indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
California court rejects Pechanga enrollment case
Tuesday, August 9, 2005

More than 130 former members of a wealthy California tribe cannot use the state court system to challenge their removal, a panel of judges ruled on Monday.

In the first of two decisions on the controversy, the 4th District State Court of Appeal acknowledged the state's broad civil and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country. Congress granted California that authority under Public Law 280.

But the law only applies to "private" disputes involving individual tribal members, the 13-page decision stated. Tribal membership, on the other hand, "goes to the heart of tribal sovereignty" and isn't covered, the court said in a dispute involving the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians.

"Here, plaintiffs are effectively asking this court to interfere with the band's determination of 'Who is a Pechanga?' and that decision would unavoidably have substantial and continuing effects on the band's self-governance," Judge Betty Ann Richli of the 4th District Court of Appeal wrote for the majority. "Congress cannot have had such an intent in enacting Public Law 280."

The ruling represents a victory for the Pechanga Band, the owners of a highly successful casino in southern California. The tribe successfully argued that its membership policy can't be challenged in state courts.

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, believe tribal officials who make enrollment decisions should be held accountable. They contend that the tribe, which distributes per capita payments from the casino to its members, has become too greedy.

It's a common charge in California, where tribal casinos bring in an estimated $5.3 billion a year. According to tribal activists, more than 1,000 Indians in the state have been taken off the tribal rolls or are being threatened with removal.

Millions are at stake in the battle. In a second lawsuit, the ousted Pechangas are asking for at least $38 million in damages, money they say they are owed because they were wrongly denied a monthly $15,000 per capita payment.

Yesterday's ruling could have an effect on the case. Although enrollment disputes have made it to the state court system, the Pechanga lawsuits are based on a novel interpretation of Public Law 280.

Rather than bringing the cases against the Pechanga Band itself, the plaintiffs sued individual tribal members deemed responsible for enrollment decisions. The strategy was aimed at avoiding a dismissal based on the tribe's sovereign immunity.

The 4th District judges didn't buy the argument, holding that the suit was indeed a direct challenge to the tribe's sovereignty. If the enrollment decision violated tribal law, it is up to the Pechanga Band to make that determination, the court said.

"In short, we are persuaded that Congress did not intend that the courts of this state should have the power to intervene -- or interfere -- in purely tribal matters," Rachli wrote.

The judges acknowledged that the Pechanga Band lacks a court system that could handle such disputes. But the omission is an "inevitable consequence" of the tribe's sovereignty and only Congress can do something about it, the court concluded.

"Whether the potential for corruption in the system created by the influx of gambling wealth to some tribes would justify a change is not for us to decide," the court said. "If plaintiffs are unable to persuade the tribal council of the merits of their claims, so be it. The courts of this state have no power to intervene."

Congress passed Public Law 280 in 1953 during the height of the termination era. The goal was to rid the federal government of its responsibilities in Indian Country.

The law has been the subject of considerable dispute and only became effective in six states. Some of those states have since agreed to give up their jurisdiction on a case-by-case basis.

In California, the law was recently used by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to justify state jurisdiction over an Indian child welfare case. It was the first ruling of its kind.

In a high-profile case that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, state officials used the law to justify a raid of a tribe's casino. The court declined to rule on the legality of the raid, leaving open the question of whether Public Law 280 applies to the actions of tribal governments.

Get the Decision:
Lamere v. Super. Ct. of Riverside (August 8, 2005)

Relevant Links:
Public Law 280 Resources - http://www.tribal-institute.org/lists/pl280.htm
Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians - http://www.pechanga.com
Pechanga Tribal Disenrollment - http://www.pechanga.info
Bureau-of-Indian-Affairs.com, Disenrollment site - http://www.bureau-of-indian-affairs.com

Related Stories:
Disenrolled Pechangas seek $38M in damages (08/04)
Pechanga Band enrollment dispute closely watched (07/11)
Court hears Pechanga Band enrollment dispute (7/7)
McKosato: Greed behind ouster of tribal members (05/23)
Opinion: Gaming has turned tribes on other tribes (5/20)
Ousted Redding Rancheria members head to forum (5/19)
Forum calls attention to tribal disenrollments (5/18)
Family fights disenrollment from Sauk-Suiattle Tribe (5/18)
California AIM blames greed for mass disenrollments (5/16)
Editorial: Disenrollment becoming too common (04/01)
Ousted Pechangas file another lawsuit against tribe (03/28)
California tribe changes status of some members (3/28)
Pechanga Band avoids dedication of city park (03/09)
Woman ejected from Pechanga Band in despair (01/27)
County investigates shooting on Pechanga land (01/14)
State judge won't dismiss lawsuit over tribal enrollment (07/27)
Pechanga Band votes to retain Macarro as chairman (07/19)
Battle for top Pechanga post heats up before vote (7/16)
Disenrolled tribal members call for more oversight (07/15)
Ousted tribal members appeal to Pechanga council (07/02)
Pechanga chairman faces election challenge (07/02)
Judge weighs ruling in Pechanga disenrollment (04/20)
2,000 California Indians face disenrollment (04/14)
Pechanga descendants protest against enrollment policy (04/06)
Opinion: Greed, spite, history behind disenrollment (4/5)
Opinion: Calif. tribes disenrolling more people (4/1)
Pechanga tribal committee disenrolls 130 people (03/22)
Calif. judge waits on Pechanga enrollment dispute (02/18)
Calif. judge delays Pechanga Tribe's disenrollment (02/05)
Judge won't protect 130 from disenrollment (2/3)
Case tests Pechanga Tribe's right to disenroll 130 (02/02)
Adopted man protests exclusion Pechanga Tribe (01/15)
Pechanga tribe threatens to cut off newspaper (03/14)
Pechanga disenrollment campaign to continue (02/25)
Pechanga chairman surprised by his 'racist' statement (2/24)

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

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Opposition grows to delisting of grizzly bears (7/1)
Lakota Country Times: Reservation counties rank as deadliest (7/1)
Harlan McKosato: Indian people survive despite mistreatment (7/1)
Marshall Matz: Fight for $380M in Keepseagle funds continues (7/1)
BIA acquires former military site in trust for Ho-Chunk Nation (7/1)
Appropriations bill adds $10M for tribal courts in PL280 states (7/1)
South Dakota board won't back name change for sacred peak (7/1)
Hoopa Valley Tribe orders water restrictions as tanks run dry (7/1)
Cherokee Nation certifies results of election for top positions (7/1)
Court allows lawsuit for incident at Tonto Apache Tribe casino (7/1)
Navajo Nation Council approves bill to share gaming revenue (7/1)
Soboba Band celebrates 20th anniversary for gaming facility (7/1)
BIA adopts new policy regarding federal recognition process (6/30)
Supreme Court agrees to resolve another Indian law dispute (6/30)
Patrick Murphy: Star Trek's William Shatner visits Navajoland (6/30)
Yvette Roubideaux: Making progress at Indian Health Service (6/30)
Native Sun News: Wambli Ska group shares culture with youth (6/30)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux leader pushes zeolite mine (6/30)
Native Sun News: BLM to update plan for land near Bear Butte (6/30)
Alex Jacobs: Fake Indians damage the real Indian community (6/30)
Sarah Sunshine Manning: Even toys carry harmful messages (6/30)
Ponca Tribe sends twelve youth to White House conference (6/30)
Lobbyists met at White House to discuss federal recognition (6/30)
Alaska Native man finally out on parole in 1997 homicide case (6/30)
Gyasi Ross gets nod for 'Marlon Brando' single off new release (6/30)
Washington governor supports repatriation of Kennewick Man (6/30)
Morongo Band interested in acquiring Colt gun manufacturer (6/30)
Gila River Indian Community files suit to protect sacred place (6/30)
Lac Du Flambeau Band man sentenced for abusing young girls (6/30)
Sault Tribe protected by sovereign immunity in casino dispute (6/30)
Pojoaque Pueblo at critical juncture with Class III gaming deal (6/30)
BIA releases scoping report for Coquille Tribe's Class II facility (6/30)
Local leaders talk Tohono O'odham Nation casino controversy (6/30)
Editorial: Extend Class III casino compact with Seminole Tribe (6/30)
Rep. McCollum vows support for Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (6/29)
BIA issues long-awaited update to federal recognition process (6/29)
Native Sun News: Tribal youth share traditions and technology (6/29)
Lakota Country Times: Treaty council slams mine at Pine Ridge (6/29)
Mark Trahant: Action plan needed for health in Indian Country (6/29)
Mary Annette Pember: Sharing stories from boarding schools (6/29)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Let Native people speak our own voices (6/29)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Race frauds are not new in Indian Country (6/29)
Bryan Terry: Honor Sequoyah with statue at Tennessee capitol (6/29)
Steven Newcomb: Indian law and policy based on domination (6/29)
National Congress of American Indians gathers in Minnesota (6/29)
Indian farmers rally over $380M in unspent Keepseagle funds (6/29)
Bill John Baker wins re-election as leader of Cherokee Nation (6/29)
Self-described Cherokee artist charged for misrepresentation (6/29)
Jemez Pueblo gets another shot in aboriginal territory dispute (6/29)
Alaska's largest tribe boycotts FedEx over ties to racist mascot (6/29)
Woman sentenced to prison for biting BIA officer in North Dakota (6/29)
Crow Creek Sioux man sentenced for assaults in domestic cases (6/29)
Spokane Tribe partners with Hard Rock for off-reservation casino (6/29)
Pechanga Band comes in first in USA Today's best casino survey (6/29)
Eastern Shoshone Tribe secures grant to update casino security (6/29)
Connecticut tribes welcome delay in commercial casino project (6/29)
Supreme Court considers petition in contract support cost case (6/26)
Congress clears bill to help Miami Nation with outdated charter (6/26)
Senate passes measure to transfer land to Native health group (6/26)
Senate appropriations bill shields tribes from BLM fracking rule (6/26)
Native Sun News: Project brings economic hope to Pine Ridge (6/26)
Lakota Country Times: Few answers about mine on Pine Ridge (6/26)
Michael Connor: Making informed decisions for land buy-back (6/26)
Land buy-back hits milestone with over $500M in purchases (6/26)
Sherman Alexie to release 'Thunder Boy' picture book in 2016 (6/26)
University to cover murals that depict lynching of Indian man (6/26)
North Dakota tribal group asserts authority over development (6/26)
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.