Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
Herpel v. County of Riverside
At issue before the Court of Appeal was whether Riverside County, California could impose a tax on possessory interests in federally owned land set aside for the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians or its members. In 1971, Court held that it could, holding in part that federal law did not preempt the tax. The tax was also upheld that year by the Ninth Circuit. Since then, the United States Supreme Court articulated a new preemption framework in considering whether states may tax Indian interests, and the Department of the Interior promulgated new Indian leasing regulations, the preamble of which stated that state taxation was precluded. Nevertheless, the Court of Appeal concluded, as it did in 1971, this possessory interest tax was valid. View "Herpel v. County of Riverside" on Justia Law
In re A.W.
Mother C.W. and father J.C. appealed a juvenile court’s orders terminating parental rights and freeing the minor for adoption. The parents contended the juvenile court erred in failing to find the beneficial parental relationship exception to adoption applied, and that the county and juvenile court failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). After review of the specific facts of this case, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the parents’ first contention, but conditionally reversed and remanded the matter for further ICWA compliance. View "In re A.W." on Justia Law
California v. Native Wholesale Supply Co.
Defendant Native Wholesale Supply Company (NWS), an Indian-chartered corporation headquartered on a reservation in New York, sold over a billion contraband cigarettes to an Indian tribe in California, which then sold the cigarettes to the general public in California. The cigarettes were imported from Canada, stored at various places in the United States (not including California), and then shipped to California after they were ordered from the reservation in New York. The California Attorney General succeeded on his motion for summary judgment holding NWS liable for civil penalties in violation of two California cigarette distribution and sale laws and Business and Professions Code section 17200 (the unfair competition law), and obtained a permanent injunction precluding NWS from making future sales. The Attorney General further obtained an award of attorney fees and expert expenses. NWS appealed the judgment and the attorney fee order. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Native Wholesale Supply Co." on Justia Law
People v. Huber
Huber, a member of the Wiyot Band of Indians, owns and operates a tobacco smoke shop on the Table Bluff Rancheria, near Crescent City. Huber “sold huge quantities of noncompliant cigarettes and transported at least 14,727,290 packs to other stores within the state but beyond her reservation; she invoiced over $30 million for these sales. Her employees delivered the cigarettes using her vehicles on state roads. The Attorney General sued, alleging violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL), citing as predicate “unlawful acts” violations the Tax Stamp Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30161), the Directory Act (Rev. & Tax. Code 30165.1(e)(2)), and the Fire Safety Act (Health & Saf. Code, 14951(a)). The trial court granted summary adjudication and entered a permanent injunction on all three claims. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Huber’s arguments that, under a federal statute granting California courts plenary criminal jurisdiction but limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations, the trial court lacked authority to proceed on any of the claims, and that, under the doctrine of Indian preemption, which limits the reach of state law to conduct by Indians on Indian reservations, all the statutes were preempted by paramount federal authority. To the extent enforcement occurs off-reservation, the Wiyot right to self-governance is not implicated. View "People v. Huber" on Justia Law
In re L.D.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA; 25 U.S.C. 1901) gives Indian tribes the right to intervene in dependency proceedings regarding Indian children where foster care placement or termination of parental rights is being sought. The party initiating dependency proceedings must provide the tribe with notice. The Santa Clara County Department of Family and Services filed a juvenile dependency petition on behalf of nine-year-old L.D. At the initial hearing, Mother informed the court of Native Alaskan ancestry. At the dispositional hearing, the Department reported that it had sent notice, in November 2017, to the Native Village of Tanana, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Secretary of the Interior. Receiving no objections, the court found the notice satisfied ICWA. The court found that Mother had sexually abused L.D., who was removed from Mother’s custody with the expectation she would be placed with her maternal grandfather who had been caring for her informally for years. Following another hearing, the court issued a three-year restraining order protecting L.D. from mother. The court later found Mother in violation of the order. Mother filed an appeal from that order but her briefing did not address the restraining order, instead challenging the finding regarding ICWA compliance. The court of appeal dismissed the appeal as untimely but noted that the Department conceded that its notice was inadequate and that notification efforts are continuing. View "In re L.D." on Justia Law
In re J.Y.
Two cases involving J.Y. were consolidated for this decision. In case No. C082548, appellant R.T., mother of minor J.Y., appealed a juvenile court’s order authorizing J.Y.’s removal from his previous caretakers and placement with the caretakers of his two siblings, minors Ja.Y. and Ju.Y., to be adopted through tribal customary adoption. In case No. C084428, mother appeals from the juvenile court’s order granting the Pit River Tribe’s (the Tribe) petitions for modification, giving full faith and credit to an amended tribal customary adoption order. R.T. contended removal and placement was not in the minor’s best interests, and that: (1) the Tribe did not have standing to file Welfare and Institutions Code section 3881 petitions for modification; and (2) the juvenile court acted beyond its authority in giving full faith and credit to the amended tribal customary adoption order because it had already given full faith and credit to the original tribal customary adoption order. The Court of appeal concluded that mother lacked standing to raise the placement issue on appeal and rejected the remaining contentions. View "In re J.Y." on Justia Law
In re E.R.
Mother and Father appealed the juvenile court's order terminating their parental rights to their children. The Court of Appeal held that the juvenile court had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) after a Nevada juvenile court declined to exercise jurisdiction. The court conditionally reversed and remanded, holding that the investigation required by the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was not complete. In this case, HSA conceded that it had not substantially complied with the ICWA notice requirements, the order terminating parental rights should be vacated, and reversal was required to determine the applicability of the ICWA. View "In re E.R." on Justia Law
People v. Huber
Huber runs a sole proprietorship out of her home, selling cigarettes at retail and wholesale. After 2007 she sold exclusively Native American brands: “cigarettes manufactured by Indians on Indian lands, . . . shipped and sold through Indian and tribally-owned distributors to Indian and tribally-owned retail smokeshops located on Indian lands.” Customers include tribe members and nonmembers. The wholesale component of the enterprise is with “over two dozen Indian smokeshops owned either by Indian tribes or [i]ndividual tribal members and operated within [other] . . . recognized Indian reservation[s].” Deliveries are made to “inter-tribal” customers by truck, using California highways. Huber is licensed to do business under the Wiyot Tribal Business Code and the Wiyot Tribal Tobacco Licensing Ordinance. The trial court entered a summary adjudication order and permanent injunction in an enforcement action by the Attorney General for violation of the Unfair Competition Law, Business and Professions Code section 17200 (UCL), the Tax Stamp Act (Rev. & Tax. Code, 30161), the Directory Act (Rev. & Tax. Code, 30165.1(e)(2)), and the Fire Safety Act (Health & Saf. Code 14951(a)). The court of appeal reversed in part, finding that, under a federal statute, 28 U.S.C. 1360, granting California courts plenary criminal jurisdiction but limited civil jurisdiction over cases arising on Indian reservations, the trial court lacked power to proceed on the UCL claims in this case. The court otherwise affirmed. View "People v. Huber" on Justia Law
Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians
After attempting to persuade the Tribe to pay him for services provided under construction and rental agreements, Findleton requested that the Tribe mediate and arbitrate pursuant to clauses in the agreements. The Tribe failed to respond. Findleton filed a petition in March 2012, in the Mendocino County Superior Court to compel mediation and arbitration. The court held the Tribe had not waived its sovereign immunity. The Tribe sought attorney fees it had incurred in defending against Findleton’s petition, which the superior court granted. The court of appeal remanded, finding the Tribe had waived its sovereign immunity, reversing the award of fees. On remand, Findleton again filed a petition to compel mediation and arbitration and sought contractual attorney fees he had incurred in the prior appellate proceedings. The Tribe did not oppose the fee motion on the merits but requested that the court defer ruling until the Tribe filed a demurrer challenging the court’s jurisdiction. The superior court rejected that request and granted Findleton’s motion, awarding costs ($4,591.79) and attorney fees ($28,148.75). The court of appeal affirmed. The Tribe has not demonstrated that tribal remedy exhaustion was required here nor would requiring exhaustion at this late date serve any purpose other than further delay of a case that is already six years old. View "Findleton v. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians" on Justia Law
In re N.G.
Defendant-appellant, S.A. (Mother), appealed the termination of her parental rights to N.G., a boy born in 2005. She argued the juvenile court erroneously failed to ensure that plaintiff-respondent, Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), fully investigated N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry and gave adequate notices of the proceedings to all federally recognized Cherokee tribes and to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and related California law. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed Mother’s claim had merit and conditionally reversed the judgment. The Court also concluded that DPSS had to be ordered to further investigate N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry, and include any newly discovered information concerning N.G.’s paternal lineal ancestry in the ICWA notices to all federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the BIA, and all previously noticed tribes. DPSS was also ordered to inquire whether N.G. may have maternal lineal ancestry and, if so, send additional ICWA notices, as appropriate. View "In re N.G." on Justia Law