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The Rise of Tribes and the Fall of Federal Indian Law
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Senate approves Pueblo criminal jurisdiction bill
Wednesday, July 27, 2005

By unanimous consent, the Senate on Tuesday approved a bill to clarify tribal, state and federal criminal jurisdiction on Pueblo lands.

S.279 addresses a void in jurisdiction that has surfaced in recent years. It was unclear who had the authority to prosecute crimes that occurred on privately-owned portions of Pueblo land grants.

Rather than let the courts decide and potentially diminish the size of Pueblo land holdings, New Mexico Sens. Pete Domenici (R) and Jeff Bingaman (D) introduced the bill. It confirms that tribes and the federal government have jurisdiction over crimes involving members of federally recognized tribes. Crime involving non-Indians will be handled by the state unless the crime is covered by federal statutes.

"We must get rid of areas that amount to an illicit free-for-all for criminals. It is not right, particularly for those families whose loved ones have been victimized in these areas where prosecution is now virtually nonexistent," said Domenici, who sits on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. "Iím very pleased with the Senate action, and I hope we can see expedient work in the House to move this legislation forward."

"This bill clarifies ambiguity in the law that has prevented justice from being served in small pockets of our state," Bingaman added. "Iím glad we have the Senateís endorsement. I hope we can get this bill to the president in the coming weeks."

The House version of the bill is still pending.

Get the Bill:
Pueblo Jurisdiction Act (S.279)

Related Stories:
New Mexico Supreme Court takes on jurisdiction (02/15)
Bill clarifies criminal jurisdiction on Pueblo land (10/04)
U.S. attorney calls for jurisdiction fix in N.M. (04/19)

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