Legal Times: Italians and Indians at high court

"The first Supreme Court oral argument Monday morning was all about Native American law and the jurisdiction of tribal courts. But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. took the debate in an unexpected direction -- across the Atlantic to southern Europe.

The issue in Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle was whether tribal courts have jurisdiction over a dispute between a nontribal bank and a company that is majority Indian-owned. More than 51 percent of the owners of the South Dakota ranching company in the case are members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and, as such, the company was entitled to loan guarantees from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Roberts seemed concerned about how a bank can be expected to know whether a company it is dealing with is a so-called "Indian corporation," thereby triggering tribal court jurisdiction. After all, companies incorporate under state, not tribal, law.

"That's a concept I don't understand," said Roberts, who then pointed to the left side of the bench and added, "If Justices Scalia and Alito form a corporation, is that an Italian corporation?""

Get the Story:
What Would a Scalia-Alito Corporation Sell? (The Legal Times 4/15)

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)

Related Decision:
Smith v. Salish Kootenai College (January 10, 2006)

Related Stories:
Supreme Court to hear jurisdiction case (4/14)
DOJ to join argument in tribal court jurisdiction case (4/3)
Bush brief backs tribal court jurisdiction (3/24)
Opinion: No tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians (3/3)
Supreme Court agrees to hear tribal jurisdiction case (1/8)
Appeals court upholds tribal verdict in bank loan case (6/28)
9th Circuit vacates tribal jurisdiction ruling (2/2)
Court subjects non-Indian bank to tribal laws (7/20)
Appeals court upholds tribal jurisdiction after rehearing (01/11)