Leaders of Agua Caliente Band can't be sued in per capita case

A view of the Agua Caliente Reservation in southern California. Photo from Facebook

Leaders of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in California cannot be sued for refusing to turn over the per capita payments of one of their members, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.

A bail bond company and a trust entity secured money judgments in the California court system against Clifford Mathews, a tribal member. The tribe was not involved in either matter yet the two non-Indian parties wanted the tribe to pay the judgments out of Mathews's per capita account.

The plaintiffs cited Public Law 280, which granted civil and criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country to the state, and other federal laws in hopes of keeping the case alive. But the 9th Circuit said none of those laws established federal court jurisdiction.

"The district court determined it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over either action," the court wrote in an unpublished memorandum. "We affirm the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction."

Turtle Talk has posted briefs from the case, ABBA Bails Bonds v. Grubbe. In them, the tribe said it wasn't responsible for the debts of its citizens, in the same manner the state or the federal government wouldn't be liable for similar debts.

"ABBA in effect wishes to turn the tribe into ABBA’s collection agency," the tribe wrote in one brief, referring to the bail bond company.

The bail bond company and the trust were represented by the same attorney.

9th Circuit Court of Appeals:
ABBA Bail Bonds v. Grubbe (March 22, 2016)

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