New Turtle Talk Project: State Supreme Court Outcomes — TODAY: Montana

We at Turtle Talk are going to be spending some time in the coming weeks reporting the outcomes of state supreme courts in Indian law cases. As observers know all too well, tribal interests prevail less than 25 percent of the time before the United States Supreme Court (since 1986). But what about state supreme courts?

We begin today with the Montana Supreme Court, which is an elected court. There is no intermediate court of appeals, so the Supreme Court hears all appeals. There are a smattering of unpublished decisions out of the Court as a result, but we did not count these (usually an affirmation in an ICWA case without tribal intervention).

Tribes within Montana include the Crow Nation, the Confederate Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Fort Peck, Blackfeet, Rocky Boy’s, Little Shell, Northern Cheyenne, Pend O’reille, and Fort Belknap.

A quick note about “outcomes.” We count “wins” and “losses” from the point of view of the relevant tribal government(s). This is necessarily subjective. Some cases we simply cannot clearly count as either a win or a loss (for example, we decided not to count cases where the state court held it had criminal jurisdiction over a non-Indian for a “victimless” crime on the reservation; another example, many ICWA cases where the tribe is not an intervenor). Also, we have may have missed a few.

The “win” rate for tribal interests before the Montana Supreme Court is 70 percent 68 percent.

Here is the list of cases we counted:

Estate of Big Spring (2011) — W

In re Hanna (2010) — W

Morieau v. Gorman (2010) — L

In re J.M. (2009) — W

In re M.B. (2009) — W

CSKT v Clinch (2007) — L

State v. Walker (2007) — W

Zempel v. Liberty (2006) — W

In re A.G. (2005) — W

In re A.N. (2005) — L

Nielson v. Brocksmith Land & Livestock (2004) — W

State v. Spotted Eagle (2003) — W L [one commentator argues that tribes in Montana think of this as a loss]

Koke v. Little Shell Tribe (2003) — W

Bradley v. Crow Tribe (2003) — L

State v. Shook (2002) — W

CSKT v Stults (2002) — W

Flat Center Farms v State Dept. of Revenue (2002) — W

Hagener v. Wallace (2002) — L

Estate of Hobbs (2002) — W

In re C.H. (2000) — W

CSKT v Clinch (1999) — W

In re K.H. (1999) — W

Schmasaw v. Native American Center (1999) — W

Bayleat Law v. Pettit (1998) — W

Matter of A.P. (1998) — L

Thompson v. Crow Tribe (1998) — W

Marriage of Skillen (1998) — W

Anderson v. Engelke (1998) — W

Krause v. Newman (1997) — W

Agri West v. Koyama Farms (1997) — W

Matter of Beneficial Water Use Permits (1996) — W

Adoption of Riffle (1996) — L

Larson v. State Dept. of Justice (1996) — W

Adoption of Riffle (1995) — W

State v. Haskins (1994) — W

Lambert v. Ryozik (1994) — W

Matter of L.F. (1994) — W

State v. Horseman (1993) — W

Matter of Baby Girl Doe (1993) — W

Matter of W.L. (1993) — L

Wippert v. Blackfeet Tribe (1993) — W

Marriage of Wellman (1993) — W

State ex rel. Poll v. 9th Judicial Dist. (1993) — L

State Dept. of Revenue v. Bird (1992) — W

First v. Dept. of Social Services (1991) — L

Emerson v. Boyd (1991) — W

Matter of T.S. (1990) — L

State v. LaPier (1990) — L

Matter of M.R.D.B. (1990) — W

Liberty v. Jones (1989) — W

Brown v. 17th Judicial Dist. (1989) — L

Northern Border Pipleine v. State (1989) — L

Geiger v. Pierce (1988) — W

In re M.E.M. (1986) — W

Burlington Northern R. Co. v. Public Service Commission (1986) — L

39 wins, 17 losses

38 wins, 18 losses

6 thoughts on “New Turtle Talk Project: State Supreme Court Outcomes — TODAY: Montana

  1. Joe J. McKaay June 9, 2011 / 12:17 pm

    Okee (Hello) from Blackfeet County:

    With respect to your review of Montana Supreme Court cass, just wanted to bring another case to your attention: State v. Eagle Speaker, a 2000 Montana case holding no state jurisdiction to prosecute an Indian. Also wanted to note that I agree that State v. Spotted Eagle was a loss and not a win for Indians.


    Joe J. McKay

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