct on tribal land and implicate no state criminal law enforcement interests and therefore tribal jurisdiction was colorable or plausible under the panel's interpretation of Nevada v. Hicks, 533 U.S. 353 (2001). The panel explained that well-established exhaustion principles require that the tribal forum have the first opportunity to evaluate its own jurisdiction over this case, including the nature of the state and tribal interests involved. Because the panel's caselaw leaves open the question of what state interests might be sufficient to preclude tribal jurisdiction over disputes arising on tribal land, tribal jurisdiction was plausible enough here that exhaustion was required. View "Window Rock Unified School District v. Nez" on Justia Law

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In response to a request from the Quapaw Tribe, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) Acting General Counsel issued a legal opinion letter stating that the Tribe’s Kansas trust land was eligible for gaming under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The State of Kansas and the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Cherokee, Kansas, filed suit, arguing that the letter was arbitrary, capricious, and erroneous as a matter of law. The district court concluded that the letter did not constitute reviewable final agency action under IGRA or the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). The Tenth Circuit affirmed: the IGRA’s text, statutory scheme, legislative history, and attendant regulations demonstrated congressional intent to preclude judicial review of legal opinion letters. Further, the Acting General Counsel’s letter does not constitute final agency action under the APA because it did not determine any rights or obligations or produced legal consequences. In short, the letter merely expresses an advisory, non-binding opinion, without any legal effect on the status quo ante. View "Kansas v. National Indian Gaming Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Caitlyn E., a Yupik woman, was the mother of Maggie and Bridget, ages nine and six at trial, who are Indian children within the meaning of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) based on their affiliation with the Orutsararmiut Native Council (the Tribe). Caitlyn struggled with abuse of both legal and illegal drugs since a young age. Maggie tested positive for cocaine and marijuana when she was born. The Office of Children’s Services (OCS) received other reports of harm; at a doctor’s visit when the girls were toddlers, they reportedly had multiple impetigo sores on their bodies and had to be cleaned by the doctor, and Caitlyn smelled like marijuana. Caitlyn was also reported to have been violent toward both her daughters, kicking Maggie and giving her a bloody nose, and, while drunk, swinging Bridget around “like a rag doll.” The superior court terminated a Caitlyn's parental rights to the two girls. She appealed, contesting the qualification of the ICWA-required expert witness and the finding that OCS made active efforts to prevent the breakup of the Indian family. Because the superior court’s decision to qualify the expert witness was not an abuse of discretion, and because the superior court’s active efforts finding was not erroneous, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the termination of the mother’s parental rights. View "Caitlyn E. v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Svcs." on Justia Law

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25 U.S.C. 1911(b) of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) addresses transfer only of foster care replacement and termination-of-parental-rights actions and does not apply to state preadoptive and adoptive placements. The Department of Child Safety moved to terminate the parental rights of the parents of A.D., a member of the Gila River Indian Community. After the juvenile court terminated the rights of A.D.’s parents the foster parents intervened and filed a petition to adopt A.D. The Community moved to transfer the proceedings to its tribal court under section 1911(b). The juvenile court denied the motion, finding that the foster parents had met their burden of showing that good cause existed under section 1911(b) to deny the motion. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court’s denial of the Community’s motion to transfer, holding that ICWA does not govern the transfer of preadoptive and adoptive placement actions, but state courts may nonetheless transfer such cases involving Indian children to tribal courts. View "Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety" on Justia Law