indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Appeals court agrees to rehear sovereignty case
Monday, July 11, 2005


STATE RAID: Troopers pin tribal members on the ground during raid of the Narragansett Reservation on July 14, 2003.
Nearly two years after the state of Rhode Island conducted a violent raid of the Narragansett Reservation, a federal appeals court on Friday agreed to rehear a critical part of the case.

In a short decision, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals said an en banc panel of six judges will determine how far state jurisdiction goes on the tribe's lands. The rehearing will answer "questions of whether, to what extent, and in what manner" the state can enforce its civil and criminal laws with respect to the tribe's operation of a smoke shop, the order stated.

The court then vacated all parts of a three-judge panel's May 12 ruling that dealt with state enforcement. A rehearing will be held on December 6 at the federal courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, according to the order.

The move appears to leave undisturbed the earlier holding that the state violated the tribe's sovereignty by storming the reservation on July 14, 2003. In an attempt to shut down the smoke shop, armed troopers arrested several tribal members, including Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, and seized tribal property.

"I am pleased that the First Circuit has agreed to rehear certain elements of the smoke shop case, but more importantly, that they reasserted the tribe's sovereign rights," Thomas said in a statement.

But the much larger question remains open. The state contends that it has a right to enforce its laws on the tribal government, a theory the three-judge panel had refused to endorse.

"Both the State of Rhode Island and the Narragansett Indian Tribe seek more clarity than the earlier ruling provided," said attorney general Patrick Lynch. "The people of Rhode Island want more clarity, too."

Regardless of the outcome, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is likely. Two similar cases have been heard by the high court but no clear resolution has emerged.

In the first case, Nevada v. Hicks, state game officers raided the home of a tribal member who was accused of violating state law for activity that occurred off the reservation. The 9th Circuit, much like the 1st Circuit, said the officers could be held liable in court for infringing on tribal sovereignty.

That holding was reversed on appeal by the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision. "State sovereignty does not end at a reservationís border," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.

But the ruling failed to fully resolve the question of state jurisdiction. When presented with a second opportunity in Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe, the justices again passed on the issue.

In that case, county law enforcement raided the casino owned and operated by the Bishop Paiute Tribe of California. The officers used bolt-cutters to break into a secure area and seized tribal records as part of an investigation for activity that occurred off the reservation.

Again, the 9th Circuit ruled that the state violated tribal sovereignty. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court said the tribe couldn't sue the county in court.

The Inyo County case bears another potentially important similarity to the Narragansett case. Federal law granted the states of California and Rhode Island civil and criminal jurisdiction on the reservation. Typically, this has meant individual tribal members who violate state law can be tried in state courts.

Whether that means states can enforce their laws on the tribal government itself appears to be up in the air. "This was an easy way for the court to punt the main issue of the case," Riyaz Kanji, a former Supreme Court law clerk who helped two inter-tribal organizations draft an amicus brief in the Inyo County case, said at the time of the May 19, 2003, ruling.

The 1st Circuit has not dealt directly with the issue either. But state courts in Maine and Massachusetts have ruled that tribal governments can be sued for violating state laws. Just last week, the Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe of Massachusetts agreed not to take its case to the Supreme Court.

Separately, the Narragansett Tribe faces a challenge from the state overs its ability to expand its land base. A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit ruled that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can acquire trust lands for the tribe. The state has asked for a rehearing.

En Banc Order:
Narragansett Tribe v. Rhode Island (June 8, 2005)

Smoke Shop Ruling:
Narragansett Tribe v. Rhode Island (May 12, 2005)

Inyo County Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Concurrence [Stevens]

Nevada v. Hicks Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion | Concurrence (Souter) | Concurrence (Ginsburg) | Concurrence (O'Connor) | Concurrence (Stevens)

More on the Smoke Shop Raid:
Video | Text: Gov. Carcieri's July 14 Press Conference | Text: Gov. Carcieri's July 15 Statement | Text: Excerpts of Narragansett Chief Sachem July 14 Press Conference

Relevant Laws:
Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act (US Code)

Relevant Links:
Narragansett Tribe - http://www.narragansett-tribe.org
Smoke Shop Showdown - http://www.projo.com/extra/2003/smokeshop

Related Stories:
Massachusetts tribe drops sovereignty case (7/11)
New trial sought in state police raid of reservation (04/14)
Police stand behind trooper in raid of reservation (03/31)
Jury awards damages in state raid of reservation (3/29)
Lawsuit over state raid of reservation goes to jury (3/25)
State troopers defend actions in reservation raid (3/24)
State troopers on trial over raid of reservation (3/22)
Narragansett Tribe marks one year after state raid (07/15)
Narragansett Tribe to mark anniversary of raid (7/13)
State's raid on tribal land sparks strong reactions (07/16)
R.I. raids Narragansett tribal smoke shop (7/15)
Narragansett Tribe wants to head to federal court (7/15)
Analysis: Carcieri 'paternalistic' on Indians (7/15)
Column: Tribal smokeshop raid something out of 1963 (7/15)
Narragansett chief arrested in 'violent' raid (7/14)
R.I. governor promises to help Narragansett Tribe (06/04)
R.I. tribe upset over reservation checkpoint bill (05/30)
R.I. bill sets up reservation checkpoints (5/28)
R.I. tribe delays opening of tobacco shop (5/23)
Tribal fears in Supreme Court case go unrealized (5/20)
Supreme Court rules in Inyo County case (5/19)
Supreme Court bars state officials from tribal suit (6/26)
O'Connor defends tribes amidst squabbling (6/26)

Copyright © 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Agency weighs uranium mine near sacred site (9/30)
Jim Abourezk: South Dakota tribes can put Rick Weiland in office (9/30)
Cherokee chief participated in live pigeon shoot for Sen. Inhofe (9/30)
Navajo vice president returns home after near fatal spider bite (9/30)
North Dakota tribe sees big problems as energy industry grows (9/30)
Andre Cramblit: Another year brings challenges for our people (9/30)
Jack Duran: State's 'shocking' attack on Big Lagoon Rancheria (9/30)
Navajo Nation Council to select a new leader after resignation (9/30)
Editorial: Long delayed trust fund settlement for Navajo Nation (9/30)
Keepseagle plaintiffs oppose use of $380M to create foundation (9/30)
Opinion: Working with New Mexico tribes to protect sacred sites (9/30)
Pueblo man chosen as chair of VA minority advisory committee (9/30)
Woman sues over fall at Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe business (9/30)
Seminole Tribe makes another attempt to join banking business (9/30)
Mohegan Tribe purchases more wood pellet production facilities (9/30)
Ponca Tribe takes down old headquarters and readies new home (9/30)
Native Mob gang leader sentenced to 43 years in federal prison (9/30)
Three indicted for murder of man from Northern Arapaho Tribe (9/30)
Rivals funded DC trips to oppose Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/30)
American Gaming Association includes tribes in economic report (9/30)
Editorial: Vote yes to support North Fork Rancheria gaming deal (9/30)
Editorial: Florida shouldn't take a gamble with casino expansion (9/30)
Tim Giago: All Indian people ask is for America to honor treaties (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tribes take on IRS and win battle over taxation (9/29)
Mark Trahant: Indian vote could bring a surprise in South Dakota (9/29)
Tribal General Welfare Exclusion Act signed into law by Obama (9/29)
Obama signs law for settlement with Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe (9/29)
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: Transforming the spirit of suicide (9/29)
Migizi Pensoneau: Behind the scenes at a Washington NFL game (9/29)
Donna Ennis: Ancestor starting asking about trust fund in 1900s (9/29)
Steven Newcomb: Indigenous conference yields power to states (9/29)
Kyle Mays: Rejecting narrowminded views of indigenous studies (9/29)
Brian Pierson: Tribal preference ruling strengthens sovereignty (9/29)
Thousands missing out on share of Cobell settlement payments (9/29)
Navajo presidential candidate in doubt over fluency in language (9/29)
Oneida Nation repeats history with women in top leadership jobs (9/29)
Al Jazeera: Tribes working together to restore bison to their land (9/29)
Indian Time: Oklahoma Indian museum expected to be big draw (9/29)
Column: Washington team should be worried about FCC petition (9/29)
Opinion: NMAI exhibit finally puts federal-tribal dealings to light (9/29)
Gun Lake Tribe hails new law that protects casino from litigation (9/29)
Former mayor remains hopeful on Los Coyotes Band casino bid (9/29)
Chumash Tribe awards $112M contract as part of casino project (9/29)
Documents show Seminole Tribe was close to new gaming deal (9/29)
Column: Taking a gamble in Louisiana - What's legal and illegal? (9/29)
Native Sun News: Tex Hall ousted in North Dakota tribal primary (9/26)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.