Supreme Court Cases Related to Indian Law
Four Indian law-related cases were
Petition for certiorari was denied in 10 Indian law-related cases.
Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Company, Inc., et al.
Briefs & Pleadings
Docket No. 07-411
Subjects: Debtor and creditor; Jurisdiction -- Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana; Law -- Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation, Montana -- Application.
*Issues: Do Indian tribal courts have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims as "other means" of regulating conduct of nonmember bank, owning fee land on reservation, that entered into private commercial agreement with member-owned corporation?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 9/21/2007. Petition for certiorary was granted on 1/4/08. Oral argument was on 4/14/08. Decided 6/25/08.
*Holding below: Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Co. Inc., 491 F.3d 878. Tribal court had jurisdiction over claim by tribal members that defendant bank, South Dakota corporation with its principal place of business outside tribe's reservation, discriminated against them, based on either their Indian ancestry or tribal affiliation, in terms of loan that bank made to their family-owned corporation, because claim satisfied requirements for first category of permissible tribal jurisdiction over nonmembers recognized in Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1980), in that (i) bank had formed consensual relationship with tribal members, by virtue of loans to their corporation whose overwhelming tribal character clearly benefitted bank (through loan guarantees by Bureau of Indian Affairs that greatly reduced bank's risk) and bank's related commercial relationships with corporation's individual owners, and (ii) tribal tort law invoked by tribal members is appropriate "other means" of regulating activities of nonmember that have some nexus to consensual relationship, given that discrimination claim arose directly from pre-existing commercial relationship between tribal members and bank and sought to hold nonmembers, such as bank, to minimum standard of fairness when they voluntarily deal with tribal members.
Related News Stories: Justices restrict Indian courts' jurisdiction. (theday.com) Supreme Court reverses tribal jurisdiction ruling. (Indianz.com) 6/25/08. Supreme Court agrees to hear tribal jurisdiction case (Indianz.com) 1/8/08.
Subjects: Stocks -- Exxon Shipping Company; Exemplary damages; Environmental disasters -- Alaska; Oil pollution of rivers, harbors, etc. -- Alaska; Oil spills -- Alaska -- Claims; Liability for oil pollution damages; Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Alaska, 1989.
*Issues: (1) May punitive damages be imposed under maritime law against shipowner (as Ninth Circuit held, contrary to decisions of First, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Circuits) for conduct of ship's master at sea, absent finding that owner directed, countenanced, or participated in that conduct, and even when conduct was contrary to policies established and enforced by owner? (2) When Congress has specified criminal and civil penalties for maritime conduct in controlling statute, here Clean Water Act, but has not provided for punitive damages, may judge-made federal maritime law (as Ninth Circuit held, contrary to decisions of First, Second, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits) expand penalties Congress provided by adding punitive damages remedy? (3) Is $2.5 billion punitive damages award in this case, which is larger than total of all punitive damages awards affirmed by all federal appellate courts in our history, within limits allowed by federal maritime law?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 8/20/2007. Petition was granted on 10/29/07. Decided 6/25/08.
*Holding below: Baker v. Exxon Mobil Corp., 9th Cir., 490 F.3d 1066 Prompt action taken by Exxon both to clean up oil, following oil spill caused by Exxon Valdez, and to compensate plaintiffs for their economic losses mollifies to some material degree reprehensibility in economic terms of Exxon's reckless misconduct of knowingly placing relapsed alcoholic in charge of supertanker loaded with millions of barrels of oil, thereby risking livelihood of thousands, and thus warrants reduction in $4.5 billion punitive damages award against it to $2.5 billion, which is approximately five times $504.1 million harm component and is within range allowable under due process analysis, as explained in State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Campbell, 538 U.S. 408, 71 U.S.L.W. 4282 (2003).
Related News Stories: Court declines to decide whether Exxon should pay interest on punitive damages from Valdez spill. (Anchorage Daily News) 8/13/08. Court slashes judgment in Exxon Valdez disaster. (Washington Post) 6/25/08. Exxon oli spill case may get closure. (Washington Post) 2/24/07
Subjects: Voting -- Indiana; Suffrage -- Indiana; Residency requirements; Voters (People) -- Identification; United States. Voting Rights Act of 1965; Marion County (Ind.); United States. Constitution. 1st Amendment; United States. Constitution. 14th Amendment.
*Issues: Does Indiana statute mandating that those seeking to vote in-person produce government-issued photo identification violate First and 14th Amendments to U.S. Constitution?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 7/02/07. Petition for certiorary was granted on 9/25/08. Argued 1/09/08. Decided 4/28/08.
*Holding below: Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 472 F.3d. 949, Court affirms district court ruling that neither First Amendment nor 14th Amendment is violated by Indiana law that, in effort to reduce voting fraud, requires, with certain exceptions, that persons who want to vote in person in either primary or general election must present at polling place government-issued photo identification.
Related News Stories: Supreme Court upholds voter identification law in Indiana. (NY Times) 4/28/08. High court approves Indiana voter ID law (CBS/AP) 4/28/08. Supreme Court must uphold tribal civil jurisdiction (Asheville Citizen-Times) 5/1/08
Subjects: Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island; United States. Dept. of the Interior; Land into trust -- Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island -- Rhode Island -- Charlestown; Trust lands -- Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island -- Rhode Island -- Charlestown; Narragansett Indian Tribe of Rhode Island -- Housing; Rhode Island; United States. Indian Reorganization Act; Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act; United States. Administrative Procedure Act; United States. Constitution.
*Issues: (1) Does Indian Reorganization Act empower secretary to take land into trust for Indian tribes that were not recognized and under federal jurisdiction in 1934? (2) Does act of Congress that extinguishes aboriginal title and all claims based on Indian rights and interests in land preclude secretary from creating Indian country there? (3) Does providing land "for Indians" in Indian Reorganization Act establish sufficiently intelligible principle upon which to delegate power to take land into trust?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 10/18/2007. Petition was granted on 2/25/08.
*Holding below: Carcieri
v. Kempthorne, 497
F.3d 15. Secretary of interior's interpretation
of Indian Reorganization Act's definition of "Indian,"
which includes "all persons of Indian descent who
are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under
federal jurisdiction" and their descendants who
were residing within boundaries of any Indian reservation
on June 1, 1934, 25
U.S.C. ? 479, to cover members of tribes that
were recognized and under federal jurisdiction at
time request for trust acquisition is made, rather
than as of June 18, 1934, enactment of statute,
is reasonable, consistent with department's prior
interpretations, and entitled to deference, and
thus includes Rhode Island tribe first recognized
in 1983 for whom secretary, under 25
U.S.C. ? 465, took into unreserved trust for
tribe's benefit 32-acre parcel of Rhode Island land
in 1998; 1978 Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement
Act, which provided that "[e]xcept as otherwise
provided in this [act], the settlement lands shall
be subject to the civil and criminal laws and jurisdiction
of the State of Rhode Island," 25
U.S.C. ? 1708(a), by its terms applied only
to 1800 acres of "settlement lands" specified in
act, did not implicitly repeal secretary's authority
U.S.C. ? 465 to take other Rhode Island lands
under trust for tribes, and thus did not preclude
1998 reservation of lands in trust for tribe; Section
465's direction that land be acquired "for the purpose
of providing land for Indians" has specific meaning
in light of failure of allotment policy and congressional
rejection of assimilation as goal, and thus does
not violate nondelegation doctrine as lacking intelligible
principle for execution.
Related News Stories: Supreme Court will rule on Narragansett dispute with Rhode Island (AP) 2/25/08.
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Subjects: Blue Lake Housing Authority; Sovereign immunity -- Indian business enterprises -- Blue Lake Rancheria, California; Construction contractor.
*Issues: When tribe voluntarily acquires nontribal business, with existing contract obligations, does sovereign immunity allow tribe to repudiate those obligations?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 2/07/2008. Petition was denied on 5/12/08.
*Holding below: Carls v. Blue Lake Housing, 2007 WL 2040562. Absent express waiver of tribal sovereign immunity, tribal entity that acquired assets and liabilities of nontribal building contractor, which thereafter ceased doing business, is immune from claims of contractor's customer seeking damages for alleged construction defects in work that contractor did on house located on nontribal land.
Related News Stories: U.S. Supreme Court rejects case by El Dorado Hills homeowner (The Sacramento Bee) 5/15/08
Subjects: Health facilities -- On Indian reservations -- Navajo Nation, Arizona, New Mexico & Utah; Health facilities -- Utah -- San Juan County; Employees, Dismissal of -- San Juan Health Services District; Utah Navajo Health Systems; Law -- Navajo Nation, Arizona, New Mexico & Utah -- Application -- Non-members of a tribe; Civil jurisdiction -- Navajo Nation, Arizona, New Mexico & Utah.
*Issues: Do Article III courts have any subject matter jurisdiction to do anything other than give full force and effect to Navajo Nation Court civil law judgments, decrees, and orders of all types, including these orders?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 11/13/2007. Petition was denied on 2/19/08.
*Holding below: MacArthur v. San Juan County, 497 F.3d 1057 Court must refrain, under comity doctrine, from enforcing much of Navajo district court's preliminary injunction orders against health clinic defendants in employment-related suit because Navajo court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over nearly all activities of defendants, who were nonmembers of tribe; court also exercises its discretion not to enforce tribal judgment even as to claims against tribal members over which tribal court arguably had subject matter jurisdiction, given that nonmember entity's assumption of control over clinic operations mooted much of relief afforded in preliminary injunction orders, and that amorphous and incomplete nature of orders renders them nearly incapable of enforcement.
Subjects: Criminals -- Records -- Law and legislation -- United States; Jurisdiction -- Minnesota; Criminal registers -- Minnesota.
*Issues: Does State of Minnesota have jurisdiction to enforce its statute requiring registration of persons designated as "predatory offenders" against Indians who reside in Indian Country as either "criminal/prohibitory" statute or as "exceptional" circumstance?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 8/13/2007. Petition was denied on 1/7/08.
*Holding below: State v. Jones, 729 N.W.2d 1. Minnesota's predatory offender registration statute is criminal/prohibitory in nature, and thus state has subject matter jurisdiction to prosecute enrolled Indian tribal member who resides on reservation for residing or moving without maintaining current address registration with appropriate authorities after having been convicted of predicate predatory offense.
Subjects: TEK Industries; Motor fuels -- Taxation -- North Dakota -- On Indian reservations; Excise taxes -- North Dakota -- On Indian reservations; North Dakota. Office of State Tax Commissioner; North Dakota. State Treasurer's Office; Tax collection -- North Dakota; Tax refunds -- North Dakota.
*Issues: (1) After taxpayers file court suit for tax refunds, can state substitute new law that requires administrative claims and does not provide for hearing? (2) Does due process prohibit state from imposing new refund law retroactively for period of nine years?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 11/16/2007. Petition was denied on 1/7/09.
*Holding below: Mann v. North Dakota Tax Commissioner, 736 N.W.2d 464. Administrative process set up by North Dakota for refunding to enrolled members of Native American tribes residing on reservations state fuel tax that was determined to be unlawful, which allows tribal members to claim refunds for fuel taxes upon submission of original invoices or sales receipts or, if those are not available, affidavit relating to sales and authorizes refund claimant to protest refund denial under rules adopted by tax commissioner and under procedures that entitle claimant to hearing to contest denial, provides meaningful backward-looking relief with clear and certain remedy to address unlawful deprivation and therefore complies with due process requirements; six-year statute of limitations applicable to recovering tax refunds under law that is applicable retroactively was tolled when suit was pending, and thus, because look-back period begins six years from Sept. 22, 2003, when suit was filed, claimants are entitled to refunds for fuel taxes paid after Sept. 21, 1997, under designated process.
Subjects: Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine; Maine Human Rights Commission; Discrimination in employment -- Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine; Sovereignty -- Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine; Sovereign immunity -- Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine; Sovereignty -- Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine; Jurisdiction -- Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians of Maine; Maine. Indian Claims Settlement Act.
*Issues: 1) Does denying Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians inherent sovereign right to govern their own internal tribal affairs because of language in 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act ignore federal common law establishing this sovereign right, disregard this court's decisions to same effect, and usurp very tribal rights that Congress acknowledged when it adopted statute? (2) When Congress has not expressly provided otherwise, and following logic of Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981), is Maliseet tribal government, instead of state administrative agency, proper forum to determine workplace discrimination claim against tribe by its nonmember employee arising from her consensual employment on tribal lands? (3) Is ruling below at odds with those courts of appeals that recognize that federally recognized tribe like Maliseet, absent explicit contrary directive by Congress, retains inherent tribal right of self-government and right to decide workplace discrimination claims by its nonmember employee arising from her consensual employment on tribal lands?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 9/14/2007. Petition was denied on 11/26/07.
*Holding below: Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians v. Ryan, 484 F.3d 73. Decision in Aroostook Band of Micmacs v. Ryan, 484 F.3d 41 (1st Cir. Apr. 17, 2007), Decision in Aroostook Band of Micmacs v. Ryan, which held that federal statute, 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act, allows Maine to enforce its employment discrimination laws against Maine tribes, forecloses Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians' claims that former employee's job bias complaint is barred by either Houlton Band's inherent tribal sovereignty and its statutory right to self-governance, or its tribal sovereign immunity.
Subjects: Sovereignty -- Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians of Maine; Sovereign immunity -- Aroostook Band of Micmac Indians of Maine; Maine Human Rights Commission; Maine. Maine Human Rights Act; Maine. Maine Whistle Blower Protection Act; Maine. Maine Micmac Settlement Act; Jurisdiction -- Maine; Jurisdiction -- United States; Employees -- Dismissal of.
*Issues: (1) Does denying Aroostook Band of Micmacs inherent sovereign right to govern their internal tribal affairs because of language in 1980 MICSA, statute that Congress did not intend to apply to band, ignore federal common law establishing their sovereign rights, disregard this court's decision to same effect, and usurp very tribal rights that Congress acknowledged when it passed 1991 ABMSA? (2) When Congress has not expressly provided otherwise and following logic of this court's decision in Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981), is Micmac tribal government instead of state administrative agency proper forum to determine workplace discrimination claim against tribe by its nonmember employees arising from their consensual employment on tribal lands? (3) Is ruling below at odds with those courts of appeals that recognize that federally recognized tribe like Micmacs retains inherent tribal right of self government and right to decide workplace discrimination claims by nonmember employees arising from their consensual employment on tribal lands?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 9/14/2007. Petition was denied on 11/26/07.
*Holding below: Aroostook Band of Micmacs v. Ryan, 484 F.3d 41
Provision of 1980 Maine Indian Claims Settlement Act that makes "all Indian ... tribes or bands of Indians in the State of Maine," with certain exceptions not relevant here, subject to state laws "to the same extent as any other person," 25 U.S.C. § 1725(a), abrogates any aspects of sovereign immunity that might prevent application of Maine's employment laws to claims against Aroostook Band of Micmacs by three of its former employees who allege that they were fired on basis of race, color, and national origin, in violation of state law, and that they were victims of unlawful retaliation, also in violation of state law; 1980 MICSA and 1991 Aroostook Band of Micmacs Settlement Act, which were designed to settle Indian claims, displaced any federal common law that might otherwise bear on this dispute; congressional ratification in MICSA of 1979 state settlement law, provision of which exempting from state regulation internal tribal affairs of certain tribes did not encompass Aroostook Band, also defeats band's claim that it retains authority over these job bias disputes as part of its inherent tribal sovereignty; 1991 ABMSA is not in conflict with, and did not implicitly repeal, MICSA's Section 1725(a).
Subjects: Poaching -- Utah -- Uintah County; Deer hunting -- Indian Country (Utah); Jurisdiction -- Utah; FIsh and game licenses -- Utah; Indians of North America -- Defined; Indian Country (Utah) -- Defined.
*Issues: (1) Should jury have been able to determine whether adult petitioners acted reasonably in relying upon published opinions of Tenth Circuit? (2) Could juvenile court delete intent as element of offense charged against juvenile petitioner after receiving uncontested evidence that juvenile acted at direction of his father and in reliance upon federal court rulings? (3) Were adult petitioners denied fair trial due to bias on part of trial judge? (4) Did Ute Partition Act expel Uintah Band as body from Ute Tribe? (5) Could Ute Partition Act have any effect on treaty rights of person born prior to act who was not included on termination roll prepared under act?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 7/23/2007. Petition was denied on 10/29/07.
*Holding below: State v. Reber, 2007 WL 1189637, State has jurisdiction over victimless crime committed by non-Indian in Indian country; because defendants' ancestors lost their legal status as Indians under Ute Partition Act, and because Uintah Band in which they claim membership is not recognized as tribe by federal government, they are not Indians under federal law, and thus, because their crimes--wanton destruction of protected wildlife--were victimless crimes that occurred within Indian country but not on Indian land, state has jurisdiction over their crimes; defendants' convictions are reinstated.
Subjects: Indian gaming -- Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina; South Carolina; Video poker-- Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina; Fees, Administrative -- Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina; South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act.
*Issues: Does provision of Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina Land Claims Settlement Act that makes amendments to settlement agreement and to state legislation approving it contingent on tribal consent bar application to tribe of state's subsequently enacted ban on video poker?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 7/16/2007. Petition was denied 10/1/07.
*Holding below: Catawba Indian Tribe v. State, 642 S.E.2d 751, Under federal law implementing agreement that settled tribal land claims, as well as under congressionally approved state law implementing agreement that gives tribe right to allow video poker or similar electronic play devices on its reservation "to the same extent that the devices are authorized by state law," state's subsequent enactment of statewide ban on video poker is applicable to tribe and forbids video poker on tribe's reservation, despite tribe's contention that because federal act approving agreement requires consent of both tribe and state to amend settlement agreement and state law approving it, subsequent state legislative enactments are not applicable to tribe unless it consents to them.
Subjects: Coal mines and mining -- Montana; Groundwater -- Pollution; Arsenic -- Environmental aspects; Fort Belknap Indian Community of the Fort Belknap Reservation of Montana; United States. Bureau of Land Management; Trusts and trustees -- United States; Responsibility -- United States; United States. Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976; United States. Administrative Procedure Act.
*Issues: (1) Should certiorari be granted to resolve conflict among circuits as to whether waiver of sovereign immunity in Section 702 of APA is limited by final agency action requirement of Section 704 or judicial review provisions of Section 706 of APA? (2) Should certiorari be granted to resolve conflict among circuits as to whether this court's opinions addressing tribal claims for money damages under Tucker Act limit this court's opinions addressing tribal claims for equitable relief under treaties and common law Indian trust doctrine?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 6/14/2007. Petition was denied 10/1/07.
*Holding below: Gros Ventre Tribe v. United States, 469 F.3d 801, Government's trust obligation to Native American tribes cannot be enforced independently of statutorily granted right, statutes that tribal plaintiffs' cite do not authorize private right of action, and thus tribal claims against United States and several government agencies, alleging that defendants violated common law trust obligations to protect tribal resources, primarily water rights, in their handling of two cyanide heap-leach gold mines located upriver from tribes' reservation, must be stated within confines of Administrative Procedure Act, including compliance with APA's requirement of "final agency action"; absent "final agency action" within APA's six-year limitations period, tribal complaint was properly dismissed; because district court's summary judgment for government is affirmed on basis of its holding that tribal claims were either barred by limitations, not based on final agency action, or did not involve controversy for which tribes had standing, it is unnecessary to resolve conflict in case law on issue of whether APA's waiver of sovereign immunity under Section 702 for non-monetary actions against government is conditioned upon plaintiff's challenging "final agency action" as set forth in Section 704.
Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation
Docket No. 06-1588
Briefs & Pleadings
Subjects: Fishing rights -- Wenatchi Indians -- Icicle Creek (Wash.); Fishing rights -- Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington; Fishing rights -- Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, Washington; Fishing -- Off Indian reservations -- Washington (State).
*Issues:(1) Does Section 24 of Restatement (Second) of Judgments use pragmatic transactional test for determining whether party's claim is precluded by res judicata? (2) Is opinion of court below, that Colville Tribe's present claim in this case regarding off-reservation Indian fishing rights is not barred by res judicata, in direct conflict with Restatement (Second) and rulings of other circuit courts? (3) Are respondents judicially estopped from assuming factual positions in their present claim for off-reservation Indian fishing rights that are inconsistent with undisputed facts of their previously litigated claim, thereby giving them full and fair opportunity to litigate this claim in prior suit?
History: Petition for certiorari was filed on 5/29/2007. Petition was denied 10/1/07.
*Holding below: United States v. Oregon, 470 F.3d 809, Res judicata does not bar Confederated Tribes of Colville Indian Reservation from asserting claim of its Wenatchi Constituent Tribe to fishing rights at Wenatshapam Fishery on Icicle Creek, which is tributary to Columbia River, because, although district court in earlier litigation over off-reservation fishing rights in area dismissed Colville's intervention upon finding that it was not successor tribe to treaty rights at issue, requisite identity of claims between that earlier intervention attempt and present injunction hearing is absent.
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* "Issues" and
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