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
States back tribal sovereignty in Supreme Court case
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

When the state of Montana earlier this year joined a Supreme Court brief supporting tribal sovereignty, there was cause to celebrate. Montana was known for siding against tribes before the high court -- and for bringing cases against them too.

"We used to call Montana the 'Deep North,'" National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) President Tex Hall said back in February.

Now, tribal leaders around the country have even greater reason to take notice. Earlier this month, Montana and seven other states submitted an amicus brief in a case that tribes say is an important test of their rights. The show of solidarity marks only the second time in more than 200 years that tribes and states are on the same side when it comes to sovereignty.

The unity is owed to behind-the-scenes lobbying in several key states. Tribal leaders in New Mexico, Arizona, Washington and even Montana enjoy close relationships with their governors, attorneys general and other top state officials. This year alone, these states have signed onto two briefs before the Supreme Court. One brief chastised a California county for raiding a tribal casino armed with boltcutters and a couple of police officers.

Now, California is on the tribes' side in the upcoming case U.S. v. Lara. So is Oregon, where tribal leaders and attorneys convinced the state to take its name off a brief that endorsed the boltcutter tactic. Newcomers to the coalition include Colorado, which is home to two prominent tribes, and Michigan, which has 12 federally recognized tribes.

The state participation is all the more notable because the Lara case is about jurisdiction. Normally, states are loathe to recognize tribal authority unless they absolutely have to. In the past, whenever an Indian law case was before the Supreme Court, anywhere from 12 to 24 states would argue against the tribe's position. Now, they are arguing that tribes play a vital role in ensuring public safety.

In their November 14 brief, the states wrote that they "have been working with the tribes in their respective states to strengthen cooperative relationships between tribal and state governments, particularly in the area of law enforcement."

The Lara case, to be argued January 14, concerns whether tribes have inherent jurisdiction over all Indians, not just their own members. If they do, then tribes can prosecute non-member Indians for crimes that occur on their reservations.

But if they don't, the states argue that neither tribal, federal nor state governments will be able to enforce law and order. "Should this court determine that Congress' effort to restore inherent sovereignty over non-member Indians is invalid, it will reopen a jurisdictional gap, where no government will have jurisdiction over misdemeanors committed by non-member Indians in Indian Country," the states warn in their brief.

"It is not in the interest of tribal or state law enforcement to have such a gap develop and result in lawlessness," the states add.

It's hard to tell whether the state involvement plays a role in the way the Supreme Court rules. In the boltcutter case, Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe, the justices didn't ask questions about the brief the states submitted.

But the attorney who argued that case on behalf of the tribe said the brief sent a message to the Supreme Court. "They took notice," Reid Peyton Chambers said at a panel discussion back in March.

U.S. v. Lara was decided this past March by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 7-4 ruling, the court concluded that tribes lack independent authority over non-member Indians. The court said that Billy Jo Lara, a member of the Turtle Mountain Ojibwe Tribe of North Dakota, could not be prosecuted for the same crime by the Spirit Lake Nation and the federal government.

The ruling conflicted with one from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In a unanimous June 2001 decision, the court held that dual tribal-federal prosecution does not violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on double jeopardy.

Ed. Note: Future articles will examine the briefs filed by 18 tribes, the National Congress of American Indians, the Department of Justice and other states, including the state of Idaho.

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 03-107 (Supreme Court) | Briefs: U.S. v. Lara (NCAI/NARF Supreme Court Project)

Get the Decision:
8th Circuit: U.S. v. Lara (en banc) (March 24, 2003) | U.S. v. Lara (panel) (June 20, 2002)

Related Decisions:
9th Circuit: U.S. v. Enas (June 29, 2001) | 7th Circuit: U.S. v. Long (March 20, 2003)

Related Stories:
DOJ's Supreme Court brief backs sovereignty (7/30)
Tribal jurisdiction faces test before Supreme Court (07/03)
Court rulings on tribal jurisdiction are in conflict (04/16)
Supreme Court tussles with tribal sovereignty case (04/01)
Supreme Court case too close to call for some (04/01)
Tribes and states stress cooperation not conflict (02/28)
Inouye ties sovereignty to homeland security (02/25)
Tribes seek to overturn Supreme Court (2/27)
Native man denied by Supreme Court (01/22)
Court upholds dual tribal, federal prosecutions (7/2)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...

Latest Headlines:

Tribes in for long haul as oil continues to flow through Dakota Access
Mark Trahant: Don't plan on getting sick if you're from Indian Country
Tiffany Midge: I shall joke as long as the grass grows and the rivers flow
Director of Office of Indian Energy deletes offensive Twitter account
States cheer decision on grizzly bears amid tribal concerns about hunts
Washington asks high court to overturn Yakama Nation treaty victory
New York Times editorial board reconsiders stance on racist trademarks
Colville Tribes remove council member a week before citizens go to polls
Marijuana firm promises big investments with help of ex-Seminole chair
Lumbee Tribe ordered to release voter list to opponents of chairman
National Indian Gaming Association chooses David Bean as vice chair
Eastern Cherokee citizen promoted to vice president of casino marketing
Tribes in Connecticut waiting on governor to sign bill for new casino
Secretary Zinke removes protections for grizzlies over tribal objections
Court sets final deadline for remaining payments from Cobell settlement
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act strengthens our families
Peter d'Errico: Navajo authors offer fresh perspective on sovereignty
Native woman was jailed and forced to ride with assailant during trial
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe challenges new permit for uranium operation
Montana tribes get new member of Congress who pleaded to assault
Connecticut tribes welcome court decision favoring new casino law
Pueblo tribes dispute state's demand for $40M in gaming revenues
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe remains confident of approval of casino
Nooksack Tribe accepting slot tickets while casino remains closed
Key House committee under fire for moving slowly on tribal agenda
Tribes go it alone on climate change as Trump team shifts priorities
Bryan Newland: President Trump's budget threatens tribal treaties
Steve Russell: The GI Bill changed the United States for the better
Harold Monteau: Democrats lack proactive agenda, proactive strategy
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe orders 20 non-citizens to leave reservation
Wilton Rancheria accused of working too closely with city on casino
Witness list for hearing on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Arne Vainio: What does the princess want to be when she grows up?
Doug George-Kanentiio: 'Spirit Game' brings Iroquois lacrosse to life
Cronkite News: Navajo activist vows fight against racist NFL mascot
Eric Hannel: Addressing the health care crisis among Native Americans
Bill for tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies advances in California
Ramapough Lunaape Nation wins reversal of ruling on prayer camp
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still waits on casino ruling from Trump team
Another former leader of Winnebago Tribe pleads in gaming theft case
Supreme Court ruling poses hurdle for opponents of racist NFL mascot
Change the Mascot campaign responds to negative Supreme Court ruling
Secretary Zinke set for another hearing on Interior Department budget
Mark Trahant: Republicans write health reform bill behind closed doors
Jeff Grubbe: Agua Caliente Band focuses on protecting our groundwater
Steven Newcomb: Asserting our traditions in the era of Donald Trump
Shasta Dazen: 'Family Spirit' program incorporates our tribal traditions
Secretary Zinke shuffles top Indian Affairs officials at Interior Department
Choctaw Nation travels to Ireland to dedicate 'Kindred Spirits' sculpture
Nooksack Tribe closes doors to casino after being hit with federal order
Muscogee Nation asserts authority at allotment where casino was proposed
Mark Trahant: Dakota Access decision offers a chance to return to respect
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe hails 'victory' in Dakota Access Pipeline case
Nooksack Tribe told to close casino amid leadership and citizenship feud
Kristi Noem: Enough is enough - It's time to fix the Indian Health Service
Second hearing scheduled on bill to reform the Indian Health Service
Trump nominee for appeals court seen as favorable to tribal interests
>>> 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.