8th Circuit Finds Tribal Cop Working under BIA Contract was Federal Officer when Assaulted

Link to memorandum in re U.S. v. Janis (Jan. 15 2016) here.

Defendant’s brief here and reply brief here.

United States’ brief here.

Previous coverage here.

Defendant raised two questions on appeal: (1) whether officers in the Dept. of Public Safety on the Pine Ridge Reservation are federal officers authorized to carry out tribal law and (2) whether the court erred in instructing the jury to find Officer Mousseau a federal officer as a matter of law.

The Eighth Circuit held that through the Indian Law Enforcement Reform Act a “638 contract” between the BIA and the Oglala Sioux Tribe explicitly required officers to enforce both tribal and federal laws.

However, it decided that the district court erred on jury instructions because although it was correct to rule as a matter-of-law that Oglala Sioux’s Public Safety officers were federal officers for the purpose of 18 U.S.C. § 111, it should have been up to the jury to determine whether Officer Mousseau was a Dept. of Public Safety officer at the time of the assault.  The Court determined the error was harmless, though, since evidence on record made it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would find Mousseau an officer when she responded to a complaint of illegal alcohol consumption at a home on the Reservation.