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Supreme Court reverses tribal jurisdiction ruling


The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota does not have jurisdiction over a non-Indian bank doing business on the reservation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today.

In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long, tribal members sued Plains Commerce Bank of South Dakota for breach of contract and discrimination. A federal judge and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the bank was subject to tribal jurisdiction.

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court reversed. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John G. Roberts characterized the dispute as the sale of a fee land, rather than of one that affects a tribe's authority to regulate the activities of non-Indians on the reservation.

"The distinction between sale of the land and conduct on it is well-established in our precedent, as the foregoing cases demonstrate, and entirely logical given the limited nature of tribal sovereignty and the liberty interests of nonmembers," Roberts wrote for the court. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joined the opinion.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissent. She said tribal courts are the proper place to resolve a dispute involving a non-Indian bank that voluntarily entered into a business agreement with tribal members.

"Sales of land -- and related conduct -- are surely 'activities' within the ordinary sense of the word," Ginsburg wrote. The dissent was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Stephen G. Breyer.

Supreme Court Decision:
Plains Commerce Bank v. Long (June 25, 2008)

Relevant Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Docket Sheet: No. 07-411 | Briefs on the Merits

Appeals Court Decision:
Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Company (June 26, 2007)

Lower Court Decision:
Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land and Cattle Company (July 18, 2006)

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