Justia Native American Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Becerra, et al.
The Northern Arapaho Tribe and the Indian Health Service (IHS) entered into a contract under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act for the Tribe to operate a federal healthcare program. Under the contract, the Tribe provided healthcare services to Indians and other eligible beneficiaries. In exchange, the Tribe was entitled to receive reimbursements from IHS for certain categories of expenditures, including “contract support costs.” The contract anticipates that the Tribe will bill third-party insurers such as Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers. The Tribe contended that overhead costs associated with setting up and administering this third-party billing infrastructure, as well as the administrative costs associated with recirculating the third-party revenue it received, qualified as reimbursable contract support costs under the Self-Determination Act and the Tribe’s agreement with the IHS. But when the Tribe attempted to collect those reimbursements, IHS disagreed and refused to pay. Contending it had been shortchanged, the Tribe sued the government. The district court, agreeing with the government’s reading of the Self-Determination Act and the contract, granted the government’s motion to dismiss. A divided panel of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals voted to reverse (for different reasons). Under either of the jurists' interpretations, the administrative expenditures associated with collecting and expending revenue obtained from third-party insurers qualified as reimbursable contract support costs. View "Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Becerra, et al." on Justia Law
M.T. (Mother) v. State of Alaska DHSS, OCS
Mother Miranda T. appealed the superior court’s entry of a disposition order in child in need of aid (CINA) proceedings. She contended the court erred by moving forward with an adjudication hearing without having considered her request for a review hearing on a previously stipulated temporary custody and placement arrangement. She contended the court also erred by later refusing to enforce two subsequent agreements she had reached with the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) about placements for her daughter. Furthermore, Mother contended the evidence did not support the disposition order’s predicate findings that (1) OCS had made sufficiently active efforts to reunify the family and (2) removal of the daughter from the family home was necessary to avoid harm to her. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court rejected the mother’s claims of error and affirmed the superior court’s disposition order. View "M.T. (Mother) v. State of Alaska DHSS, OCS" on Justia Law
In re A.A.
C.G. (Mother) and R.A. (Father) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to three of their minor children. Father’s parents repeatedly denied any Indian ancestry, but Mother reported she was affiliated with the Jemez Pueblo tribe in New Mexico. Father eventually denied having any Indian ancestry or tribal affiliation. The juvenile court found the children might be Indian children and ordered notice to be reported to the Jemez Pueblo tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The Jemez Pueblo tribe required individuals to have a 1/4 Jemez Pueblo blood quantum. Mother provided verification of her tribal registration status with the tribe, which confirmed her Jemez Pueblo blood quantum was over 1/4. A social worker from the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (the Department) contacted the Jemez Pueblo and was told that none of the children were registered members of the tribe. The social worker reported she contacted Annette Gachupin, a Child Advocate for the Jemez Pueblo and the tribe’s ICWA Representative. Gachupin confirmed that Mother was an enrolled member of the Jemez Pueblo tribe, but the children were not eligible to become registered members because their blood quantum was too low to meet requirements for tribal membership. Instead, the children were eligible for “naturalization,” which would only qualify them for tribal health services while excluding them from receiving federal funds that Jemez Pueblo members receive. Mother never completed the paperwork to have the children naturalized. The Department asked the juvenile court to find that ICWA did not apply because the children were not Indian children. The parents did not object, nor did the children’s attorney. The juvenile court found that the children were not Indian children and therefore ICWA did not apply. The lack of objections notwithstanding, the parents appealed the termination and the ICWA ruling. The Court of Appeal concluded the juvenile court did not err: Indian tribes determine whether a child is a member of the tribe or eligible for membership. Substantial evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that N., H., and A. were not “Indian children” for ICWA purposes. View "In re A.A." on Justia Law
D.S. v. Super. Ct.
Petitioner D.S. (Mother) was the adoptive mother of A.S. In 2021, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) petitioned on behalf of A.S. in response to allegations of physical abuse. During the pendency of the proceedings, Mother petitioned to have A.S. placed back in her home. She appealed the summary denial of her petition. However, on appeal, Mother did not address any issue encompassed by her petition, nor did she seek reversal of the order denying her petition or reversal of any prior jurisdictional or dispositional orders. Instead, Mother’s opening brief was entirely devoted to seeking review of the adequacy of the juvenile court and CFS’s efforts to fulfill their obligations under the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) seeking only to have the matter “remanded with instructions for the juvenile court to order full compliance with the inquiry provisions of the ICWA.” Consequently, the Court of Appeal construed Mother's appeal as a petition for extraordinary writ seeking an order directing the juvenile court and CFS to comply with their statutory duties under ICWA and the related California statutes. Upon consideration of the matter on the merits, the Court granted the requested relief. View "D.S. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL
Members of the Metlakatlan Indian Community (“the Community”) and their Tsimshian ancestors have inhabited the coast of the Pacific Northwest and fished in its waters. In 1891, Congress passed a statute (the “1891 Act”) recognizing the Community and establishing the Annette Islands Reserve as its reservation. In 2020, in response to Alaska’s attempt to subject the Metlakatlans to its limited entry program, the Community sued Alaskan officials in federal district court. The Community contended that the 1891 Act grants to the Community and its members the right to fish in the off-reservation waters where Community members have traditionally fished. The district court disagreed, holding that the Act provides no such right. The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending its opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of the Metlakatlan Indian Community’s suit against Alaskan officials. The panel applied the Indian canon of construction, which required it to construe the 1891 Act liberally in favor of the Community and to infer rights that supported the purpose of the reservation. At issue was the scope of that right. The panel concluded that a central purpose of the reservation, understood in light of the history of the Community, was that the Metlakatlans would continue to support themselves by fishing. The panel, therefore, held that the 1891 Act preserved for the Community and its members an implied right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing for personal consumption and ceremonial purposes, as well as for commercial purposes. View "METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL" on Justia Law
WASHINGTON STATE HEALTH CARE A, ET AL V. CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAI, ET AL
The Washington State Health Care Authority (“HCA”) and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community petition for review of a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) decision denying Washington’s request to amend Apple Health, the Washington State Medicaid plan (the “State Plan”). HCA petitioned CMS to amend the State Plan to include dental health aide therapists (“DHATs”) on the list of licensed providers who can be reimbursed through Medicaid. CMS rejected the Amended State Plan on the basis that it violates the Medicaid free choice of providers statute and regulation guaranteeing all Medicaid beneficiaries equal access to qualified healthcare professionals willing to treat them. Petitioners challenged this denial. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition of review. The panel rejected CMS’s reasoning on the ground that the underlying Washington statute—Wash. Rev. Code Section 70.350.020—did not violate Section 1396(a)(23) because it merely authorized where and how DHATs can practice and did not in any way restrict Medicaid recipients’ ability to obtain service from DHATs relative to non-Medicaid recipients. CMS’s rejection of the Amended State Plan was “not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. Section 706(2)(A). Accordingly, the panel granted the petition for review and remanded to the agency with instructions to approve the Amended State Plan. View "WASHINGTON STATE HEALTH CARE A, ET AL V. CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAI, ET AL" on Justia Law
In re D.B.
C.K. (Father) and I.B. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to their infant child, D.B. They argued the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services failed to comply with its duty of initial inquiry into Father’s Indian ancestry under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, and related California law (ICWA), and thus the juvenile court erroneously found that ICWA did not apply. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed and found that the error was prejudicial. It therefore conditionally reversed and remanded to allow the Department to fully comply with ICWA. View "In re D.B." on Justia Law
Interest of N.L.
N.L., Sr. appeals from the juvenile court’s order terminating his parental rights. A.H. and N.L., Sr. were the biological mother and father of N.L., Jr., born in 2015 and J.L., born in 2018. In August 2020, N.L. and J.L. were removed from their home after law enforcement performed a welfare check. N.L., Sr. argues the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to terminate his parental rights, the Grand Forks County Human Service Zone (GFCHSZ) lacked standing, and the court erred in finding GFCHSZ met the requirements for termination of parental rights under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and N.D.C.C. § 27-20.3-19. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the termination. View "Interest of N.L." on Justia Law
Native Village of Chignik Lagoon v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs.
Two tribes claimed to be a child’s tribe for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA): The Native Village of Wales claimed the child was a tribal member; the Native Village of Chignik Lagoon claims that the child is “eligible for tribal membership.” After the superior court terminated the biological parents’ parental rights, Wales moved to transfer subsequent proceedings, including potential adoption, to its tribal court. Chignik Lagoon intervened in the child in need of aid (CINA) case, arguing that the child was not a member of Wales under Wales’s constitution and that transfer of further proceedings to the Wales tribal court was not authorized under ICWA. The superior court found that the child was a member of Wales and that Wales was the child’s tribe for ICWA purposes, and therefore granted the transfer of jurisdiction. Chignik Lagoon appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s determination that the child was a member of Wales and that Wales was appropriately designated as the child’s tribe for ICWA purposes. The Supreme Court also concluded that, given that ruling, Chignik Lagoon lacked standing to challenge the transfer of proceedings to the Wales tribal court. View "Native Village of Chignik Lagoon v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs." on Justia Law
Ahtna, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, et al.
The State of Alaska claimed the right under Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477) to clear land and permit the use of boat launches, camping sites, and day use sites within an alleged 100-foot right of way centered on a road on land belonging to an Alaska Native corporation. The Native corporation sued, arguing that its prior aboriginal title prevented the federal government from conveying a right of way to the State or, alternatively, if the right of way existed, that construction of boat launches, camping sites, and day use sites exceeded its scope. After years of litigation and motion practice the superior court issued two partial summary judgment orders. It held as a matter of law that any preexisting aboriginal title did not disturb the State’s right of way over the land. It also concluded as a matter of law that the right of way was limited to ingress and egress. Because the superior court did not err when it granted the State’s motion regarding aboriginal title, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that grant of partial summary judgment. But because the scope of a particular RS 2477 right of way was a question of fact, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's conclusion as a matter of law that the State’s right of way was limited to ingress and egress. View "Ahtna, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, et al." on Justia Law