DOJ to help with arguments in Supreme Court jurisdiction case

Representatives of the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center at a Dollar General store. Photo from NIWRC

The Obama administration will be arguing alongside tribal interests in a closely-watched U.S. Supreme Court case.

In an order issued today, the Department of Justice was granted permission to present oral arguments in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The case, which has attracted interest throughout Indian Country, will be heard on December 7.

The outcome will determine whether Dollar General, a publicly-traded company with $17.5 billion in revenues, can avoid the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The tribe's court has asserted the authority to hear a lawsuit filed against a non-Indian former employe who is accused of sexually abusing a minor tribal member.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the company and the former employee are subject to tribal jurisdiction because they engaged in "consensual relationships" with the tribe. The Dollar General store is located on trust land on the reservation and was issued a license by the tribe.

The Supreme Court hasn't heard a tribal jurisdiction case since Plains Commerce Bank v. Long from 2008. That decision went against tribal interests so tribes and their advocates are worried that the justices will do the same in the new case.

Native women advocates and more than 100 tribes have signed onto briefs to defend the Mississippi Band. The Department of Justice also submitted a brief on behalf of the United States and will be sharing oral argument time with the tribe at the upcoming hearing.

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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