indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Tribal-state taxation case goes before Supreme Court
Monday, October 3, 2005

A classic tribal-state feud will be aired today as the U.S. Supreme Court opens its new term with a new leader.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was confirmed and sworn in last week, takes the helm this morning as the court hears its first arguments of the October 2005-2006 term. The second case on the docket is Wagnon v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, a battle pitting tribal sovereignty against state sovereignty.

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation won a ruling from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that blocked the state of Kansas from imposing a distribution tax on gasoline sold on the reservation. Although the tax wasn't directly imposed on the tribe, a unanimous panel of judges said it infringed on the tribe's rights.

"The nation's interests are particularly strong," Judge Monroe G. McKay wrote for the majority. "Tribes have a recognized 'interest in raising revenues for essential governmental programs, [and] that interest is strongest when the revenues are derived from value generated on the reservation by activities involving the tribes and when the taxpayer is the recipient of tribal services.'"

The state of Kansas disagrees. It argues that the tribe's rights are not at issue because the tax is imposed on non-Indian distributors who operate off the reservation. The state says its sovereignty prevails.

Siding with the tribe is the United States. The Department of Justice filed a brief arguing that tribal and federal interests in promoting Indian self-sufficiency weigh in favor of invalidating the tax.

The National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund, through their joint Supreme Court project, the National Intertribal Tax Alliance, the Intertribal Transportation Association and a host of other tribes have also joined the controversy in favor of the Prairie Band. They too cite the strong need to protect tribal sovereignty.

More than a dozen states, the Multi-State Tax Commission and the National Association of Convenience Stores are backing Kansas. They say state sovereignty should be favored in cases where off-reservation activity is involved.

The case centers on the interpretation of legal precedents that involve attempts by states to impose taxes on Indian Country economic activity. At issue is how the courts should resolve competing tribal and state sovereign rights.

The 10th Circuit resolved the matter by relying on White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, a Supreme Court case from 1980. That decision laid out a balancing test that weighs federal, tribal and state interests.

"Bracker recognizes two 'independent but related barriers' to state regulation," the tribe argues in its brief. "State regulation may be 'preempted by federal law' or it may unlawfully infringe a tribe's right to 'make [its] own laws and be ruled by them.'"

Kansas says the balancing test isn't appropriate because the state isn't trying to regulate reservation activity. At the same time, the state is calling on the Supreme Court to abandon the Bracker as "ill-fitted to coherent, reasonably predictable decision-making."

"The balance-of-interests test should be replaced with a standard analogous to that applicable to federal contractors i.e. states may tax nontribal members, even if the tax may have an economic effect on a tribe, unless Congress has expressly provided otherwise," the state argues in its brief.

One hour is set aside for the arguments. Kansas is up first and will be represented by Ted Olson, the former Solicitor General for the Bush administration.

Olson and Roberts know each other from an earlier Indian law case: Rice v. Cayetano from 2000. Olson won the case on behalf of a non-Native rancher who challenged a Native Hawaiian-only election. Roberts defended the state's Hawaiian programs.

Arguing on behalf of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation will be Ian Heath Gershengorn, a Washington attorney who was worked on a number of Indian law cases. Like Olson, he is a former Department of Justice official.

Edwin S. Kneedler, the deputy solicitor general, will present the Bush administration's side. He has previously argued US v. Lara, a tribal sovereign case, and US v. Navajo Nation, a trust relationship case.

Before oral arguments, the court will hold its own swearing-in for Roberts. After the ceremony, the court will hear IBP, Inc. v. Alvarez and Tum v. Barber Foods , a pair of labor-related cases, before turning to the Prairie Band case.

Supreme Court Documents:
Day Call | Docket Sheet | Questions Presented

Court Briefs:
Richard v. Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (NCAI-NARF Supreme Court Project)

Lower Court Decision:
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation v. Richards (10th Circuit August 2004)

Relevant Links:
Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation - http://www.pbpindiantribe.com
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://doc.narf.org/sc/index.html
Multistate Tax Commission - http://www.mtc.gov

Related Stories:
Roberts confirmed and sworn in as chief justice (9/30)
Roberts mentions Indian law work on final day (9/19)
Supreme Court nominee Roberts promises 'no agenda' (9/13)
Roberts tapped for chief justice position (9/6)
Bush names John G. Roberts to Supreme Court (7/20)
O'Connor resigns from nation's highest court (7/5)
Justice's tenure filled with key Indian law cases (7/5)
Supreme Court wraps up October 2004 term (06/28)
U.S. Supreme Court vacancy impacts tribal rights (06/20)
Supreme Court takes on tribal-state tax dispute (03/01)
Supreme Court agrees to hear tribal gas tax case (2/28)
U.S. Supreme Court asked to rule on state taxation (12/02)
Hearing set for Oneida Nation treaty rights case (11/12)
Court bars state from imposing gas tax on tribe (08/13)
U.S. Supreme Court won't touch Indian tax ruling (05/25)
Judge blocks state from interfering with tribe (8/3)
Supreme Court to hear dispute over Oneida Nation land (06/29)
Oneida Nation sees support in Bush administration brief (06/08)
N.D. judge rules gas tax on Indians illegal (01/28)
S.D. Supreme Court limits refunds for illegal gas tax (01/09)
Kan. wins ruling in tribal gas tax dispute (01/29)
Appeals court to hear Winnebago tax case (1/27)
State appealing tribal gas ruling (09/02)
Idaho tribes score victory with tax ruling (08/20)
Winnebago Tribe welcomes gas tax decision (7/12)
State ordered to return tribal property (7/11)
Winnebago Tribe wants property back (5/21)
Court halts tax on tribe (5/18)
Idaho tax on tribes blocked by judge (4/30)
Winnebago leaders ordered arrested (4/12)
Fight expected over gas taxes (4/11)
Winnebago Tribe's gas trucks seized (4/10)
Kan. tribe wins round in car tag dispute (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)
Editorial: Long delayed trust fund settlement for Navajo Nation (9/30)
North Dakota tribe sees big problems as energy industry grows (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)
Kevin Washburn: Settlements with Indian Country hit $8B mark (9/26)
Bryan Brewer: Congress does right thing with tribal taxation bill (9/26)
9th Circuit rebuffs EEOC in dispute over tribal hiring preferences (9/26)
9th Circuit rejects treaty claims of Indian tobacco manufacturer (9/26)
Montana tribe expects a second round of Cobell buy-back offers (9/26)
Attorney General Eric Holder to step down after six-year tenure (9/26)
Choctaw Nation arrests 10 people in prostitution sting at casino (9/26)
Samish Nation isn't interested in pursuing casino on allotment (9/26)
Opponents sue to put Tohono O'odham Nation casino on ballot (9/26)
Rival tribes raise $4M to block North Fork Rancheria casino bid (9/26)
Nottawaseppi Huron Band reopens casino after electrical work (9/26)
Travel: There's more than gaming at Eastern Cherokee casino (9/26)
Native Sun News: School district outlaws debate on honor song (9/25)
Native Sun News: Billy Mills marks 50th birthday of Olympic win (9/25)
Cherokee Nation hires former White House advisor Kim Teehee (9/25)
Chelsey Luger: Washington NFL team doesn't own our identity (9/25)
Tommy Jones: Removing barriers for tribal renewable energy (9/25)
Navajo Nation to host meetings to discuss $554M settlement (9/25)
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.