DOJ files brief in tribal jurisdiction case before Supreme Court

A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. File photo by Indianz.Com

The Department of Justice is urging the U.S. Supreme Court not to grant a petition in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a tribal court jurisdiction case.

A brief filed on Tuesday backed the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Government attorneys said the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rightly concluded that Dollar General must submit to the tribal court's authority.

"In the circumstances of this case, the tribal court has jurisdiction over the claims against petitioners because the allegedly tortious conduct occurred on tribal trust land and arose from a consensual relationship," the DOJ brief stated.

Dollar General, a publicly-traded company with $17.5 billion in revenues, operates a location on trust land on the reservation. The tribe issued a license to the store, whose manager is accused of sexually assaulting a minor who was working there as part of a youth training program.

The minor's parents sued Dollar General and the manager in tribal court, seeking at least $2.5 million in damages. The company, as a non-Indian entity, refused to submit to the court's jurisdiction.

Generally, tribes can't exercise authority over non-Indians. But the Supreme Court decision in Montana v. US lays out two exceptions.

The 5th Circuit determined that the "consensual relationship" exception applied to Dollar General. "It is surely within the tribe’s regulatory authority to insist that a child working for a local business not be sexually assaulted by the employees of the business," the March 2014 decision stated.

Now that the Supreme Court has DOJ's views, it can once again review the petition in the case.

5th Circuit Decision:
Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (March 14, 2014)
Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (March 14, 2014)

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