Appeals court rules man is Indian enough for federal jurisdiction

A Montana man who benefited from the Indian Health Service since birth and was convicted in tribal court more than once is an "Indian person" under federal law, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week.

Gentry Carl LaBuff is not a member of a federally recognized tribe. But as a descendant of a member of the Blackfeet Nation, he was eligible for IHS care, the court said in an unpublished opinion.

"[S]ince May 1979, LaBuff received healthcare services from the Blackfeet Community Hospital," the 9th Circuit said. LaBuff is 32 years old, indicating he benefited from IHS since he was an infant.

Additionally, LaBuff was prosecuted in Blackfeet Nation court "on multiple occasions," the 9th Circuit said. He never challenged the tribe's jurisdiction, according to the opinion.

"Therefore, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the government, we conclude that, contrary to LaBuff’s contention, the evidence was sufficient for any rational fact-finder to have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he is an 'Indian person,'" the decision stated.

LaBuff was convicted of robbery in June 2010. His case is the fourth in recent years to address "Indian" status in Montana.

9th Circuit Decision:
US v. LaBuff (July 1, 2011)

Prior 9th Circuit Decisions:
US v. Maggi / US v. Mann (March 16, 2010)
US v. Cruz (February 10, 2009)

Related Stories:
9th Circuit rules two criminal defendants aren't 'Indian' (3/17)
9th Circuit reverses conviction in Indian status case (2/11)

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