2015 State Court Cases

Last updated: January 29, 2016

December

In re Crow Water Compact
382 Mont. 46
No. DA 15–0370.
Supreme Court of Montana
Dec. 30, 2015.

*Synopsis: United States, Indian Tribe, and State submitted Crow Water Compact to Water Court. Following affirmance of Water Court's dismissal of the objections of tribal member allottees, 380 Mont. 168354 P.3d 1217, the Water Court, Russ McElyea, Chief Water Judge, approved the Compact. Individual non-party objectors owning land and water rights near reservation appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, C.J., Mike McGrath, J., held that:
1) “good cause” standard for holding a hearing on an objection was not the standard for determining the ultimate reasonableness of the compact;
2) objectors failed to establish that Compact was unreasonable and would adversely affect their interests; and
3) Crow Water Compact negotiation process did not deprive non-party objectors of their right to due process.
Affirmed.

Arrow Midstream Holdings, LLC v. 3 Bears Construction, LLC
2015 WL 9478056
No. .20150057.
Supreme Court of North Dakota
Dec. 29, 2015.

*Synopsis: Delaware limited liability company (LLC) commenced action challenging validity of subcontractor's pipeline lien, seeking indemnification, and claiming that Indian-owned LLC general contractor had breached parties' contract. Subsequently, Indian-owned LLC filed a complaint against parties in tribal court. The District Court, Dunn County, Southwest Judicial District, Zane Anderson, J., dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. LLC appealed and subcontractor cross-appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Vande Walle, C.J., held that:
1) dismissal was final and appealable;
2) tribal sovereignty exception on consensual relationships between nonmembers and tribal members did not apply;
3) as a matter of apparent first impression, right-of-way pipeline easement acquired by Delaware LLC over Indian trust property was equivalent of non-Indian fee land, for purposes of determining tribe's regulatory jurisdiction over LLC; and
4) trial court had jurisdiction.
Reversed and remanded.

State, ex rel. Children, Youth and Families Dept. v. Yodell B.
367 P.3d 881
No. 33,990.
Court of Appeals of New Mexico.
Dec. 21, 2015.

*Synopsis: The Children, Youth, and Families Department filed a petition seeking to terminate mother and father's parental rights to child. The District Court, Cibola County, John F. Davis, J., terminated parental rights. Father appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Zamora, J., held that evidence supported finding that the Department failed to establish that active efforts were made to prevent the break up of the Indian family.

Reversed and remanded.

Town of Verona v. Cuomo
22 N.Y.S.3d 241
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department, New York
Dec. 17, 2015.

*Synopsis: Towns and town residents brought combined article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action challenging settlement agreement between State, counties, and Indian tribe, under which land within town boundaries was placed into trust and tribe agreed not to oppose casino gambling. The Supreme Court, Albany County, Ceresia Jr., J., granted State's and counties' motion for summary judgment, 997 N.Y.S.2d 670, 2014 WL 4286916, and petitioners appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Garry, J.P., held that:
1) settlement did not impinge on towns' home rule powers, and thus they lacked capacity to challenge it;
2) town residents had standing as citizen-taxpayers to challenge settlement;
3) provision of settlement in which tribe agreed that it would support a referendum to authorize casino gambling and would not fund any campaign to oppose it was not an illegal vote-buying agreement; and
4) legislation legalizing casino gambling did not improperly delegate legislative authority to a future popular vote or other contingent event.
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.

In re G.V.
365 P.3d 89
No. 113,934
Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma, Division No. 4
Dec. 16, 2015.

*Synopsis: State filed petition seeking to have three children adjudged deprived. After entry of order adopting jury's termination of father's parental rights and district court finding that active efforts had been made to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent breakup of Indian family and that those efforts proved to be unsuccessful as mandated by federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the District Court, Creek County, Mark A. Ihrig, J., overruled father's motion for new trial. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Civil Appeals, Deborah B. Barnes, J., held that:
1) active efforts provision of ICWA did not apply, but
2) assuming active efforts provision applied, state made active efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs to father.
Affirmed.

Zaunbrecher v. Succession of David
181 So.3d 885
No. 15–769
Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Third Circuit
Dec. 9, 2015.
This Case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. See the Supreme Court Bulletin for more information.

*Synopsis: Son of motorist filed a complaint against casino patron, patron's insurer, motorist's uninsured motorist insurer, casino, and casino employees after intoxicated casino patron left casino and caused an automobile accident that killed motorist and patron. The Twelfth Judicial District Court, Parish of Avoyelles, No.2013–9544–B, William Bennett, J., dismissed lawsuit against casino defendants due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on tribal sovereign immunity. Son of motorist appealed.

*Holdings:The Court of Appeal, Ezell, J., held that the doctrine of sovereign immunity did not bar motorist's son's cause of action against three casino employees in their individual capacities.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Gila River Indian Community v. Department of Child Safety
363 P.3d 148
No. 1 CA–JV 15–0178
Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1
Dec. 8, 2015.

*Synopsis: Indian community moved to change child’s custody from foster home to aunt. After an evidentiary hearing, the Superior Court, Maricopa County, No. JD 510468, Shellie F. Smith, Judge Pro Tem, denied the motion.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Downie, J., held that:
[1] as a matter of first impression, clear and convincing standard of proof applied to determination of whether good cause existed to deviate from placement preferences set forth in Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), and
[2] remand was required to allow court to apply clear and convincing evidence standard.
Vacated and remanded.

November

Trapp v. Roden
2015 WL 7356318
No. SJC–11863
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Worcester
November 23, 2015.

*Synopsis: Inmates, who were adherents of Native American religious practices, brought action against Department of Correction challenging closure of purification lodge at correctional center. Following bench trial, the Superior Court Department, Worcester County, Cornelius J. Moriarty, II, J., 2012 WL 6629681, entered judgment. Department appealed.

*Holdings: On transfer, the Supreme Judicial Court, Duffly, J., held that:
(1) closure violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000;
(2) Department failed to meet its burden of proof that closure decision was motivated by an actual compelling health interest; and
(3) closure violated settlement agreement which resolved inmate's prior lawsuit against Department.

In re K.M.
2015 WL 7352048
G051656
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California
Filed November 20, 2015.

*Synopsis: In a dependency proceeding, the Superior Court, Orange County, No. DP024561, Craig E. Arthur, J., terminated parental rights to child. Mother and father appealed. While the matter was still pending on appeal, the Superior Court issued a postjudgment order finding that the county child welfare agency complied with the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

*Holding: The Court of Appeal, O'Leary, P.J., held that juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the ICWA issue following its termination of parental rights.

Sharp v. Pike
2015 Ark. App. 670
No. CV-14-1017
Court of Appeals of Arkansas, DIVISION III
Opinion Delivered November 18, 2015

*Synopsis: Child's step-mother filed adoption petition. The Circuit Court, Benton County, John R. Scott, J., granted petition. Child's mother appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Larry D. Vaught, J., held that evidence supported trial court's finding that mother failed significantly without justifiable cause, for one-year period, to provide for care and support of her child as required by law or judicial decree, and thus mother's consent was not required.
Affirmed.

In Interest of V.L.R.
507 S.W.3d 788
No. 08–15–00250–CV
Court of Appeals of Texas, El Paso.
November 18, 2015

*Synopsis: State petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights under section of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) that permits termination upon showing, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the parent's continued custody is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. The 65th District Court, El Paso County, granted petition. Mother appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Ann Crawford McClure, C.J., held that:
1) evidence was sufficient to establish child's membership in Oglala Tribe such that ICWA applied;
2) Jackson v. Virginia standard applied when conducting legal sufficiency review; and
3) evidence was legally insufficient to establish that mother's continued custody was likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child.
Reversed and judgment rendered denying State's petition.

In re Candace A.
2015 WL 6859668
B262787
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 7, California
Filed November 9, 2015.

*Synopsis: County child welfare agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, Valerie Skeba, No. DK05991, Juvenile Court Referee, issued jurisdiction findings and disposition order declaring child a dependent of the juvenile court and removing her from parents' custody. Parents appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, Perluss, P.J., held that:
(1) evidence supported finding that child faced a "risk of serious physical harm or illness" from mother's drug use;
(2) maternal grandmother's report that she believed she had ancestry in a particular tribe triggered a duty to give Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) notice; and
(3) maternal great-uncle's report that child had ancestors from particular tribes triggered a duty to give ICWA notice to those tribes.

October

San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians v. State
2015 WL 6438536
B254870
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 8, California
Filed October 5, 2015.

*Synopsis: Tribe brought action against the state and Gambling Control Commission seeking damages for breach of Indian Gaming Regulatory Act compact. The Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. BC431469, Ruth Ann Kwan, J., granted summary judgment for state and Commission. Tribe appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeal, Grimes, J., held that compact barred tribe from recovering damages as a remedy for breach.
Affirmed.

September

Ashlee W. v. Department of Child Safety
2015 WL 5562687
No. 1 CA–JV 15–0093
Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division 1
Sept. 22, 2015.

Legal Topics: Indian Child Welfare Act - Termination of Parental Rights, Drug Abuse

In re M.R.
2015 WL 5457604
No. 20150175
Supreme Court of North Dakota
Sept. 17, 2015.

*Synopsis: Father appealed from decision of the Juvenile Court, Cass County, East Central Judicial District, Susan J. Solheim, Judicial Referee, terminating his parental rights.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Kapsner, J., held that:
(1) juvenile court's finding that the conditions and causes of child's deprivation were likely to continue was not clearly erroneous, and
(2) father, who was member of Indian tribe, did not show that child was an Indian child, such that ICWA's heightened standards applied.

In re the general adjudication of all rights to use water in the Big Horn river system
2015 WL 5439947
No. S–14–0257
Supreme Court of Wyoming
Sept. 16, 2015.

*Synopsis: In action involving ongoing general adjudication of water rights in river system, landowner filed objections to special master's report and recommendation, which recommended partial reinstatement of cattle company's expired permit, which conveyed water through ditch that ran through landowner's property. The District Court, Washakie County, Robert E. Skar, J., adopted special master's report and recommendation and entered its final order in general adjudication. Landowner appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Burke, C.J., held that:
(1) special master did not improperly place burden of proof on landowner, and
(2) evidence was sufficient to support findings required to reinstate permit.

Diana P. v. State, Department of Health & Social Services, Office of Children's Services
2015 WL 5247084
No. S –15688
Supreme Court of Alaska
Sept. 1, 2015.

*Synopsis: Office of Children's Services (OCS) petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights to her four daughters, all Native children, under the Indian Child Welfare Act. The Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Bethany S. Harbison, J., terminated mother's parental rights, and mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Stowers, J., held that:
(1) evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that placing the children in mother's custody would likely put the children at risk of serious harm, and
(2) as a matter of first impression, under the Act, when the basis for termination is culturally neutral, the substantial-harm requirement may be met by a combination of lay testimony and other evidence that the parent's conduct is harmful to the child, as well as expert testimony that the conduct is likely to continue.

August

Wells Fargo Bank, Nat. Ass'n v. Apache Tribe of Oklahoma
369 P.3d 56
No. 112,765.
Court of Civil Appeals of Oklahoma, Division No. 1.
Aug. 28, 2015.

*Synopsis: Indian tribe brought action to vacate arbitration award that allowed lender to satisfy part of judgment, which had been entered in favor of lender in prior arbitration proceeding, from tribe's general cash assets. The District Court, Oklahoma County, Bill Graves, J., entered orders denying tribe's motion to vacate arbitration award and confirming arbitration award. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Civil Appeals, Brian Jack Goree, P.J., held that arbitrator did not exceed his powers in determining that lender could seize general, nonexempt tribal assets up to amount of improper distributions made by tribe after defaulting on loan to satisfy judgment.

Affirmed.

Jennifer L. v. State Department of Health and Social Services
357 P.3d 110
No. S –15646
Supreme Court of Alaska
Aug. 28, 2015.

*Synopsis: After Office of Children's Services (OCS) took three minor children into emergency custody, a standing master determined that no probable cause existed and recommended that children be returned to mother's custody. Following remand from the Supreme Court, 2014 WL 1888190, the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Aniak, Douglas Blankenship, J., rejected recommendation and determined that probable cause existed. Mother appealed and Superior Court dismissed underlying case before State could file brief.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Maassen, J., held that:
(1) public interest exception to mootness doctrine applied, and
(2) standing master's order that children should be returned to parents was not effective until judicially reviewed.

Automotive United Trades Organization v. State
2015 WL 5076289
No. 89734–4
Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc
Aug. 27, 2015.

*Synopsis: Industry group brought action challenging agreements under which Indian tribes agreed to buy taxed fuel and State agreed to refund portion of fuel tax receipts to tribes. The Superior Court, Grays Harbor County, Gordon L. Godfrey, J., granted summary judgment in favor of state. Industry group appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, en banc, Gonz�lez, J., held that:
(1) fuel tax refund agreements between Indian tribes and State did not violate constitutional provision governing furl tax receipts, and
(2) agreements did not violate separation of powers provision of state constitution.

C'Hair v. District Court of Ninth Judicial District
2015 WL 5037011
No. S–14–0198
Supreme Court of Wyoming
Aug. 26, 2015.

*Synopsis: Motorist brought negligent operation and negligent entrustment action against driver and owner of automobile, who were enrolled members of Indian tribe, after driver struck motorist on state highway within reservation, and motorist brought similar action in the Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Court after driver and owner challenged jurisdiction of state court in their answers. The parties agreed to stay the state court action, and the Tribal Court dismissed motorist's complaint on statute of limitations grounds. The District Court, Fremont County, Norman E. Young, J., denied driver and owner's motion for summary judgment. Driver and owner filed petition for writ of review, which was granted.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Hill, J., held that:
(1) the District Court had subject matter jurisdiction over matter, and
(2) two-year limitations period from tribal law and order code did not apply.

In re A.C. v. Michael C.
2015 WL 4882520
D066943
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California
Filed August 17, 2015.

*Synopsis: Child dependency proceeding was commenced regarding Indian child. The Superior Court, San Diego County, No. EJ2866, Gary M. Bubis, J., terminated father's reunification services, and entered order terminating father's parental rights and selecting adoption as child's permanent plan. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, Huffman, J., held that:
(1) court's act in asking trial counsel to notify father of his appellate petitioning rights following 12-month review hearing, rather than doing so directly, did not prejudice father;
(2) evidence was sufficient to support an implied finding of detriment to child if returned to father's custody, even absent live expert testimony; and
(3) evidence was sufficient to support finding that "active reunification services" had been provided to father.

In re I.B. v. W.H.
2015 WL 4736545
B259021
Court of Appeal, Second District, Division 4, California
Filed August 11, 2015.

*Synopsis: County Department of Children and Family Services filed juvenile dependency petition. After petition was sustained at jurisdictional hearing, the Department provided notice of the action to certain Indian tribes pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). Following six-month review hearing, the Superior Court, Los Angeles County, No. CK76502, Timothy Saito, J., found that the ICWA did not apply, terminated reunification services, and later terminated parental rights. Mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, Willhite, J., held that:
(1) case worker was required to provide follow up notice to tribes after receiving additional information regarding relatives, and
(2) failure to provide follow up notice was not harmless error.

July

In re The Crow Water Compact
2015 WL 4607923
No. DA 14–0567
Supreme Court of Montana
Decided July 29, 2015.

*Synopsis: United States, Indian Tribe, and State submitted Crow Water Compact to Water Court. After entry and publication of preliminary decree containing the terms of the Compact and receipt of approximately 100 objections, and additional objections by tribal member allottees, the Water Court, Russ McElyea, P.J., dismissed allottees' objections and denied their request for a stay. Allottees appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Mike McGrath, C.J., held that:
(1) Water Court was not required to apply rule allowing dismissal of action for failure to state a claim for which relief could be granted;
(2) Water Court's review was limited to determining whether Compact was the product of fraud, collusion, or overreaching;
(3) Water Court acted within its discretionary power by denying motion by allottees to stay proceedings; and
(4) Water Court was not required to defer action on the basis of absence of list of current uses of the tribal water right.

In re I.R.
2015 WL 4529631
Docket No. CUM–14–476
Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
Decided: July 28, 2015.

*Synopsis: The Department of Health and Human Services initiated child protection proceedings with regard to mother's child. The District Court, Portland, Powers, J., entered judgment terminating mother's parental rights. Mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Judicial Court held that:
(1) the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply to child protection proceeding, and
(2) evidence was sufficient to support a finding of parental unfitness.

People v. Riley
2015 WL 4448081
E059103
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 2, California
Filed July 21, 2015.

*Synopsis: Defendants were convicted in the Superior Court, Riverside County, No. RIF10000395, Mac R. Fisher, J., of three counts of commercial bribery arising out of insurance premiums charged to Native American casino. Defendants appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, McKinster, J., held that:
(1) defendant who had left casino job and had become chief financial officer for tribal government was not an employee of casino, as specified in indictment, at time of two alleged acts of commercial bribery;
(2) evidence was sufficient to support conviction even if no specific gratuity could be tied to any specific instance of overcharging; and
(3) evidence was sufficient to support finding that defendants acted with the specific intent to harm casino.

In re the Adoption of T.A.W.
2015 WL 4093335
No. 47364–0–II
Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2
July 7, 2015.

*Synopsis: Indian mother and her husband petitioned to terminate non-Indian biological father's parental rights to Indian son and to allow husband to adopt son. The Superior Court, Pacific County, Douglas E. Goelz, J., granted petition. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Maxa, J., held that:
(1) father could raise the "active efforts" requirement of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) for the first time on appeal;
(2) termination provisions of ICWA applied to non-Indian father; and
(3) under Washington law, "active efforts" requirement applies to a parent who has had custody of an Indian child and has not expressly relinquished parental rights even if that parent at some point in time has abandoned the child.

June

State v. Steven B.
2015 WL 3904989
No. 34,122
Supreme Court of New Mexico
June 25, 2015.

*Synopsis: Juvenile and defendant, who were both enrolled members of the Navajo Nation, were charged with crimes committed on parcel of land that had been transferred by Act of Congress from United States Department of Interior for use by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). In case involving juvenile, he was charged with battery upon a school employee. The District Court, McKinley County, Grant L. Foutz, D.J., granted juvenile's motion to dismiss for want of subject matter jurisdiction. State appealed. The Court of Appeals, Wechsler, J., 306 P.3d 509, affirmed. In case involving defendant, he was charged with 11 counts of first-degree criminal sexual penetration of a minor under the age of 13, and 14 counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor with respect to three separate minors. The District Court, McKinley County, Grant L. Foutz, D.J., dismissed. State appealed. The Court of Appeals, 2013 WL 4516457, affirmed. State sought review and appeals were consolidated.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Maes, J., held that transfer set land aside for use by BIA, rather than for use as Indian land, overruling State v. Dick, 981 P.2d 796.

Trent v. Jackson
129 A.D.3d 1062
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York
June 24, 2015.

*Synopsis: Voting members of Indian Tribe brought action against members of Tribe council, alleging breach of fiduciary duty, seeking permanent injunction preventing council from transferring, utilizing, or squandering funds held in Tribe's accounts. The Supreme Court, Suffolk County, Molia, J., denied motion, brought by persons who were not voting members of Tribe, to intervene in action as plaintiffs. Proposed intervenors appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that proposed intervenors lacked real and substantial interest in outcome of action, and failed to show that they had any interest that they did have would not be adequately represented by voting members of Tribe.

In re Interest of Jassenia H.
291 Neb. 107
No. S–14–1076
Supreme Court of Nebraska
Filed June 12, 2015.

*Synopsis: After juvenile court granted state agency temporary custody of child and ordered that she be removed from mother's care, State filed a petition for adjudication alleging that child lacked proper parental care and/or that child was in a situation dangerous to life or limb or injurious to her health or morals. In a hearing on the applicability of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), the Separate Juvenile Court, Lancaster County, Toni G. Thorson, J., determined that the ICWA applied to the adjudication proceeding. Child's guardian ad litem (GAL) appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Cassel, J., held that juvenile court's determination that the ICWA and the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act (NICWA) were applicable to adjudication proceedings did not a affect a substantial right.

In re K.J.B.
2015 WL 3643483
No. 32490–7–III
Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3
June 11, 2015.

*Synopsis: In child protection proceeding, the Yakima Superior Court, David A. Elofson, J., terminated father's parental rights. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeals, Lawrence-Berrey, J., held that:
(1) state satisfied notice requirements of Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) by notifying Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), but not "Blackfoot" tribe, of parental rights termination proceeding after father claimed Indian tribal ancestry on behalf of his child;
(2) three-month delay in Department of Social and Health Sciences' referral of father to individual counseling, couple's counseling, and a mental health assessment, following such recommendation from parent educator, did not make referrals untimely, in violation of statute governing steps to be taken prior to terminating parental rights;
(3) counseling and mental health assessment were not necessary services for correcting father's identified parenting deficiency of substance abuse and, thus, Department did not fail to tailor services to father's needs, prior to terminating his parental rights, by not offering those services concurrently with his substance abuse treatment;
(4) substantial evidence supported finding that offer of counseling services or a mental health assessment any earlier in dependency proceeding would have been futile because of father's continued drug use, such that those services were not required prior to terminating father's parental rights; and
(5) trial court's error in failing to weigh statutory considerations applicable to incarcerated parents when deciding to terminate incarcerated father's parental rights was harmless.

In re Payne/Pumphrey/Fortson, Minors
2015 WL 3631829
No. 324813
Court of Appeals of Michigan
June 11, 2015.

*Synopsis: Termination of parental rights action was brought. The Circuit Court, Calhoun County, Stephen B. Miller, J., initially terminated mother's parental rights to Indian children, and she appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. On remand, the trial court affirmed its original order terminating mother's parental rights, and she appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Gadola, J., held that:
1) trial court erred when it determined that returning Indian children to mother's care would result in serious damage to children beyond a reasonable doubt, and
2) trial court did not clearly err by finding that termination of mother's parental rights was in children's best interests.
Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

In re Interest of Nery V. v. Mario V., Sr. and Rosebud Sioux Tribe
22 Neb.App. 959
No. A–14–654
Court of Appeals of Nebraska
Filed June 9, 2015

*Background:Indian tribe, which had intervened in child dependency action, filed motion to change placement of children, who currently resided with non-Indian couple. The County Court, Hall County, Philip M. Martin, Jr., J., overruled the motion, and tribe appealed.

*Holdings:The Court of Appeals, Inbody, J., held that:
(1) good cause existed to deviate from the statutory placement preferences of the Indian Child Welfare Act and Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Act and place children with non-Indian couple, and
(2) Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) made required active efforts to prevent the breakup of the Native American family.

May

Unkechaug Indian Nation v. Smokes for less Smoke Shop
2015 WL 3444874
No. 01574/2015
Supreme Court, Suffolk County, New York
May 28, 2015.

*Background: Indian tribe brought action for damages against operator of smoke shop on tribal lands, alleging that shop was unlicensed and was selling cigarettes below the minimum price per carton set by tribal council. Tribe filed motion for preliminary injunction, and operator filed cross-motion to dismiss.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Suffolk County, William B. Rebolini, J., held that:
(1) tribe failed to show likelihood of ultimate success on the merits, and
(2) trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

Cosentino v. Fuller
2015 WL 3413542
G050923
Fourth District, Division 3, California.
May 28, 2015.

*Synopsis: Former table games dealer at Indian tribal casino brought action against five members of the tribe's gaming commission for intentional and negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, intentional interference with the right to pursue a lawful occupation, a civil rights violation under state law, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, alleging the members revoked his gaming license in retaliation for his work as confidential informant for the California Department of Justice. The Superior Court, Riverside County, No. MCC1300396, Richard J. Oberholzer, J., granted members' motion to quash service of summons and dismiss the complaint. Dealer appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, Aronson, Acting P.J., held that:
(1) tribal sovereign immunity did not support members' motion to quash service of process, and
(2) members could not raise affirmative defense by motion to quash service of process.

In re Doe
2015 WL 3407909
No. 42675.
Supreme Court of Idaho
May 28, 2015.

*Synopsis: Mother and stepfather filed a petition seeking to terminate father's parental rights to Indian child and allow stepfather to adopt child. The District Court of the Sixth Judicial District, Bannock County, David R. Kress, Magistrate Judge, terminated father's parental rights. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Horton, J., held that:
(1) the doctrine of judicial estoppel did not preclude father from raising a jurisdictional challenge alleging Indian tribe had exclusive jurisdiction over proceeding seeking to terminate father's parental rights;
(2) evidence supported finding that state courts had concurrent jurisdiction with Indian tribes over termination of parental rights proceeding; and
(3) Indian tribe's jurisdiction to involuntarily terminate Indian father's parental rights and order adoption of child was not exclusive.
Affirmed.

In re P.R.
236 Cal.App.4th 936
C077293
Court of Appeal, Third Dist. California
May 12, 2015.

*Synopsis: County health and human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Shasta County, No. 13JVSQ2966501, Molly A. Bigelow, J., sustained jurisdictional allegations, terminated reunification services, terminated parental rights, selected a permanent plan of adoption, and found that the child was not placed within Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) preferences because there were no available homes within the preferences. Mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Appeal, Duarte, J., held that mother lacked standing to challenge dependency court's finding of good cause to deviate from ICWA in terminating parental rights.
Appeal dismissed.

Loya v. Gutierrez
350 P.3d 1155
No. 34,447
Supreme Court of New Mexico
May 11, 2015.

*Synopsis: Arrestee brought 1983 action against tribal police officer, who was commissioned as deputy county sheriff and who prosecuted arrestee in state court for state traffic offense committed on tribal land, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and use of excessive force. Officer brought third-party action against county, seeking declaratory judgment that county was required to defend and indemnify officer. The District Court, Santa Fe County, Barbara J. Vigil, D.J., granted summary judgment for county. Officer appealed. The Court of Appeals, 319 P.3d 656, affirmed. Officer petitioned for certiorari.

*Holdings: After grant of certiorari, the Supreme Court, Bosson, J., held that:
(1) mere fact that officer was employed as a tribal police officer did not per se exclude officer from the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (NMTCA) definition of "public employee" for whom a governmental entity could be required to provide a defense from certain actions;
(2) officer was a person acting on behalf of government or in service of governmental entity in official capacity when he made arrest at issue, as would support finding that officer was a "public employee" who was entitled to defense and indemnification by county;
(3) showing waiver of tort liability by a governmental entity is not required before the entity is obligated by NMTCA to provide its employee with a defense in a 1983 action against the employee, when there are no tort claims asserted; and
(4) officer was not acting as independent contractor when he made arrest at issue, as could trigger exclusion from NMTCA definition of public employees entitled to defense and indemnification.

J.N.T. v. Cullman County Dept. of Human Resources
181 So.3d 353
No. 15–769
Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama
May 1, 2015.

*Synopsis: Department of Human Resources (DHR) filed petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of mother and father. The Cullman Juvenile Court, No. JU–13–46.03, Wells Rutland Turner, J., terminated parents' parental rights, and mother appealed.

*Holdings: The Court of Civil Appeals, Thompson, P.J., held that juvenile court failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) when it conducted termination of parental rights hearing less than 10 days after the tribe received notice of termination action.
Reversed and remanded.

Payton S. v. State of Alaska, Department of Health and Social Services
2015 WL 1958674
Nos. S–15581, S–15585
Supreme Court of Alaska
May 1, 2015.

*Synopsis: The Office of Children's Services (OCS) sought to terminate parental rights to Indian children. The Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Bethel, Dwayne W. McConnell, J., terminated parental rights. Parents appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Maassen, J., held that:
(1) even though the trial court erred by entering an adjudication and disposition order when the parents lacked proper notice of the hearing, the error did not violate parents' due process rights as it did not affect the outcome of the case;
(2) evidence supported finding that children were children in need of aid (CINA);
(3) evidence supported finding that parents had failed to remedy the conduct that placed the children at substantial risk of harm;
(4) evidence supported finding that Indian children were likely to suffer serious emotional or physical harm if returned to their parents' custody; and
(5) the trial court's determination that termination of mother and father's parental rights was in the best interests of their Indian children was not clearly erroneous.

April

Eagleman v. Diocese of Rapid City
2015 WL 1736985
Nos. 26939, 26940, 26941, 26942, 26943, 26944
Supreme Court of South Dakota
Decided April 15, 2015.

*Synopsis: Former students of a parochial school, who alleged that they were sexually abused in the 1950s through the early 1970s by priests, brothers, nuns, and others, brought action against religious societies that operated the school for negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. The Circuit Court, Pennington County, Rodney J. Steele, retired judge, entered summary judgment in favor of the societies. Former students appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Konenkamp, Retired Justice, held that:
(1) bill amending statute by establishing age limit for actions against non-perpetrators of the actual act of sexual abuse was not a bill of attainder;
(2) there was no evidence that societies engaged in intentional criminal conduct against former students;
(3) there was no evidence that societies had, at or near the time of the alleged events, information that they fraudulently concealed;
(4) material fact issue as to whether societies fraudulently concealed their knowledge of brother's molestations precluded summary judgment;
(5) former male student failed to meet his burden to show that he exercised due diligence in attempting to discover his cause of action; and
(6) genuine issue of material fact as to whether student exercised due diligence to discover her causes of action against societies precluded summary judgment.

Elk Mountain Ski Resort, Inc. v. Workers Compensation Appeal Board
2015 WL 1526644
No. 1017 C.D.2014
Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania
Decided April 7, 2015.

*Synopsis: Employer sought judicial review of decision of Workers' Compensation Appeal Board affirming decision of Workers' Compensation Judge granting claimant's fatal claim petition, which alleged that she was entitled to death benefits as the surviving common-law wife of worker.

*Holdings: The Commonwealth Court, No. 1017 C.D.2014, Bonnie Brigance Leadbetter, J., held that:
1) claimant's interest was not adverse to interest of worker's estate and thus her testimony regarding verba in praesenti to establish common-law marriage was not proscribed by Dead Man's Act;
2) claimant entered into a common-law marriage with worker prior to January 1, 2005 and thus was entitled to benefits; and
3) claimant constantly cohabitated with worker and had a reputation of marriage with him, as required to establish common-law marriage in the event claimant could not so through evidence of verba in praesenti.
Affirmed.

March

Phillip v. State
347 P.3d 128
Nos. A–11580, A–11620, A–11581, A–11659, A–11582, A–11650, A–11583, A–11679, A–11584, A–11669, A–11585, A–11629, A–11586, A–11640, A–11588, A–11619, A–11594, A–11670, A–11595, A–11649, A–11596, A–11630, A–11604, A–11660, A–11605, A–11639
Court of Appeals of Alaska
March 27, 2015.

*Synopsis: Defendants, all Yup'ik fishermen, were convicted in bench trials in the District Court, Fourth Judicial District, Bethel, Bruce G. Ward, J., of violating emergency orders from the Department of Fish and Game restricting fishing for king salmon on river by using prohibited gillnets. Defendants appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals, Allard, J., held that fishing for king salmon on river using prohibited gillnets was not protected by the free exercise clause of the State Constitution.

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida v. Lewis
2015 WL 1313305
No. 3D14-277.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District.
March 25, 2015.

*Synopsis: Miccosukee Tribe of Indians brought action against Tribe's lawyers, asserting malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and other claims. The Circuit Court, Miami-Dade County, John W. Thornton, Jr., J., entered order granting summary judgment in favor of lawyers, and, in the alternative, granted lawyers' motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction. Tribe appealed.

*Holdings: The District Court of Appeal, Logue, J., held that:
1) action was not an intra-tribal dispute over which state courts would lack jurisdiction, and
2) trial court properly entered order granting lawyers' motion for summary judgment.
Affirmed as to order granting summary judgment; vacated as to dismissal for lack of jurisdiction.

Lavallie v. Lavallie
861 N.W.2d 164
No. 20140306
Supreme Court of North Dakota
March 24, 2015.

*Synopsis: After mother assigned her right to recover benefits paid by state for Indian child, the state sought to impose future child support obligation on father, and to recover a judgment for support expended to mother on behalf of child. The District Court, Rolette County, Michael G. Sturdevant, J., denied purported father's motion to dismiss child support procurement proceeding, and he appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, VandeWalle, C.J., held that District Court had concurrent jurisdiction with tribal court to establish father's child support obligation with regard to Indian child.

In re Spears
2015 WL 1258102
Docket No. 320584.
Court of Appeals of Michigan
March 19, 2015.

*Synopsis: Foster parents of Indian children sought to adopt children following termination of parents' parental rights. Indian tribe filed a motion to transfer the proceedings to its tribal court. The Circuit Court, Leelanau County, Larry J. Nelson, J., denied tribe's motion to transfer proceedings to tribal court, and tribe appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeals held that:
1) statute, providing that court may determine that good cause not to transfer child custody case to tribal court exists if presenting evidence in tribal court would cause undue hardship, does not permit the circuit court to consider either the timeliness of the request or its possible effect on the child's best interests in determining whether there exists good cause not to transfer a case to tribal court, and
2) circuit court committed reversible error when it based its decision not to transfer Indian child custody case to tribal court on basis of an undue hardship to the minors without determining whether the minors were required to present evidence in the tribal court.
Reversed and remanded.

State of Washington v. Shale
2015 WL 1299359
No. 90906-7.
Supreme Court of Washington
March 19, 2015.

*Synopsis: Defendant was convicted in the Superior Court, Jefferson County, Keith C. Harper, J., of failure to register with the county sheriff as a sex offender. Defendant appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Gonzalez, J., held that state had jurisdiction to prosecute defendant.

Elk v. McBride
344 P.3d 818
No. S–15240
Supreme Court of Alaska
March 13, 2015.

*Synopsis: Mother of child born out of wedlock brought custody action. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Homer, Charles T. Huguelet, J., awarded primary physical and sole legal custody to mother, ordered unsupervised visitation between Indian father and child in Alaska, but prohibited visitation on the reservation until child turned eight. Father appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Stowers, J., held that:
(1) the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion in denying father's motion to amend the pleadings;
(2) the Superior Court was precluded from weighing father's litigation conduct in tribal court against him, and to make a visitation decision with regard to child born out of wedlock on that basis;
(3) the Superior Court did not abuse its discretion when it awarded sole legal custody to mother, and in ordering mother to begin educating the child about her Indian heritage;
(4) the Superior Court's failure to explain why father should bear the full burden of visitation costs, or consider or conduct an analysis regarding the parties' finances in the context of allocating visitation expenses, constituted an abuse of discretion, and necessitated remand for further consideration; and
(5) the Superior Court's imposition of a tiered visitation plan did not constitute an abuse of discretion.

Estate of Ducheneaux v. Ducheneaux
2015 WL 1086789
No. 27086.
Supreme Court of South Dakota
March 11, 2015.

*Synopsis: Personal representative of father's estate brought action against son and daughter to recover real estate that father transferred to son. The Circuit Court, Tripp County, John L. Brown, J., dismissed and entered judgment. Estate appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Gilbertson, C.J., held that circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the real property.

Narragansett Indian Tribe v. State of Rhode Island
2015 WL 917921
No. 2012-322-Appeal.
Supreme Court of Rhode Island
March 4, 2015.

*Synopsis: Narragansett Indian Tribe brought declaratory judgment action with respect to constitutionality of legislation authorizing expansion of gambling at state-operated casinos. The Superior Court, Washington County, Melanie Wilk Thunberg, Associate Justice, granted summary judgment in favor of State and intervenor casinos. Tribe appealed and State cross-appealed. The Court of Appeals, 81 A.3d 1106, affirmed. Tribe appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Indeglia, J., held that legislation that authorized expansion of state-operated casinos did not violate provision of state constitution governing lotteries.

February

In re KMN
2015 WL 806982
Docket Nos. 322329, 322883.
Court of Appeals of Michigan
February 26, 2015.

*Synopsis: County human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Ventura County, Nos. J068715 & J069080, Bruce A. Young, J., granted petition and terminated parental rights. Parents appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeal, Perren, J., held that noncompliance with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required reversal. Reversed and remanded.

In re H.G.
2015 WL 765139
2d Juv. No. B255712
Court of Appeal, Scond District, Division 6, California.
Filed February 24, 2015.

*Synopsis: County human services agency filed dependency petition. The Superior Court, Ventura County, Nos. J068715 & J069080, Bruce A. Young, J., granted petition and terminated parental rights. Parents appealed.

*Holding: The Court of Appeal, Perren, J., held that noncompliance with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required reversal.
Reversed and remanded.

Sylvia L. v. State of Alaska
343 P.3d 425
No. S-15586
Supreme Court of Alaska
Feb. 20, 2015.

*Synopsis: Office of Children's Services (OCS) petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights with regard to one Indian and two non-Indian children. Following a bench trial, the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Patrick J. McKay, J., terminated mother's parental rights with regard to the three children, and she appealed.

*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Maassen, J., held that:
(1) any error in allowing the OCS's tardy amendment of its petition to terminate mother's parental rights with regard to one Indian and two non Indian children to include allegations of mother's mental illness, was harmless;
(2) the OCS made reasonable efforts to reunify mother with two of her non-Indian children;
(3) the OCS made active, but unsuccessful, efforts to provide remedial services and rehabilitative programs designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family;
(4) the Superior Court's decision to allow the testimony of the OCS's expert on substance abuse and mental health did not constitute an abuse of discretion; and
(5) the OCS's Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)-qualified expert's testimony
was sufficiently grounded in the facts and issues of the case to be admissible.

New Jersey Div. of Child Protection and Permanency v. K.T.D.
2015 WL 720564
Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
Submitted Nov. 19, 2014. Decided Feb. 20, 2015.

*Synopsis: State Division of Child Protection and Permanency petitioned to terminate mother's parental rights to child with Native American ancestors. The Superior Court, Chancery Division, Family Part, Camden County, terminated parental rights. Mother appealed.

*Holding: The Superior Court, Appellate Division, O'Connor, J., held that trial court was required to notify Indian tribes and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) of guardianship proceeding and right to intervene.

In re ARW
2015 WL 691345
No. S-14-0167.
Supreme Court of Wyoming.
Feb. 19, 2015.

*Synopsis: Prospective adoptive parents filed a petition to terminate father's parental rights. The District Court of Natrona County, Daniel L. Forgey, J., terminated parental rights. Father appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Burke, C.J., held that:
(1) evidence supported determination that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) did not apply to termination of parental rights proceeding, and
(2) evidence supported finding that father was not fit to have custody and control of child, in support of order terminating father's parental rights.
Affirmed.

In re H.T.
2015 WL 557076
No. DA 14-0076.
Supreme Court of Montana.
Submitted on Briefs Dec. 24, 2014. Decided Feb. 10, 2015.

*Synopsis: Department of Public Health and Human Services filed petition to terminate mother's parental right to Indian child after emergency foster care placement. The Eighth Judicial District Court, Cascade County, Julie Macek, J., terminated parental rights. Mother appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Beth Baker, J., held that:
(1) mother's stipulation to treatment plan and temporary legal custody was not a stipulation to adjudication of child as a youth in need of care;
(2) trial court's erroneous failure to hold adjudicatory hearing was harmless;
(3) notice to inform tribe of hearing to adjudicate child as youth in need of care complied with Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA);
(4) notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to notify tribe of proceedings to terminate parental rights complied with ICWA;
(5) mother's stipulation to temporary legal custody rendered unnecessary the presentation of evidence or factual findings under ICWA; and
(6) trial court incorrectly applied standard of "clear and convincing evidence" for termination of rights.
Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

January

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. v. Utah State Tax Commission
2015 WL 404567
No. 20130192.
Supreme Court of Utah, January 2015 Term.
Jan. 30, 2015.

*Synopsis: Owners of oil and gas interests appealed decision of Tax Commission disallowing severance tax deductions they made for tax-exempt federal, state, and Indian tribe royalty interests.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Durrant, C.J., held that severance tax statute categorically excludes any federal, state, and Indian tribe interests from the net taxable value of an oil or gas interest for purposes of calculating the applicable tax rate.
Reversed and remanded.

In re Doe
342 p3d. 632
No. 42529.
Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise, January 2015 Term.
Jan. 23, 2015.

*Synopsis: Mother of Native American child appealed from order of the District Court, Third Judicial District, Payette County, Brian D. Lee, Magistrate Judge, terminating mother's parental rights.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, J. Jones, J., held that substantial and competent evidence supported finding that state made active efforts to prevent the breakup of the family, as required before termination of mother's parental rights.
Affirmed.

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of South Florida v. Bermudez
2015 WL 249274
No. 3D13-2153.
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District,
Jan. 21, 2015.

*Synopsis: Husband of wife killed in automobile accident by tribal member moved to add tribe as a defendant following uncollectible judgments against tribal members, and the Circuit Court granted motion and entered judgment against tribe in the amount of $4.1 million. The District Court of Appeal, 145 So.3d 157, reversed and remanded. Indian tribe moved to tax appellate costs, including $71,961.59 court registry fee. The Circuit Court, Miami–Dade County, Ronald Dresnick, J., granted motion. Husband appealed.

*Holding: The District Court of Appeal, Logue, J., held that fee deposited with clerk of court to secure a stay of collection efforts on appeal of judgment qualified as “other costs permitted by law” under appellate rule governing costs and attorneys' fees, and thus fee was included in taxable costs for prevailing party on appeal.

Kitras v. Town of Aquinnah
87 Mass.App.Ct. 10, 22 N.E.3d 981
No. 12-P-260.
Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk. January 2015 Term.
Argued Jan. 18, 2013. Decided Jan. 14, 2015.

*Synopsis: Owners of landlocked lots brought action for easement by necessity against neighbors, including United States, which held number of neighboring lots in trust for Native American tribe, claiming easements by necessity. After United States was dismissed on sovereign immunity grounds, the Land Court Department, Suffolk County, Mark V. Green, J., granted neighbors' motion to dismiss, and the court, Leon J. Lombardi, J., denied motion to amend to join tribe directly as a party and entered partial judgment. On appeal, the Appeals Court, Brown, J., 833 N.E.2d 157. reversed and remanded. On remand, the Land Court Department, Charles W. Trombly, Jr., J., issued decision, 2010 WL 3192458, entered judgment, 2010 WL 3194659, and entered amended judgment, 2011 WL 1235155. Appeal was taken.

*Holding: The Appeals Court, Berry, J., held that owners of landlocked lots had easements by necessity.
Reversed and remanded.

Ebert v. Bruce L.
340 P.3d 1048
Nos. S-15130, S-15219.
Supreme Court of Alaska.
Dec. 26, 2014. Rehearing Denied Jan. 22, 2015.

*Synopsis: Prospective parents petitioned to adopt Indian child over objection of biological father. The Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Eric Smith, J., denied petition. Prospective parents appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Bolger, J., held that:
(1) no serious conflict existed between state statute governing adoption and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), such that ICWA would preempt statute;
(2) trial court did not clearly err in finding that father's failure to support child was justifiable, such that his consent to adoption was still required; and
(3) interim child visitation order entered in related custody proceeding was not final judgment from which appeal could be taken.
Affirmed.

Estate of C. Peters
124 A.D.3d 1266
Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York
January 2, 2015.

*Synopsis: Daughter of testator brought action seeking to prohibit Surrogate's Court from exercising jurisdiction over any real property situated within Native American reservation territory that was bequeathed to her in testator's will. The Surrogate's Court, Genesee County, Robert C. Noonan, S., denied motion by testator's mother, who challenged probate of testator's will, to disqualify attorney of testator's daughter. Mother appealed.

*Holding: The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that testator's mother waived her objection to opposing counsel's representation of testator's daughter.

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