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...
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:
Quinault Nation prepares for journey to Standing Rock encampment (12/2)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois prophecies warn of grave dangers (12/2)
Brandon Ecoffey: Media gets it wrong on Dakota Access frontlines (12/2)
Bronson Koenig: What I found during my journey to Standing Rock (12/2)
Timothy Egan: Fake cowboys cheered while the real Indians suffer (12/2)
Lakota Country Times: Laced marijuana finds its way to Pine Ridge (12/2)
Native Sun News Today: Owner of Wounded Knee site lowers price (12/2)
David Ganje: An opportunity for tribes to clean up their homelands (12/2)
Mary Annette Pember: Tribal member arrested for string of arsons (12/2)
Tiffany Midge: The women are here and we have a message for you (12/2)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe calls for safety as veterans head to camp (12/1)
North Dakota sheriff scrubs Facebook of incriminating information (12/1)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp considers role in Donald Trump administration (12/1)
Daniel Brown: Ho-Chunk Nation celebrates a new day in Wisconsin (12/1)
Lakota Country Times: #NoDAPL kitchen in need of more supplies (12/1)
Native Sun News Today: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe summons allies (12/1)
Vi Waln: Sacred fire burns at Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota (12/1)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Veterans at Standing Rock for the good fight (12/1)
Native Sun News Today: Duane Big Crow relishes role in coaching (12/1)
Clara Caufield: Community at Northern Cheyenne stays connected (12/1)
Steven Newcomb: A message to the Donald Trump administration (12/1)
Alaska Native designer brings subsistence fashion to new audience (12/1)
Tohono O'odham Nation and state remain at odds in casino dispute (12/1)
United Keetoowah Band won't talk about plans for potential casino (12/1)
Wilton Rancheria continues to face mysterious opposition to casino (12/1)
Non-Indian firm set to open $1.3B casino outside of nation's capital (12/1)
Native youth remain hopeful as nation transitions to new president (11/30)
Sioux Nation to President Obama: Stop the Dakota Access Pipeline (11/30)
Mark Trahant: Indian health care at risk with Trump administration (11/30)
Lakota Country Times: Herbalist brings medicine to Standing Rock (11/30)
Dana Lone Hill: A big 'wopila' to all the #NoDAPL water protectors (11/30)
Kelly Hayes: My whole heart is with the #NoDAPL water protectors (11/30)
Large veterans group heads to #NoDAPL frontline in North Dakota (11/30)
Native Sun News Today: Northern Cheyenne college hosts summit (11/30)
James Giago Davies: Mixed-race Indians forced to choose identity (11/30)
Cronkite News: Navajo chef takes helm at NMAI in nation's capitol (11/30)
Billy Stratton: The soldiers who refused the Sand Creek Massacre (11/30)
Gabriel Ray: Scotts Valley Band working to re-establish homeland (11/30)
Steve Russell: Resisting apartheid and genocide in the Trump era (11/30)
Charges filed after two children found malnourished at Pine Ridge (11/30)
Four Alaska Natives dead amid state outbreak of strep bacteria (11/30)
Pokagon Band breaks ground on housing project on Indiana land (11/30)
Ancestral remains found in Washington are about 2300 years old (11/30)
Former casino worker took $23K from Northern Cheyenne Tribe (11/30)
Sheriff hit with lawsuit as governor moves in on #NoDAPL camp (11/29)
Dakota Access Pipeline almost finished except at Lake Oahe site (11/29)
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.