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
Supreme Court tussles with tribal sovereignty case
TUESDAY, APRIL 1, 2003

The Supreme Court tackled on Monday what was arguably one of its most difficult cases of the current term, debating whether to intrude on the rights of tribal governments.

During a one-hour hearing, justices posed questions that covered all ends of the legal spectrum. Some wondered if tribes should enjoy sovereign immunity, how far state police powers extend over Indian Country and whether they would be able to fashion a solution to a dispute that has pitted tribes against states.

"If we decide against you, all you have to do is go to the federal government and convince them this is important," offered Justice Stephen G. Breyer, "and get them to deal with it."

At issue in Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe is a March 2000 search and seizure of records owned by the Bishop Paiute Tribe of California and whether the tribe's rights were violated by it. Inyo County law enforcement used boltcutters to break into the tribe's casino as part of a criminal welfare fraud investigation that was later dropped for lack of probable cause.

Paul D. Kirby, attorney for the county, said public safety was at risk. Arguing that tribal immunity from the search warrant was without foundation in the Constitution, federal law or "any rational public policy," he asked the court to reverse a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision against the county.

"If not, then what we end up with is a gap in criminal jurisdiction," he said.

But when he suggested tribes be required to go to court every time search warrants are executed against their property, he was met with skepticism by some members. "What good is it to the tribe to go to court after the horse is out of the barn?" asked Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "I don't follow it."

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said cooperation seemed to be a better route to take, a view shared a group of tribes and states who submitted court briefs highlighting law enforcement agreements that cover these types of situations. "I just thought it was a little curious," she wondered, "if some means were offered to solve this, why are we here?"

Touching on a centerpiece of the county's argument, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist drew a distinction from 2001's Nevada v. Hicks, which upheld a state search against a tribal member. In this case, he countered, "the search warrant was issued on the tribe itself."

Justice Antonin Scalia focused several questions on the nature of the Bishop Paiute casino as a commercial business. Saying tribes are "peculiar" and "lesser" sovereigns, he compared the case to foreign governments that operate businesses within U.S. borders.

"I'm perplexed why the United States wants to accord the tribe's commercial enterprise greater immunity than a foreign state," he told a Department of Justice attorney.

Barbara B. McDowell, an assistant to Solicitor General Ted Olson, argued on behalf of the tribe on the immunity issue but sided with the county on whether the tribe can sue. "The execution of a state warrant is a particular threat to the dignity of a sovereign tribe," she said.

Reid Peyton Chambers, a Washington, D.C., attorney, handled the case for the tribe. He urged the court to uphold long-held principles of Indian law that shield tribes from state intrusions.

"Here, the tribe is not subordinate to the state of California," he said.

Addressing the foreign government analogy, Chambers noted that Congress has never enacted laws to limit tribal immunity. And he said the county's solution -- to require tribes to go to court -- wasn't workable.

"The rule should encourage cooperative agreements on both sides," he told the court.

The case is being closely watched in Indian Country as possible follow-up to Hicks. Some of the largest and most prominent tribal organizations submitted briefs in hopes of countering 13 states and law enforcement groups that argued against tribal sovereignty. A decision is expected this summer.

Supreme Court Briefs:
Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe

Decision Below:
BISHOP PAIUTE TRIBE v. COUNTY OF INYO No. 01-15007 (January 4, 2002)

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 02-281 | Senate Testimony: Monty Bengochia on Supreme Court Precedents

Relevant Links:
Paiuite Palace Casino - http://www.paiutepalace.com
Inyo County - http://www.countyofinyo.org

Related Stories:
Supreme Court hears sovereignty case (3/31)
Supreme Court panel to discuss Inyo County case (3/31)
Ore. withdraws from states' Supreme Court brief (3/27)
Tribes and states stress cooperation not conflict (02/28)
Tribes enter Supreme Court case (2/25)
Inouye ties sovereignty to homeland security (2/25)
Showdown looms in tribal sovereignty case (02/20)
S.D. tribe to accept state subpoenas (2/19)
S.D. puts pressure on tribal sovereignty (2/12)
Supreme Court work at issue as judge debated (01/30)
State power over tribal government in dispute (12/03)

Copyright © 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:
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne student receives top honor (5/22)
Lakota Country Times: Newspaper takes home a slew of awards (5/22)
James Davies: The new tactic is to pretend racism doesn't exist (5/22)
Thomas O'Rourke: Yurok Tribe is a leader in forest restoration (5/22)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Message to all young Native Americans (5/22)
Matt Remle: Tribal nations take a stand to protect Turtle Island (5/22)
DOJ proposes bill to improve access to voting in Indian Country (5/22)
Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate ready to exercise VAWA jurisdiction (5/22)
Grande Ronde Tribes await decision on flying flag at high school (5/22)
Cherokee Nation sues pharmaceutical firms over drug products (5/22)
Snoqualmie Tribe reports result of election for five council seats (5/22)
Law Article: Navajo Nation wages battle over 'Navajo' products (5/22)
Review: A son leads his father into the wild with 'Medicine Walk' (5/22)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe to distribute $2.7M in gaming revenues (5/22)
Prairie Island Indian Community eyes $19M expansion at casino (5/22)
Creek Nation seeks Native workers for $329M casino expansion (5/22)
Eastern Shawnee Tribe to debut rodeo event at reopened casino (5/22)
Opinion: Poarch Creeks need state to protect gaming enterprise (5/22)
Native Sun News: North Dakota tribe hit with another brine spill (5/21)
Lakota Country Times: NAIHC presents honor for lifetime service (5/21)
Ivan Star: I'm finding it hard to stand for 'Star Spangled Banner' (5/21)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee holds field hearing in Oklahoma (5/21)
Haskell University announces cuts to troubled athletics program (5/21)
Crystal Echo Hawk: Indian Country still invisible to philanthropy (5/21)
Judge won't require school to allow eagle feather at graduation (5/21)
School apologizes for teaching song about brutal Indian mission (5/21)
Coquille Tribe hosts National Indian Timber Symposium in June (5/21)
Pokagon Band to file land-into-trust application at housing site (5/21)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe to hold election for chief and sub-chief (5/21)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community to honor Civil War veterans (5/21)
Yakama Nation woman sentenced to 10 years for child abuse (5/21)
Heroin blamed for crash near Saginaw Chippewa Tribe school (5/21)
Navajo Nation business opens tech data center in New Mexico (5/21)
Opinion: Indian Country left out of nation's economic recovery (5/21)
Review: 'Hoop Jumper' offers look at allotment era in Oklahoma (5/21)
Opinion: Putting a woman on $20 bill might not be an easy task (5/21)
Opinion: Today's Indian wars are being fought over new casinos (5/21)
Oneida Nation close to opening of new gaming facility on June 2 (5/21)
Tribes hail movement on bill for one more casino in Connecticut (5/21)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe hoping for casino decision this year (5/21)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe buys properties next to casino (5/21)
Native Sun News: Cheyenne River elder cast in forthcoming film (5/20)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux fighter set for new matches (5/20)
Audio from Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on water (5/20)
NCAIED set to return to DC with Reservation Economic Summit (5/20)
Mary Pember: New allies in battle against Indian youth suicide (5/20)
Harlan McKosato: It's time to change school policy on feathers (5/20)
Bryan Newland: Important context on land-into-trust process (5/20)
Jay Daniels: Indian Country forced to choose among two evils (5/20)
Anthony Trujillo: A cultural ambassador with the Peace Corps (5/20)
Mark Rogers: Some truths of the ethnic experience in America (5/20)
Indian schools go without fixes while military schools see $5B (5/20)
Indian student in federal court over right to wear eagle feather (5/20)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe hosts Violence Against Women Act training (5/20)
Tribal traditions put to use for battle against substance abuse (5/20)
Apology sought for treatment of tribes at grizzly bear meeting (5/20)
SCOTUSBlog: DOJ urges denial of petition in tribal court dispute (5/20)
County board calls on NFL team to eliminate its racist mascot (5/20)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne Tribe names casino hire (5/20)
Judge again refuses to stop Jamul Band from building casino (5/20)
Connecticut lawmakers weigh bill for one more tribal casino (5/20)
Judge dismisses gaming case filed by Cayuga Nation faction (5/20)
Native casino in Saskatchewan on track with expansion plan (5/20)
Native Sun News: Program helps offenders rebuild their lives (5/19)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe seeks water funding (5/19)
Native Sun News: Comments sought on North Dakota pipeline (5/19)
Mark Trahant: Indian Country finds success in diabetes battle (5/19)
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.