Washington court backs Lummi officer's off-reservation pursuit
For the second time, the Washington Supreme Court backed the Lummi Nation in a dispute over an off-reservation pursuit by a tribal officer.

By a 6-3 vote, the court said the tribe retains the "inherent sovereign authority" to pursue people off the reservation. A provision in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott requires the tribe to turn over "lawbreakers" to the proper authorities, the majority concluded.

"Accordingly, the Lummi Nation is empowered by the terms of the Treaty of Point Elliott to detain offenders until state officials can take custody," Justice Richard B. Sanders wrote for the majority.

In a dissent, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst agreed that the Lummi Nation retains "inherent tribal sovereignty" to make an off-reservation pursuit. But she said the tribe lacks the authority to detain a non-Indian even if only to wait for state authorities to arrive.

"Although McSwain had authority to determine whether Eriksen was a tribal member, he did not have authority to detain her once he learned she was not a tribal member," Fairhurst wrote, referring to tribal officer Mike McSwain and Loretta Eriksen, a non-Indian who was observed driving recklessly on the reservation.

The decision issued yesterday was a reconsideration of one the court made in September 2009.

Get the Story:
Court: Tribal cops can detain off reservation (AP 10/14)

Washington Supreme Court Decision:
Opinion | Dissent

Related Stories:
Washington court backs off-reservation pursuit (9/18)