Student Note on the Exclusionary Rule and the Indian Civil Rights Act

Seth E. Montgomery has published “ICRA’s Exclusionary Rule” in the Boston University Law Review.

The abstract:

The Fourth Amendment does not limit the actions of the 574 federally recognized Indian tribes. In an affront to tribal sovereignty, Congress enacted the Indian Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”) in 1968. The ICRA provides limitations on tribal governments that parallel the Bill of Rights. For example, the ICRA provides that no Indian tribe shall “violate the right of the people to be secure . . . against unreasonable search and seizures.”
But the ICRA—like the Fourth Amendment—does not state what happens when police obtain evidence from an unreasonable search or seizure and prosecutors seek to introduce that evidence in a criminal trial. Federal courts have developed an exclusionary rule for evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment: subject to myriad exceptions, if police obtain evidence unconstitutionally, then that evidence may not be introduced in a criminal trial. This Note asks whether the ICRA’s search-and-seizure provision incorporates such an exclusionary rule.
This Note advances an interpretation of the ICRA based on the statute’s 1968 meaning: the ICRA’s text compels an exclusionary rule, conditioned on deterring tribal police misconduct, but not subject to the myriad exceptions that apply in the Fourth Amendment context. And, with important qualifications, this Note explains why a court applying this interpretation should turn to tribal law. A deterrence-based exclusionary rule requires courts to consider whether exclusion deters police misconduct, how to measure the benefits of deterrence against the harms of excluding probative evidence, and how much deterrence is necessary for exclusion. Comity, self-determination, and federalism all compel deference to tribal law in answering these questions. Thus, tribal law can and should guide the application of the ICRA’s search-and-seizure provision in a criminal prosecution.
This Note contributes to the legal and academic landscape in three ways. First, it adds to an ever-growing body of literature advocating for federal and state deference to tribal law. Second, this Note fills a gap in the literature by addressing a remedy that the ICRA does not expressly provide—namely, exclusion. Most academics and courts describe federal habeas review as the ICRA’s only available remedy outside of tribal courts. Finally, this Note provides a roadmap for litigants arguing for or against a suppression motion based on an ICRA violation. Only a limited number of reported cases address whether the ICRA incorporates an exclusionary rule, and even fewer provide a full analysis. This Note thus answers an open question in a way that harmonizes constitutional criminal procedure with deference to tribal legal precedent.

Neoshia Roemer on ICWA as Reproductive Justice

Neoshia Roemer has posted “The Indian Child Welfare Act as Reproductive Justice,” forthcoming in the Boston University Law Review, on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

After decades of abuse through family regulation, Congress enacted the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (“ICWA”) to prevent the breakup of Indian families and promote tribal sovereignty. While ICWA seems like an outlier that addresses one category of children, it is not an outlier. Rather, I argue that ICWA is a tool of reproductive justice. By formulating a legal rights framework for reproductive justice in American jurisprudence, I discuss how the reproductive justice movement is grounded in U.S. law beyond the right to terminate a pregnancy that the Supreme Court abrogated in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. By looking at the history of reproductive rights in American Indian communities, I discuss how family regulation challenges reproductive rights and tribal sovereignty considering Dobbs and Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta. Indian child removals exist in the same history, context, and policy that disrupted the reproductive rights of American Indian families and tribal sovereignty in other areas. Before concluding that ICWA is still good law and good policy to disrupt family regulation and protect the reproductive rights of American Indian peoples, I consider where challenges to ICWA in Haaland v. Brackeen fit into this paradigm and the ongoing need for the protection of tribal sovereignty and reproductive rights for American Indian peoples. For nearly 400 years, the disruption of reproductive rights, including family regulation, has been at the heart of federal Indian policy. The current frame of family regulation as “saving” children means that it is often divorced from the notion of reproductive rights. As the history behind and contemporary challenges to ICWA demonstrate, it should not, and cannot, be separated from the other reproductive justice issues facing American Indian communities. To strengthen legal protections for American Indian people that disrupt these government interventions, like ICWA, is to realize reproductive rights more fully in the United States.

Highly recommended!!!

Fletcher & Fort: “Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem”

Kate Fort and I published a short paper for a Boston University Law Review mini-symposium on Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: “Indian Children and Their Guardians ad Litem.”

An excerpt:

One of the primary goals of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) is to limit the influence or bias of state workers in decisions placing American Indian children out of their home and community.1 While this focus usually concerns state social workers, the officials who most often seek removal of a child, or the courts, the body that issues the orders and opinions, guardians ad litem (GALs) receive less attention.2 Despite this lack of attention, GALs exert a similar level of influence as state social workers. In Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,3 the role of the GAL was unusual but critical – the GAL, while officially appointed by the court, was handpicked by the adoptive parents.4 The role of the GAL remains understudied in the ICWA literature, though GALs continue to exert enormous influence in the courts. Unfortunately, many GALs throughout the nation subvert the national policy embodied by the ICWA by advocating against the implementation of the statute in case after case.5

There are three other papers in the symposium:

Perspective I by Professor Barbara Ann Atwood is available here

Perspective II by Professor James G. Dwyer is available here, and

Perspective III by Professors Naomi Cahn and June Carbone is available here.