Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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In a previous appeal, the court concluded that the minors’ mother revoked maternal uncle Rafael’s Indian custodian status under the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901, shortly after the children were detained. The court determined that compelling evidence supported the refusal to place the minors with Rafael as an extended family member—an ICWA "preferred placement"—given their special needs and Rafael’s cognitive deficits. The court rejected Rafael’s challenge to permanent plan orders continuing long-term foster care, concluding that Rafael was no longer a party to the dependency proceedings. While those appeals were pending, Rafael filed a new action, attacking a permanent plan order continuing the minors in foster care. Rafael argued that active efforts have not been made to prevent the breakup of the Indian family, specifically with regards to visitation; and that foster care was neither necessary nor appropriate, as he is willing and able to take custody. The court of appeal dismissed, finding that Rafael lacked standing. The minors have been in permanent plans for several years, so services should be tailored to support their compelling need for stability and permanency. Rafael can continue to appear in juvenile court and request visitation as an interested relative and the Tribe remains involved, arguing for increased contact among the minors, Rafael, and the grandmother. Rafael only lacks standing to challenge the minors’ permanent plans. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law

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T.C. appealed the juvenile court's dispositional order placing her minor daughter, A.F., in the care of her paternal grandmother, Donna F. T.C. contended the court erred by failing to comply with the placement preferences required under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (25 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) and argued the juvenile court should have continued A.F.'s placement with T.C.'s maternal cousin. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Agency that the juvenile court's dispositional order complied with the applicable placement preferences and affirm the order. View "In re A.F." on Justia Law

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The Elem Indian Colony Pomo Tribe’s “Brown faction” sued the Tribe’s “Garcia Council” over allegedly defamatory statements published in a notification that warned they would be disenrolled if the Tribe’s General Council found them guilty of specified crimes. The trial court ruled the lawsuit was barred by sovereign immunity and dismissed the complaint. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that the court misapplied the law when it considered whether defendants issued the alleged defamatory statements in the scope of their official capacities and whether allowing the case to proceed in state court would interfere with tribal administration because they sued defendants in their individual, not tribal, capacities. Substantial evidence established that defendants were tribal officials at the time of the alleged defamation and that they were acting within the scope of their tribal authority when they determined that, for the reasons stated in the allegedly defamatory Order of Disenrollment, plaintiffs should be disenrolled from the Tribe pursuant to a validly enacted tribal ordinance. A tribe’s right to define its own membership for tribal purposes has long been recognized as central to its existence as an independent political community. View "Brown v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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Defendant Darren Rose, a member of the Alturas Indian Rancheria, ran two smoke shops located in Indian country but far from any lands governed by the Alturas Indian Rancheria. In those smoke shops, Rose sold illegal cigarettes and failed to collect state taxes. California brought an enforcement action to stop illegal sales and collect civil penalties. Rose appealed, arguing: (1) California and its courts did not have jurisdiction to enforce California’s civil/regulatory laws for his actions in Indian country; and (2) the amount of civil penalties imposed was inequitable and erroneous. The Court of Appeal concluded: (1) federal law and tribal sovereignty did not preempt California’s regulation and enforcement of its laws concerning sales of cigarettes; and (2) the superior court’s imposition of civil penalties was proper. View "California v. Rose" on Justia Law

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Defendant Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (the Tribe) appealed a judgment after trial in favor of plaintiff Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. (Sharp Image), in plaintiff’s breach of contract action stemming from a deal to develop a casino on the Tribe’s land. On appeal, the Tribe argued: (1) the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Sharp Image’s action in state court was preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA); (2) the trial court erred in failing to defer to the National Indian Gaming Commission’s (NIGC) determination that the disputed Equipment Lease Agreement (ELA) and a promissory note (the Note) were management contracts requiring the NIGC’s approval; (3) Sharp Image’s claims were barred by the Tribe’s sovereign immunity; (4) the trial court erred in denying the Tribe’s motion for summary judgment; (5) the jury’s finding that the ELA was an enforceable contract was inconsistent with its finding that the ELA left essential terms for future determination; and (6) substantial evidence does not support the jury’s verdict on the Note. After the parties completed briefing in this case, the United States was granted permission to submit an amicus curiae brief in partial support of the Tribe on the questions of preemption and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal concluded IGRA preempted state contract actions based on unapproved “management contracts” and “collateral agreements to management contracts” as such agreements are defined in the IGRA regulatory scheme. Thus, the trial court erred by failing to determine whether the ELA and the Note were agreements subject to IGRA regulation, a necessary determination related to the question of preemption and the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court concluded the ELA was a management contract and the Note was a collateral agreement to a management contract subject to IGRA regulation. Because these agreements were never approved by the NIGC Chairman as required by the IGRA and were thus void, Sharp Image’s action was preempted by IGRA. Consequently, the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction. View "Sharp Image Gaming v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians" on Justia Law

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Officials of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (the Department) challenged the trial court's order granting a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by Gregory Rhoades, a Native American prisoner incarcerated at Calipatria State Prison (Calipatria). In granting Rhoades's petition, the trial court concluded that the prohibition on the use of straight tobacco during prisoners' Native American religious ceremonies violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and it ordered the California Department of Corrections to "formulate and implement policies permitting and reasonably regulating the possession and use of straight tobacco" during those ceremonies. The Court of Appeals concluded the trial court improperly granted relief in favor of Rhoades without holding an evidentiary hearing on disputed factual issues, and reversed and remanded matter with directions that the trial court hold an evidentiary hearing. View "In re Rhoades" on Justia Law

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K.B. appealed a judgment terminating her parental rights to her two children, Jc.L. and Ja.L. K.B. contended the juvenile court erred in terminating her parental rights because the court failed to comply with "the inquiry/notice requirements" of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). After review of the trial court record, the Court of appeals concluded the trial court properly determined that the Agency did not violate ICWA's inquiry and notice provisions. View "In re J.L." on Justia Law