Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries

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In this abuse and neglect case the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the circuit court's dispositional order placing three children in the legal and physical custody of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), holding that the circuit court erred by not terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights. Upon finding that Mother and Father were unable to adequately care for their three children the circuit court entered a final dispositional order placing the children in the custody of the DHHR. The guardian ad litem and DHHR appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by not terminating the parents' parental rights. The parents also appealed, contending that the circuit court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), 25 U.S.C. 1901 to -1923. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the circuit court for entry of a dispositional order terminating Mother's and Father's parental rights, holding (1) there was no violation of the ICWA in this case; and (2) the best interests of the children required termination of Mother's and Father's parental rights pursuant to W. Va. Code 49-4-604(b)(6). View "In re N.R." on Justia Law

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King Mountain appealed the district court's judgment granting partial summary judgment for the State on its claims that King Mountain violated state laws on cigarette sales, and enjoining future violations. The State cross-appealed from the district court's dismissal of its claims under the Contraband Cigarette Trafficking Act (CCTA) and the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act (PACT Act). The Second Circuit reversed with respect to the district court's grant of summary judgment for King Mountain and the denial of summary judgment for the State on the PACT Act claim. The court agreed with the State that Congress's decision to separately define "Indian country" and "State" in the PACT Act evidenced Congressional intent to expand the traditional understanding of "interstate commerce" rather than narrow it. The court held that the definition of "commerce between a State and any place outside the State," encompassed King Mountain's sales from the Yakama reservation in Washington State to Indian reservations in New York. The court agreed with the district court's holding that King Mountain, which was organized under the laws of the Yakama Nation, wholly owned by a member of the Yakama Nation, and located on the Yakama reservation, qualified as an "Indian in Indian Country," and thus was exempt from the CCTA. The court held that King Mountain failed to establish a violation of the dormant Commerce Clause; there was no error in the district court's determination that the State's third claim for relief was not barred by res judicata; the district court correctly granted summary judgment for the State on its third claim for relief; and, to the extent King Mountain's argument related to trade, there was no right to trade in the Yakama Treaty. Therefore, the court affirmed in all other respects. View "New York v. Mountain Tobacco Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court terminating Father's parental rights to Child, holding that the record did not support that the Department of Public Health and Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (Department) engaged in active efforts to provide Father with remedial services and rehabilitative programs to prevent the breakup of Child's family, as required by 25 U.S.C. 1912(d). Child in this case was an Indian child, thus requiring that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) apply to the proceedings. After a termination hearing, the district court concluded the Department had made active efforts as required by ICWA, Father was not able safely to parent Child, and it was in Child's best interest to terminate Father's parental rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department failed to provide Father with active efforts throughout the custody proceedings as required by ICWA. View "In re K.L." on Justia Law

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In this dispute between members of the Cayuga Nation, a federally-recognized Indian tribe, the Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the denial of Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that permitting this action to proceed would require New York state courts to pass upon an internal tribal governance dispute over which they lack subject matter jurisdiction. Defendants, Jacobs Council, claimed that Plaintiffs, Halftown Council, had been removed from their positions on the Nation Council under Cayuga law. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ultimately recognized the Halftown Council as the governing body authorized to contract on behalf of the Nation for certain funding. The Halftown Council later commenced this action. Supreme Court denied the Jacobs Council's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that although New York courts generally lack the ability to resolve an intra-tribal leadership dispute, they did not need do so here because the BIA's recognition determination established Plaintiffs as the Nation's lawful Council. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the BIA's determination did not resolve the disputed issues of tribal law implicated by the merits of this action, and therefore, New York state courts lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate Halftown Council's legal claims. View "Cayuga Nation v. Campbell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court dismissing Appellant's complaint for failure to state a claim, holding that Appellant failed to prove a set of facts in support of his claim. While detained in jail, Appellant filed a pro se petition for habeas corpus requesting that the district court drop all felony criminal convictions against him on the alleged grounds that the State had no jurisdiction because Appellant was an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenani Tribes (CSKT) and committed a crime within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The district court dismissed for failure to state a claim. On appeal, Appellant argued that the application of Public Law 83-230 (PL-280) by the State was improper and has never been consented to by the CSKT. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant's argument that PL-280 was never properly consented to by the CSKT is incorrect; (2) the State properly enacted its enabling legislation under PL-280; and (3) PL-280 and the State's application of PL-280 to the CSKT did not violate the 1855 Hellgate Treaty. View "Lozeau v. Anciaux" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Pit River Tribe and environmental organizations in an action under the Geothermal Steam Act, against federal agencies responsible for administering twenty-six unproven geothermal leases located in California's Medicine Lake Highlands. Pit River alleged that the BLM's decision to continue the terms of the unproven leases for up to forty years violated the Act. Determining that it had jurisdiction to hear this appeal, the panel held that the statutory meaning of 30 U.S.C. 1005(a) is clear and unambiguous: it only permits production-based continuations on a lease-by-lease basis, not on a unit-wide basis. In this case, BLM failed to meet its burden of providing a compelling reason for the panel to depart from the plain meaning of section 1005(a). Therefore, the panel rejected BLM's argument that section 1005(a) authorizes forty-year continuations on a unit-wide basis once a single lease in a unit is deemed productive. View "Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Management" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the magistrate's dismissal of three pending misdemeanor charges against Defendant based on the legal proposition that Iowa courts lack jurisdiction over crimes committed on the Meskwaki Settlement, holding that the State may assert jurisdiction involving crimes committed on tribal lands by non-Indians involving either victimless crimes or non-Indian victims. An officer of the Meskwaki Nation Police Department filed two cases in district court alleging that Defendant committed the misdemeanor crimes of trespass, possession of drug paraphernalia, and violation of a no-contact order while on the Meskwaki Settlement. The magistrate dismissed the charges, concluding that recent federal legislation removed state jurisdiction for crimes committed on the Settlement. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the charges and vacated the remaining portions of the district court's order, holding that the recent legislation left undisturbed state court criminal jurisdiction involving criminal acts involving non-Indians. View "State v. Stanton" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not preempt the imposition of statewide tax on the gross receipts of a nonmember contractor for services performed in renovating and expanding the Tribe's gaming casino located on the Reservation. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Tribe and held that the Tribe has failed to show that the tax has more than a de minimis financial impact on federal and tribal interests. Furthermore, the State's legitimate interests in raising revenues for essential government programs that benefit the nonmember contractor-taxpayer in this case, as well as its interest in being able to apply its generally applicable contractor excise tax throughout the State, were sufficient to justify imposing the excise tax on the construction services performed on the Casino's realty. Finally, the court granted the State's motion to dismiss the State Treasurer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Haeder" on Justia Law

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After the Tribe failed to remit the use tax on goods and services sold to nonmembers at its casino and store, the State's Department of Revenue denied the Tribe renewals of alcoholic beverage licenses that were issued to the casino and the store. The South Dakota Office of Hearing Examiners upheld the decision and the Tribe appealed. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that imposition of the South Dakota use tax on nonmember purchases of amenities at the Casino is preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Applying the analysis in White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980), the court held that the Tribe’s on-reservation Class III gaming activity is analogous to the nonmember logging activity on tribal land at issue in Bracker, and to the nonmember activity in building a reservation school at issue in Ramah Navajo School Bd., Inc. v. Bureau of Revenue of N.M., 458 U.S. 832, 838 (1982). Furthermore, raising revenues to provide government services throughout South Dakota does not outweigh the federal and tribal interests in Class III gaming reflected in the IGRA and the history of tribal independence in gaming. However, the court reversed the district court's Amended Judgment declaring that the State could not condition renewal of any alcoholic beverage license issued to the Tribe on the collection and remittance of a use tax on nonmember consumer purchases. In this case, the Tribe has failed to meet its burden to demonstrate that the State alcohol license requirement was not reasonably necessary to further its interest in collecting valid state taxes. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Noem" on Justia Law

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Intervenor-Appellant the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (UKB) purchased an undeveloped 76-acre parcel of land near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, with the intention of developing it into a tribal and cultural center (Subject Tract, or Subject Parcel). The Subject Parcel sat entirely within the boundaries of the former reservation of Appellees the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (Nation). In 2004, the UKB submitted an application to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), requesting the BIA take the Subject Parcel into trust, thereby formally establishing a UKB tribal land base. The Nation opposed the application. After seven years of review, the BIA approved the UKB’s application. The Nation sued Department of the Interior and BIA officials, with the UKB intervening as defendants, challenging the BIA’s decision on several fronts. The district court found in favor of the Nation, determining that the BIA’s decision to take the Subject Parcel into trust was “arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law.” Among other holdings, the district court concluded that: (1) the BIA had to obtain Nation consent before taking the Subject Parcel into trust; (2) the BIA’s analysis of two of its regulations as applied to the UKB application was arbitrary and capricious; and (3) the BIA must consider whether the UKB meets the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA)’s definition of “Indian” in light of the Supreme Court case Carcieri v. Salazar, 555 U.S. 379 (2009). On appeal, the Tenth Circuit determined the Secretary of the Interior had authority to take the Subject Parcel into trust under section 3 of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 (OIWA). The BIA was therefore not required to consider whether the UKB met the IRA’s definition of “Indian.” Nor was the BIA required to obtain the Nation’s consent before taking the land into trust. The Court also held the BIA’s application of its regulations was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Cherokee Nation v. Zinke" on Justia Law