Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries
Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians v. California
During negotiations for a new tribal-state compact between the Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians and California, Pauma sought authorization to offer on-track horse racing and wagering and an expanded set of lottery games. The parties met and corresponded. In 2015, Pauma triggered the 1999 Compact’s dispute resolution process. In January 2016, the state confirmed its agreement to renegotiate the 1999 Compact in full and told Pauma that it “look[ed] forward” to receiving a draft compact from Pauma with Pauma’s “plans for on-track betting.” Rather than propose a draft compact or disclose any information about the on-track facility, Pauma notified the state that it wanted to separately negotiate each item of the compact and proposed modifications to the 1999 Compact’s lottery game language. California rejected Pauma’s piecemeal negotiation approach, rejected Pauma’s lottery game language, and advised that it would send a “complete draft compact to guide our future discussions.” The subsequent 140-page draft addressed a broad array of topics. Pauma never responded but filed suit.The district court held that California satisfied its obligation to negotiate in good faith under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. The state agreed to negotiate for the new types of class III gaming that Pauma sought authorization to offer, actively engaged in the negotiations, and remained willing to continue the negotiations when Pauma filed the litigation. View "Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians v. California" on Justia Law
United Auburn Indian Community of Auburn Rancheria v. Newsom
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeal concluding that the Governor acted lawfully when he concurred in the determination of the United States Secretary of the Interior (Interior Secretary) to allow casino-style gaming on tribal trust land in California, holding that California law empowers the Governor to concur.Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, 25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq., the Interior Secretary may permit gaming on certain land taken into federal trust for an Indian tribe so long as the Governor of the state where the land is located concurs. At issue was whether the California Governor has the authority to concur in the Interior Secretary's determination to allow gaming on tribal trust land in California where the California Constitution has not granted explicit authority to concur in the cooperative-federalism scheme. The Supreme Court held that because the California Constitution, as amended in 2000, permits casino-style gaming under certain conditions on Indian and tribal lands and the Legislature imposed no restriction to the Governor's concurrence power, the Governor acted lawfully in concurring in the Interior Secretary's determination. View "United Auburn Indian Community of Auburn Rancheria v. Newsom" on Justia Law
In re Internet Lending Cases
Rosas filed a representative action based on alleged participation in illegal internet payday loan practices. Defendant AMG is a wholly-owned tribal corporation of Miami Tribe, a federally recognized Indigenous American tribe. Rosas previously challenged a court order granting AMG's motion to quash service of summons for lack of jurisdiction based on tribal sovereign immunity. On remand, the court granted AMG’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on the basis of tribal sovereign immunity. The court accepted AMG’s argument that the arm-of-the-tribe test should be applied to the current facts relating to its ownership and control rather than the facts that existed when the complaint was filed. The court credited AMG’s new, undisputed evidence concerning significant changes made to AMG’s structure and governance since the prior court ruling—changes that removed the nontribal actors from positions of authority and control and ended its involvement in the business of financial lending.The court of appeal affirmed. The court did not exceed the scope of the remand. When a court determines that a tribal entity is entitled to immunity from suit, the court lacks the authority, absent the tribe’s consent or federal authorization, to bring the tribal entity before the court for any purpose, including for the purpose of sanctioning misconduct. View "In re Internet Lending Cases" on Justia Law
United States v. Muskett
In 2013, defendant-appellant Donovan Muskett was indicted by grand jury, charged with four counts: assault with a dangerous weapon in Indian Country; aggravated burglary in Indian Country (based on New Mexico’s aggravated burglary statute by way of the federal Assimilative Crimes Act); using, carrying, possessing, and brandishing a firearm during and in relation to and in furtherance of a crime of violence; and negligent child abuse in Indian Country. Muskett entered into a plea agreement, under which he pled guilty to the brandishing a firearm charge, the government dismissed the remaining three counts. The parties agreed that, contingent on the district court's acceptance of the plea agreement, Muskett would be sentenced to 84 months in prison. The district court accepted Muskett’s plea and sentenced him to 84 months of imprisonment followed by a three-year term of supervised release. In this matter, Muskett appealed the denial of his motion to vacate the brandishing conviction as a crime of violence based on the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019) (invalidating the residual clause in 18 U.S.C. 924(c)’s definition of a “crime of violence” as unconstitutionally vague). The parties’ primary disputed whether Muskett’s predicate federal felony—assault with a dangerous weapon, 18 U.S.C. 113(a)(3)—qualified as a crime of violence under the elements clause, thereby rendering harmless the Davis defect in his conviction. Muskett suggested the Tenth Circuit conduct this analysis using the law as it existed at the time of his conviction because application of current law would violate due process limits on the retroactive application of judicial decisions enlarging criminal liability. The Tenth Circuit found precedent compelled the conclusion that assault with a dangerous weapon was categorically a crime of violence under the elements clause. "And we conclude that at the time of his offense, Mr. Muskett had fair notice that section 924(c)’s elements clause could ultimately be construed to encompass his commission of assault with a dangerous weapon." The Court thus affirmed the district court's denial of Muskett’s section 2255 motion. View "United States v. Muskett" on Justia Law
In re E.J.B.
The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court terminating Father's parental rights to his children, holding that the trial court failed to comply with the mandatory notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act and that the post termination proceedings did not cure the errors.On appeal, Father asked the Supreme Court to vacate each of the judgments and orders entered in this case because the trial court failed to comply with the notice requirements under the Act before terminating his parental rights. The Supreme Court agreed and remanded the case, holding that where the trial court had reason to know that an Indian child might be involved and that where any notices the trial court sent failed to include all of the necessary information required by statute, the trial court's order terminating Father's parental rights must be reversed. View "In re E.J.B." on Justia Law
Perkins v. Commissioner
Neither the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua nor the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca Nation create an individualized exemption from federal income taxes for income "derived from" Seneca land. In this case, petitioners filed suit in tax court seeking a redetermination of their 2008 and 2009 joint individual tax returns, in which they sought an exemption for income derived from their gravel operation, contending that their gravel sales during 2008 and 2009 were exempt from federal income taxes pursuant to the two treaties.The Second Circuit affirmed the tax court's determination that neither treaty created an exemption and rejected petitioners' argument suggesting otherwise because petitioners' view is premised upon the erroneous presumption that an exemption from federal taxes for income derived from land held in trust for American Indians extends to land that remains in the possession of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The court also noted that, to the extent the 1842 Treaty with the Seneca creates an exemption from taxes on Seneca land, that exemption does not cover income derived from Seneca land by individual enrolled members of the Seneca Nation. View "Perkins v. Commissioner" on Justia Law
In re J.W.
This case began when, in December 2016, plaintiff-respondent San Bernardino Children and Family Services (CFS) learned that Mother threatened to physically abuse J.W., the youngest of her two daughters, then one year old. Mother had called 911 and threatened to stab herself and J.W. Police officers detained Mother and temporarily committed her pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150. CFS’s detention reports stated that, a few weeks prior, Mother had moved to California from Louisiana, where she had been living with A.W., J.W.'s father. According to a family friend, Mother was spiraling into depression in Louisiana and had mentioned relinquishing her children to the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. The family friend urged Mother to come live with her in California, which she did. The family friend also informed CFS that in 2010 Mother had suffered traumatic brain injuries requiring dozens of surgeries, from a car accident that killed Mother’s mother and sister. Since the accident, Mother had suffered from grand mal seizures and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. CFS petitioned for J.W. and her older half-sister L.M. After the detention hearing, the juvenile court found a prima facie case and detained the children. Although the detention reports noted Mother’s recent move from Louisiana, CFS did not address whether there was jurisdiction under the UCCJEA, and the juvenile court made no finding concerning the UCCJEA. Ultimately Mother's rights to the children were terminated. A.W. challenged the termination, contending the juvenile court failed to comply with the UCCJEA, such that Louisiana should have been the forum for the case. Mother contended the juvenile court failed to comply with the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The Court of Appeal determined that, even assuming the juvenile court lacked UCCJEA jurisdiction, A.W. forfeited the ability to raise his argument on appeal. "Forfeiture would not apply if the UCCJEA provisions governing jurisdiction implicated the courts’ fundamental jurisdiction, but...they do not." The Court determined there was no failure to apply the ICWA, “ICWA does not obligate the court or [child protective agencies] ‘to cast about’ for investigative leads.” View "In re J.W." on Justia Law
Oneida Nation v. Village of Hobart
The Oneida Nation’s Big Apple Fest is held, annually, on land partially located in the Village of Hobart. In 2016 Hobart demanded that the Nation obtain a permit and submit to some of its s laws. The Nation filed suit and held the festival without a permit.The Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of the Nation. The Oneida Reservation, established by treaty in 1838, remains intact, so federal law treats the land at issue as Indian country not subject to most state and local regulation. The Reservation was not diminished piece-by-piece when Congress allotted the Reservation among individual tribe members and allowed the land to be sold eventually to non‐Indians but can be diminished or disestablished only by Congress. The court noted the Supreme Court’s 2020 "McGirt" decision as “making it even more difficult to establish the requisite congressional intent to dis‐establish or diminish a reservation.” The statutory texts provide no clear indication that Congress intended to eliminate all tribal interests in allotted Oneida land; diminishment cannot be the result of Congress’s general expectation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that its actions would eventually end the reservation system. Hobart has not shown “exceptional circumstances” that could justify imposing its ordinance on the Nation within the boundaries of the Reservation. View "Oneida Nation v. Village of Hobart" on Justia Law
In the Matter of April S.
An Alaska Native teenage minor affiliated with the Native Village of Kotzebue (Tribe) was taken into custody by the Office of Children’s Services (OCS) and placed at a residential treatment facility in Utah. She requested a placement review hearing after being injured by a facility staff member. At the time of the hearing, the minor’s mother wanted to regain custody. At the hearing the superior court had to make removal findings under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), as well as findings authorizing continued placement in a residential treatment facility under Alaska law. At the hearing, the minor’s Utah therapist testified as a mental health professional. The minor, as well as her parents and the Tribe, objected to the witness being qualified as an ICWA expert, but the superior court allowed it. The minor argued the superior court erred in determining that the witness was qualified as an expert for the purposes of ICWA. Because the superior court correctly determined that knowledge of the Indian child’s tribe was unnecessary in this situation when it relied on the expert’s testimony for its ICWA findings, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of April S." on Justia Law
Treat v. Stitt
Through mediation efforts in connection with a federal lawsuit pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Respondent, the Honorable J. Kevin Stitt, Governor of Oklahoma, negotiated and entered into new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes to increase state gaming revenues. The tribal gaming compacts were submitted to the United States Department of the Interior, and the Department of the Interior deemed them approved by inaction, only to the extent they were consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). The Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes were not parties to this matter; these tribes were sovereign nations and have not submitted to the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The limited question presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court was whether Governor Stitt had the authority to bind the State with respect to the new tribal gaming compacts with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes. To this, the Supreme Court held he did not. The tribal gaming compacts Governor Stitt entered into with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes authorized certain forms of Class III gaming, including house-banked card and table games and event wagering. Any gaming compact to authorize Class III gaming had to be validly entered into under state law, and it was Oklahoma law that determined whether the compact was consistent with the IGRA. The tribal gaming compacts Governor Stitt entered into with the Comanche Nation and Otoe-Missouria Tribes were invalid under Oklahoma law. The State of Oklahoma was not and could not be legally bound by those compacts until such time as the Legislature enacted laws to allow the specific Class III gaming at issue, and in turn, allowing the Governor to negotiate additional revenue. View "Treat v. Stitt" on Justia Law