Kurowski v. Kurowski Cert Petition


Cert Petition


Questions presented:

Upon tribal court exhaustion must District Courts perform a threshold inquiry to protect the Indian Petitioners’ federal 25 U.S.C. § 1302 rights?

Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians v. CenturyTel of the Midwest – Kendall, LLC

Here are the materials so far:




Washington SCT Amends Tribal Court Jurisdiction Court Order 82.5

Here is the order. The amendment:

(d) Communication Between Superior Court of Any County of this State and Indian Tribal Court.

(1) A superior court of any county of this state may communicate with any Indian tribal court concerning co-occurring proceedings, whether they are active or have been concluded. The parties shall provide to the respective courts the identity, contact information, and a case or docket number of the other court’s proceedings to facilitate this communication.

(2) The superior court may allow the parties to participate in the communication. If the parties are not able or allowed to participate in the communication, they shall be given an opportunity to present facts and legal arguments in writing before a decision is made regarding the communication, or the subject of communication, by the superior court. The Indian tribal court‘s procedures and customs shall determine the parties’ participation in the Indian tribal court proceedings.

(3) The superior court shall make a record of a communication made pursuant to this section. The parties shall be informed promptly of the communication by the superior court and granted access to the record. The Indian tribal court‘s procedures shall determine whether and how a record is made in Indian tribal court proceedings, and whether and how parties may be informed of the communication or granted access to a record of the communication.

(4) Except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) of this section, communication between the superior court and the Indian tribal court regarding scheduling, administrative or emergency purposes, and similar matters may occur without informing the parties. The superior court need not make a record of the communication under this section. The Indian tribal court‘s procedures shall determine whether and how a record is made in Indian tribal court proceedings of such communication.

(5) For the purposes of this section, “record” means information that is inscribed on a tangible medium or that is stored in an electronic or other medium and is retrievable in perceivable form.

(6) The superior court shall follow the procedures set forth in subsection (3) of this section when communicating regarding adult criminal matters, except as otherwise authorized by law. The Indian tribal court‘s procedures shall determine the requirements for communication regarding adult criminal matters in Indian tribal court proceedings. Superior courts and Indian tribal courts may communicate about the orders prohibiting contact as set forth in subsections (1) – (5) above.

Alex Skibine on Legislating Tribal Civil Jurisdiction Over Non-Members

Alexander Tallchief Skibine has posted a very interesting paper, “Incorporation Without Assimilation: Legislating Tribal Civil Jurisdiction Over Non-Members,” on SSRN. It is forthcoming in the UCLA Law Review Discourse.

The abstract:

For the last 40 years the Supreme Court has been engaged in a measured attack on the sovereignty of Indian tribes when it comes to tribal court jurisdiction over people who are not members of the tribe asserting that jurisdiction. The Congress has already enacted legislation partially restoring some tribal courts’ criminal jurisdiction over non-members. This Essay proposes to legislatively reconfirm the civil jurisdiction of tribal courts over such non-members. After examining the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence in this area and summarizing the Court’s main concerns with such tribal jurisdiction, this Essay explores various legislative options before settling on a preferred course of action. The proposal set forth in the last part of this Essay would reconfirm tribal court civil jurisdiction over non-members provided the tribal courts has established personal jurisdiction over the parties. However, tribal courts’ determinations on this subject would be appealable to federal courts. Furthermore, the Essay proposes to allow non-members being sued in tribal courts the option of removing their cases to federal courts under certain conditions.

Sixth Circuit Affirms Tribal Court Decision in Spurr v. Pope


But our review involves no probing of the facts, just a pure question of law: Does a tribal court have jurisdiction under federal law to issue a civil personal protection order against a non-Indian and non-tribal member in matters arising in the Indian country of the Indian tribe? Because 18 U.S.C. § 2265(e) unambiguously grants tribal courts that power, and because tribal sovereign immunity requires us to dismiss this suit against two of the named defendants, we AFFIRM the district court’s dismissal of Spurr’s complaint.

Answer Brief
Appellant Brief

Lower court materials here.

Tribal supreme court decision here.

Ninth Circuit Decides Coeur d’Alene Tribe v. Hawks

Here is the opinion. An excerpt:

This appeal presents the question of whether the grant of federal question jurisdiction in 28 U.S.C. § 1331 encompasses an action to recognize and enforce a tribal court’s award against nonmembers of the tribe. The district court concluded that the action, filed by an Indian tribe seeking to enforce a tribal court judgment against nonmembers, did not present a federal question and dismissed it based on a lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Inherent in the recognition of a tribal court’s judgment against a nonmember is a question regarding the extent of the powers reserved to the tribe under federal law. As in previous decisions involving the application of tribal law to nonmembers, we hold that actions seeking to enforce a tribal judgment against nonmembers raise a substantial question of federal law. We accordingly reverse the district court’s order dismissing the case for lack of subject of matter jurisdiction.

Briefs and lower court materials here.

Eighth Circuit Decides Kodiak Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. v. Burr]



A dispute over the practice of flaring natural gas from oil wells fuels the legal controversy in this case: the scope of Native American tribal court authority over  nonmembers. Several members of the MHA Nation sued numerous non-tribal oil and gas companies in MHA tribal court. Those companies operate oil wells on lands within the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation that have been allotted to individual tribe members but are held in trust by the federal government. The tribe members alleged the companies owed royalties from wastefully-flared gas. Some of these companies unsuccessfully contested the tribal court’s jurisdiction over them in tribal court. Then they initiated this action in federal court to enjoin the tribal court plaintiffs and tribal court judicial officials. The district court issued a preliminary injunction, and the tribal court plaintiffs and officials separately appealed. We affirm the injunction because we conclude suits over oil and gas leases on allotted trust lands are governed by federal law, not tribal law, and the tribal court lacks jurisdiction over the nonmember oil and gas companies.

Briefs here.

Knighton v. Cedarville Rancheria Cert Petition



Questions presented:

“[T]he inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe do not extend to the activities of nonmembers of the tribe.” Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544, 565 (1981). The Montana Court recognized two limited narrow exceptions to that rule. But the Court has never resolved the question of whether tribal courts may ever exercise civil tort jurisdiction over nonmembers. In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., 554 U.S. 316 (2008) and in Dollar General Corporation and Dolgencorp, LLC v. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, et. al. 136 S.Ct. 2159 (2016) the issue was brought before this Court, but unanswered. This case presents the issue of: Whether Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against nonmembers?

Further this case presents the issue of: If the Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims over nonmembers, what is the prerequisite notice of any such authority, what is the prerequisite consent thereto by a nonmember, and what is the viable scope of such jurisdiction so as to satisfy the Due Process rights of a nonmember?

Lower court materials here.


Brief in Opposition–PDFA