Idaho COA Dismisses Jurisdictional Challenge to Indian Country Criminal Conviction on Procedural Grounds

Here is the opinion in State v. Wolfe:

State v. Wolfe

An excerpt:

The district court recognized the possible merit of Wolfe’s contentions that the state courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the charged offense. The court ordered further briefing from the State and the tribe. The tribe did not provide any briefing.

When denying the initial Rule 35 motion and later dismissing the second successive post-conviction petition (alleging ineffective assistance of counsel based on the failure to raise the issue of lack of subject matter jurisdiction), the district court addressed only the procedural issues of whether the pleadings were timely. Although the district court concluded “there is a genuine issue of whether the court had had jurisdiction because there is credible admissible evidence that [the victim] was in fact a Native American,” it weighed the policies of fundamental justice with the need for finality of judgments and decided, in this case, that the need for finality of judgments outweighed other considerations. In doing so, it noted the issue of lack of subject matter jurisdiction in Wolfe’s underlying criminal case was long-ripe for consideration and Wolfe had had prior opportunities to assert the claim. Thus, the court applied the limitations of the post-conviction procedures as written. Accordingly, the court concluded Wolfe was time-barred from asserting his claim for relief in a post-conviction petition.

The trial court noted:

There appears to be little doubt that the federal courts had exclusive jurisdiction over Mr. Wolfe’s offense. “Crime in which the victim, but not the perpetrator, is Indian are subject to (a) federal jurisdiction under § 1152, as well as pursuant to federal criminal law of general applicability, and (b) state jurisdiction where authorized by Congress.” United States v. Bruce, 394 F.3d 1215, 1222 (9th Cir.2005); United States v. Johnson, 637 F.2d 1224, 1232 n. 11 [ (1980) ]; see, Duro v. Reina, 495 U.S. 676, 698, 699 (1990). Unlike some states, where jurisdiction over all offenses involving Indians was either granted or assumed, Pub.L. No. 280, § 7, Idaho limited its jurisdiction to the offenses itemized in I.C. § 67–5101. Murder is not included.