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Ex-US Attorney welcomes review of domestic violence case

Native women carry signs reading Project Our Penojek (Children) during a rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7, 2015. Photo by Indianz.Com

A decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a domestic violence case is "great news" for Indian Country, a former federal prosecutor said.

Tim Purdon served as U.S. Attorney for North Dakota when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals confirmed that tribal convictions can be used against men who repeatedly abuse Native women. He said the same standard should be applied to repeat offenders everywhere.

"Given that forty-six percent of Native American women report having experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime, expansion of the Cavanaugh rule to all of Indian Country is vitally important to enhance DOJ’s ability to protect American Indian women from repeat domestic violence," said Purdon, who now works in private practice.

The Cavanaugh decision from July 2011 allows tribal convictions to be counted in federal court under 18 U.S.C. Section 117. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion in a different case that same month.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, however, did not agree. That ruling will now be reviewed by the Supreme Court after the justices on Monday accepted a petition in US v. Bryant at the request of the Department of Justice.

Together, the 8th Circuit, the 9th Circuit and the 10th Circuit represent a significant swath of Indian Country. A decision by the Supreme Court would ensure that Native women from more than 500 tribes can be protected under the same standard.

"The Supreme Court's grant of DOJ’s cert petition in U.S. v. Bryant is great news for those committed to improving public safety in Indian Country – especially in the battle to protect American Indian women from repeat domestic violence," Purdon said.

A date for oral arguments hasn't been set.

9th Circuit Decisions:
US v. Bryant (July 6, 2015)
US v. Bryant (September 30, 2014)

8th Circuit Decision:
US v. Cavanaugh (July 6, 2011)

10th Circuit Decision:
US v. Shavanaux (July 26, 2011)

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