Justia Native American Law Opinion Summaries
Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. DOI
This is an appeal from the district court’s denial of the State of North Dakota’s supplemental motion to intervene in the lawsuit against the Department of the Interior brought by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, recognized as the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation (“Tribes”). The Tribes, joined by the Interior Department, filed oppositions to the State’s continuing as a party. In response, the State moved again to intervene with respect to the remaining Counts. This time the district court denied the State’s intervention motion. The district court explained that “there [was] no longer a live controversy before the Court on that issue.” The court explained: “At various points, the State argues that ‘an M-Opinion does not establish legal title’ and that, as a result, a dispute remains. The DC Circuit reversed. The court explained that the Interior lacks “authority to adjudicate legal title to real property.” The Interior Department conceded as much. The action of the Bureau of Indian Affairs recording title in its records office, therefore, could not “establish legal title,” as the district court supposed. As the Interior stated in its brief, “there has been no final determination of title to the Missouri riverbed.” The action of the Bureau of Indian Affairs recording title in its records office, therefore, could not “establish legal title,” as the district court supposed. Accordingly, the court wrote that there is no doubt that the State satisfied the Rule’s requirement that the intervention motion must be timely. View "Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. DOI" on Justia Law
In re L.C.
M.C. (mother) appealed the termination of parental rights to two of her children (the children) under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26. She contends that the juvenile court failed to determine whether it had jurisdiction over the children under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (the UCCJEA). The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (the Department) responded that by failing to raise the issue, mother forfeited her right to raise it on appeal; alternatively, the Department argued that substantial evidence supports the court’s assertion of jurisdiction in this case. Mother also contended the juvenile court and the Department failed to comply with the inquiry requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) and related California statutes. The Second Appellate District concluded the forfeiture doctrine does not bar mother’s challenge to the juvenile court’s compliance with the UCCJEA, and the error requires conditional reversal of the parental rights termination orders with directions to the court to undertake the process that the UCCJEA requires. This disposition will permit mother to raise the unopposed ICWA arguments she makes on appeal. The court explained that here, the usual benefit from the application of the forfeiture doctrine—to encourage parties to bring issues to the trial court—would not be conferred under the facts of this case. Thus, although the Department or mother could have done more to urge the juvenile court to undertake the UCCJEA process, the objective facts supporting the need for such a process were readily apparent from the record. View "In re L.C." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Native American Law
In re S.S.
The Department of Children and Family Services detained infant boy S.S. at birth, based on exigency, alleging his parents abused drugs and S.S. was born testing positive for various drugs. The juvenile court detained S.S. from his parents and placed him with his maternal aunt and uncle. The mother and father both denied Indian ancestry. The maternal aunt, however, said that the mother might have Yaqui heritage. The Department, in turn, notified the Pascua Yaqui tribe, which replied S.S. was not eligible for membership: the tribe would not intervene. The Department never asked paternal extended family members about the possibility of Indian ancestry. The court terminated parental rights in favor of a permanent plan of adoption by the maternal aunt and uncle, who were the caretakers and prospective adoptive parents. The mother appealed. At issue is the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, sections 1901 and following title 25 of the United States Code (the Act, or ICWA) and its California counterpart. The Second Appellate District conditionally reversed the juvenile court’s finding that ICWA does not apply and remanded the matter to the juvenile court with directions to order the Department to inquire of the three paternal extended family members previously identified whether S.S. may be an Indian child. The court explained that the Department’s failure prejudices tribes. The Department had contact information for three extended paternal family members but did nothing with it, thus denying tribes the benefit of the statutory promise. It would be a miscarriage of justice to deny tribes the benefit of this legislation. View "In re S.S." on Justia Law
Posted in: California Courts of Appeal, Family Law, Juvenile Law, Native American Law
In re Robert F.
Jessica G. (Mother) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating parental rights to her son, Robert F. Relying on subdivision (b) Welfare and Institutions Code section 224.2, Mother argued that the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry, because DPSS did not ask various extended family members whether Robert had any Indian ancestry. The Court of Appeal found DPSS took Robert into protective custody pursuant to a warrant, so DPSS did not take Robert into temporary custody under section 306. Accordingly, DPSS had no obligation to ask Robert’s extended family members about his potential Indian status under section 224.2(b). The Court therefore affirmed the order terminating parental rights. View "In re Robert F." on Justia Law
Shawnee Tribe v. Janet Yellen
Two American Indian tribes – Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation – challenged as arbitrary and capricious the Secretary of the Treasury’s 2020 and 2021 Distributions of appropriations for relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. The district court granted summary judgment to the Secretary. The Tribes appealed only the 2021 Distribution. The DC Circuit dismissed Miccosukee’s challenge as moot and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the Secretary with instructions to remand Prairie Band’s challenge to the 2021 Distribution to the Secretary for further explanation. The court found that the Secretary has not explained why “substantial disparity” was measured by the degree the HUD data underestimated enrollment rather than the number of uncounted enrolled members, nor the Distribution methodology in relation to the statutory mandate to allocate funds “based on increased expenditures.” Further, the court wrote that on remand, the Secretary must explain the decision decided. To the extent the 2021 Distribution would treat some Tribes assigned HUD populations of zero differently, the Secretary corrected the error. Only Miccosukee had standing to challenge the error, and its claim is moot. View "Shawnee Tribe v. Janet Yellen" on Justia Law
Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al.
The Pueblo of Jemez filed a quiet title action against the United States relating to lands comprising the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”), which the United States purchased from private landowners in 2000. In an earlier appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s ruling dismissing the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded, finding that an 1860 federal grant of title to private landowners would not extinguish the Jemez Pueblo’s claimed aboriginal title. Upon remand, the Jemez Pueblo could establish that it once and still had aboriginal title to the lands at issue. After a twenty-one-day trial, the district court ruled that the Jemez Pueblo failed to establish ever having aboriginal title to the entire lands of the Valles Caldera, failing to show that it ever used the entire claimed land to the exclusion of other Indian groups. The Jemez Pueblo moved for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). But rather than seek reconsideration of its complaint’s QTA claim to the entire Valles Caldera, the Jemez Pueblo shrunk its QTA claim into claims of title to four discrete subareas within the Valles Caldera: (1) Banco Bonito, (2) the Paramount Shrine Lands, (3) Valle San Antonio, and (4) the Redondo Meadows. The district court declined to reconsider all but Banco Bonito, on grounds that the Jemez Pueblo hadn’t earlier provided the government notice of these claims. Even so, being thorough, the court later considered and rejected those three claims on the merits. Of the issues raised by the Jemez Pueblo on appeal, we primarily address its challenge to the district court’s ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erroneously interpreted "Jemez I" in ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. So in accordance with longstanding Supreme Court precedent, and by the district court’s findings, the Court held the Jemez Pueblo still had aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Court reversed in part the denial of the Jemez Pueblo’s motion for reconsideration, and vacated in part and remanded with instructions to the district court. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
United States v. Slinkard
In 2011, defendant-appellant Joshua Slinkard pleaded guilty in Oklahoma state court to child sex abuse, lewd molestation, and possession of child pornography. The state court sentenced him to 30 years in prison. But in May 2021 the State vacated Slinkard’s conviction for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, 140 S. Ct. 2452 (2020). Slinkard was then indicted in federal district court on two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor in Indian country, and one count of possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty on all three counts without the benefit of a plea bargain. After adopting the factual recitations of the PSR and confirming Slinkard’s advisory guideline sentence, the district court recited the sentencing factors set forth in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) and offered defense counsel the opportunity to be heard on the application of those factors in Slinkard’s case. Defense counsel asked the court to consider an oral motion for a downward variance based in part on Slinkard having already served 12 years in state prison. The government requested a life sentence. The court stated it would not vary from the advisory guideline for sentencing. The court then asked Slinkard if he wished to make a statement, but he declined. After the government made a statement on behalf of the victim, the court imposed a sentence of two terms of life in prison and one term of 240 months, all to run concurrently. In his single issue on appeal, Slinkard contended the district court plainly erred when it conclusively announced his sentence before permitting him to allocute. To this, the Tenth Circuit concurred: the court’s pre-allocution statement was a definitive announcement of sentence, in violation of Fed. R. Crim. P. 32(i)(4)(A)(ii) and Tenth Circuit precedent. The sentence was vacated and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "United States v. Slinkard" on Justia Law
United States v. Polk
Defendant-appellant Conner Polk appealed his four-year prison sentence under the Assimilative Crimes Act (ACA), 18 U.S.C. § 13, for committing a state-law offense on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Polk argued the district court should have considered imposing a shorter prison term under an Oklahoma statute that permitted a departure from a mandatory minimum sentence in certain circumstances. Because this state law conflicted with federal sentencing policy, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the district court properly declined to apply it. The Court, therefore, affirmed Polk’s sentence. View "United States v. Polk" on Justia 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