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
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Supreme Court case on jurisdiction attracts attention
Thursday, January 8, 2004

When the U.S. Supreme Court meets later this month to hear a case testing jurisdiction in Indian Country, the justices will have plenty of competing arguments to consider.

In addition to the two parties in U.S. v. Lara, a surprising number of interests have joined the dispute. The largest inter-tribal organization, 18 tribes, 14 states, three counties, an anti-treaty rights group, an Indian family and the nation's criminal defense lawyers filed briefs in the case.

Not since the court's infamous 2000-2001 term, when tribes lost five of six cases, has an Indian law case drawn this level of attention. It's all owed to the subject matter -- whether or not tribes have inherent authority to prosecute members of other tribes.

According to the Bush administration, the tribes and some of the states, the answer is yes. They argue that law enforcement on reservations is more effective when tribal governments are active and equal participants.

At the other end of the spectrum is a diverse group that includes prosecutors in three counties, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF) and an Indian family in Montana allied with CERF. They contend that tribes have jurisdiction only over their own members, not other Indians.

Somewhere in the middle is a group of six states led by Idaho, whose most recent attorney general was notorious for opposing tribal sovereignty before the Supreme Court. They support shared tribal, state and federal law enforcement but stop short of endorsing the views advanced by the Bush administration and the tribes.

All of this comes to a head January 21, when the justices will take an hour to weigh the varying arguments. And when they do, they will reach back to a case the court decided in 1990. In Duro v. Reina, the Supreme Court held that tribes lack inherent authority over Indians of other tribes.

Members of Congress quickly concluded that the decision was contrary to "two hundred years of the exercise by tribes of criminal misdemeanor jurisdiction over all Indians residing on their reservations," according to a legislative report issued at the time. So lawmakers passed an amendment -- now known as the Duro fix -- to affirm that tribes have jurisdiction over "all Indians" regardless of membership.

According to the government and its supporters, the fix means Billy Jo Lara, a member of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe, is subject to the laws of the Spirit Lake Nation. Under those laws, Lara was convicted of assaulting a Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer, resisting arrest and public intoxication. He was sentenced to 90 days for the assault on the officer.

But since Lara was also indicted in federal court for the assault, his supporters contend the prosecution by the tribe and the federal government for the same crime violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on double jeopardy. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, concluding that the Duro fix is a delegation of power by Congress instead of a recognition of the sovereign rights tribes have always possessed.

For CERF, a national group that opposes all forms of tribal authority over non-Indians, the matter has already been settled. "Congress cannot override the [Duro] decision through legislation," the brief states.

To the Morris family, whose members are active within CERF, the issue is a bit more personal. When Thomas Lee Morris was 17, he was convicted by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes for speeding. As a member of the Leech Lake Chippewa Tribe, his family contends the conviction is not permitted under Duro.

"While this particular accusation is not itself momentous, determining whether Congress can select nonmember Indians, and only Indians, for criminal prosecution in the courts of sovereigns which exclude them from full and equal rights of political participation on the ground of their ethnicity and which sovereigns and courts are unbounded by the Constitution is momentous indeed," the family writes in its lodging. Thomas Lee is now 20.

The defense lawyers take a similar approach. "The question is what Congress has done, rather than what Congress can do," the brief states. The Duro fix, the organization argues, came too late.

The attorneys in Lewis County in Idaho, Mille Lacs County in Minnesota and Thurston County in Nebraska spend most of their brief arguing that reservations located within their borders don't exist. "Today, armed with tens of millions of dollars in casino profits, Indian tribes are challenging the non-reservation status of these areas and other areas throughout the United states," they complain.

For the Idaho-led coalition, the answer is not so simple. These states agree that the Duro fix is a "congressional attempt to 'restore' retained inherent authority to Indian tribes." But they reject the "extravagant view" that Congress can do whatever it likes when it comes to Indian affairs.

That view is central to the Department of Justice and tribal stance. "Congress has plenary authority to alter the balance of federal and state criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country," the government's final brief argues.

For the tribes, they are mindful of being treated as equals for homeland security, domestic violence and other law enforcement purposes. Currently, NCAI and other tribes are lobbying Congress for another fix that would ensure tribes can arrest non-Indians suspected of terrorist attacks. A Supreme Court victory in the Lara case will ensure the legality of these efforts.

The answer won't be known for several months, though. A decision from the court is expected in the summer.

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:

WNV: Puyallup Tribe enters battle against natural gas terminal in Washington
Mark Trahant: Learning from history to see why the Trump presidency is over
Harold Monteau: Donald Trump needs White supremacists to remain in office
Trump defends groups 'innocently' protesting removal of Confederate statue
New York Times turns to Native Americans for Conversation on Race project
Crow Tribe votes on potential changes to constitution despite court decision
Grand Traverse Band wasn't consulted about visit by Columbus replica ships
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate celebrates release of bald eagle that had been shot
Klamath Tribes break ground on hotel as part of long-term casino expansion
Wilton Rancheria continues to see litigation over casino project in California
Energy firm seeks to keep illegal pipeline in place over objections of landowners
North Dakota secures $10 million in federal funds to pay for #NoDAPL response
Arne Vainio: Tough patient turns out to be a warrior with a promise to his brother
Mary Annette Pember: True Sioux Hope Foundation brings donors to Pine Ridge
Steve Russell: Poverty in Indian Country -- and in America -- is really about race
Dakota Access Pipeline dragging out dispute over disturbance of tribal artifacts
Trump offers late rebuke to 'White supremacists' as industry leaders quit council
Seneca Nation citizen maintains 5-year protest against NFL team's racist legacy
Oneida Nation starts construction of third casino as outlet mall remains on hold
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe still confident as Trump team reviews casino plan
Tribes report mixed results in slot machine revenues at casinos in Connecticut
Trump administration abandons tribes in battle over boundaries of reservation
Yurok Tribe forced to rely on outside salmon again as yearly festival approaches
Zenobia Jeffries: Media must be honest about planned race riot in Charlottesville
DVIDS: Military partnership brings health care to Round Valley Indian Reservation
Sandra LaFleur: Let's return to our traditions by restoring power to Native women
Harold Monteau: Democrats need to get their act together in new election season
Northern Arapaho Tribe reclaims remains of students who died at Carlisle school
Elouise Cobell's family brings Presidential Medal of Freedom to Blackfeet Nation
Department of Justice opens civil rights investigation into Charlottesville death
Muscogee Nation issues citizenship to former police officer accused of murder
Tim Giago: Broken treaties remain among America's deepest and darkest secrets
Oglala Sioux Tribe secures restitution for funds stolen by former district official
Appeals court schedules hearing in long-running Mechoopda Tribe gaming case
Pit boss and patron plead in blackjack scam at Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate casino
Doug Steiger: Reform the Indian Health Service by looking at tribal success stories
Young indigenous activist fights Trump administration in climate change lawsuit
Kialegee Tribal Town warned not to engage in gaming on allotment in Oklahoma
Mark Trahant: Prepare for a big mess when Congress returns to work in September
Cronkite News: Most Native families aren't speaking their own languages at home
Agua Caliente Band faces opposition from states as high court weighs water case
Crow Tribe mourns shooting victims as details remain scarce about triple homicide
Non-Indian man sentenced to life in prison for murder, assault on Crow Reservation
Aquinnah Wampanoag citizen aims to make history with Massachusetts campaign
Cherokee Nation ready to move forward with opioid lawsuit in tribal court system
Wiyot Tribe questions attempt to buy ancestral island that was site of massacre
Southern Ute Tribe offers $1 million matching grant for KSUT public radio station
Jim Cooper: Wilton Rancheria casino brings benefits to everyone in our community
Sara Trechter: County wastes more than $600,000 battling Mechoopda Tribe casino
Anticipation builds as Indian Country calls for shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline
Brian Lightfoot Brown: Welcome to the oldest recorded powwow in North America
Cronkite News: Backlogs at immigration courts reach a record high in Trump era
Mary Annette Pember: School offers safe place for girls on Pine Ridge Reservation
Alex Jacobs: Beware the new 'tribalism' in American politics with Donald Trump
Muscogee Nation welcomes decision affirming the boundaries of its reservation
Crow Tribe weighs stronger response after site of triple homicide burns to ground
White Earth Nation looks to diversify economy with first hemp crop on reservation
Nooksack Tribe loses federal health care funds as disenrollment drama drags on
Miccosukee Tribe can't be sued by attorneys who received $4 million settlement
Mapuche activists evicted from land protest on ancestral territory in Argentina
Casino opponents ask Supreme Court to hear Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe case
Ho-Chunk Nation outlines optimistic schedule for stalled off-reservation casino
Seneca Nation plans meeting with state to discuss future of gaming compact
Chukchansi Tribe secures dismissal of lawsuit seeking $21 million from casino
Muscogee Nation citizen wins reversal of death penalty conviction in Oklahoma
Morongo Band enters into agreement to assist tribal veterans with housing loans
Senate approves bill to designate clinic in honor of late veteran Joe Medicine Crow
>>> 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.