New Student Scholarship on Jurisdiction and Gender-Based Violence against Native Women

Emily Mendoza has published “Jurisdictional Transparency and Native American Women” in the California Law Review Online.

Here is the abstract:

While lawmakers have long known that Native American women experience gender-based violence at higher rates than any other population, lawmakers historically have addressed these harms by implementing jurisdictional changes: removing tribal jurisdiction entirely, limiting tribal jurisdiction, or returning jurisdiction to tribes in a piecemeal fashion. The result is a “jurisdictional maze” that law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and courts are unable to successfully administer to bring perpetrators to justice. This Article is the first to identify what I call “jurisdictional transparency”—or clear, easily ascertainable rules governing courts’ jurisdiction—as a core value of the American legal system and will argue that a lack of jurisdictional transparency over criminal prosecutions in Indian country contributes to the excessive rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape against Native American women. Because arguments for or against sovereignty are divisive and often put a swift end to productive dialogue, this has often led to the layering of more jurisdictional rules on top of the current system. Jurisdictional transparency, on the other hand, advocates an approach that is both more fundamental and more attainable: allocating criminal jurisdiction in Indian country in a way that can be easily determined at the outset of a case.

The Article begins by examining jurisdictional rules in other contexts while highlighting the federal courts’ continuous demand for clear jurisdictional rules in the interest of judicial efficiency and public access to the courts. With this backdrop, the Article then illuminates the discrepancy between such transparency demands and the opaque jurisdictional rules in Indian Country, using key case examples to demonstrate the system’s failures. Finally, the Article proposes a solution that is reflected in numerous facets of the law: jurisdictional transparency. Such a solution has a procedural guise capable of penetrating a polarized political climate while lifting the opacity that has prevented thousands of Native American women from accessing justice.