Whether a generally applicable state ad valorem tax, as assessed against personal property owned by a non-Indian, out-of-state corporate entity and leased to a tribe for use in its casino operations, is preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Court’s “particularized inquiry” balancing test, see White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980), where the tax does not infringe on any federal regulatory purpose contained in the IGRA, the tax does not interfere with any tribal sovereignty interests, and the tax supports relevant and important government interests, such as law enforcement, schools and health services.
The first legal history of the first tribal court upends long-held misconceptions about the origins of Westernized tribal jurisprudence. This book demonstrates how the Cherokee people—prior to their removal on the Trail of Tears—used their judicial system as an external exemplar of American legal values, while simultaneously deploying it as a bulwark for tribal culture and tradition in the face of massive societal pressure and change. Extensive case studies document the Cherokee Nation’s exercise of both criminal and civil jurisdiction over American citizens, the roles of women and language in the Supreme Court, and how the courts were used to regulate the slave trade among the Cherokees. Although long-known for its historical value, the legal significance of the Cherokee Supreme Court has not been explored until now
On Wednesday, an en banc panel of 16 judges in the Fifth Circuit heard oral arguments in Brackeen v. Bernhardt. Judges Davis and Ho were not a part of the panel. The other judges, from the left side of the bench around to the right were:
The rest of the information is from my notes during the hearing, and I’m sure contain some mistakes that we will see when a transcript is released.
Of the 16 judges, 5 of them asked a vast majority of the questions–more than 5 questions each. Duncan asked 19, Dennis and Jones asked 11, Smith asked 7 and Costa asked 5. The federal government received 11 questions, Navajo Nation 7, and the Four Intervening Tribes 7. Texas received 19, and the Individual Plaintiffs 16. The Four Intervening Tribes received 4 additional questions on rebuttal (totals are 25 for the pro-ICWA side before rebuttal and 36 for the anti-ICWA side).
If you are trying to follow along to the audio recording, Duncan was most concerned with commandeering and recent Supreme Court commandeering questions. He also pressed Navajo Nation closely on blood quantum. Smith was the one particularly trying to understand the “exclusive” part of plenary power, and later expressed the belief that Texas dedicates scores of social workers to each child in care. And Jones asked the questions on rebuttal that has led to the most number of texts from attorneys asking me “what the [heck]?!” (which I personally thought Adam Charnes handled admirably, given all the oxygen was completely sucked out of the courtroom in that minute by a collective intake of breath).
Dennis, the judge who wrote the lower panel opinion, was the one the plaintiffs had most difficulty hearing, and was the most supportive of the law. Costa also asked skeptical questions of the plaintiffs, and wanted to know more about redressability.
Given the silence or relative silence of so many judges, it is impossible to make any predictions about the eventual opinion. We heard very little from judges who voted against en banc review in Dollar General (the pro-tribe vote), except Dennis. Elrod and Higginson both asked one question each.
Finally, in a very unscientific scroll through Westlaw, the Fifth Circuit has taken anywhere from 3 months (Moore v. Quarterman) from the granting of en banc review to the opinion to 10 months (Alvarez v. Brownsville). The granting of en banc review of Brackeen was in 11/19, so feel free to speculate amongst yourselves when you think the opinion will come out.
“I think it means a lot to our foster kids that we’re Cherokee,” said Carney Duncan, a gentle, soft-spoken man whose hair falls below his shoulders. “My mom and dad always helped people and took them in. I have an ‘Uncle Joe’ who is no kin but we took him in. And a ‘brother’ who lived with us who is no blood kin. We help our own. It’s a Cherokee value.”
We applaud the broad coalition of federal lawmakers, attorneys general from 21
states, and 30 child welfare organizations who have joined 325 Tribal governments and 57 Tribal organizations in filing numerous amicus briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to defend the Constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).
The past 96 hours have witnessed an unprecedented and overwhelming demonstration of support for ICWA and its constitutionality as a wave of amicus briefs were filed urging the Fifth Circuit to reverse the district court’s ruling in Brackeen v. Zinke, which erroneously deemed key provisions of ICWA as being
Passed more than 40 years ago by Congress, ICWA was designed to reverse decades of cultural insensitivity and political bias that had resulted in one-third of all Indian children being forcibly removed by the government from their families, their tribes and their cultural heritage.
ICWA ensures the best interests and wellbeing of Native American children are protected. ICWA preserves the stability and cohesion of Tribal families, Tribal communities and Tribal cultures. It maintains and reinforces the political and cultural connections between an Indian child and his or her tribe.
Multiple parties and amici filed strong briefs in the Brackeen v. Zinke case in the Fifth Circuit yesterday. Twenty-one state attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of the law, as did 325 tribal nations and 57 tribal organizations. 30 child welfare organizations also signed on to the Casey Family Programs “gold standard” brief. Law professors from more than 20 law schools signed on to the three law professor amicus briefs.
Appellee states and individual plaintiffs will file theirs by February 6. Oral arguments are expected the week of March 11.
We applaud the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for staying a recent ruling in Texas that struck down the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). This stay decision protects children from potential abuse and forced separation from their families.
As a result, tribal families and their children in Texas and Indiana will continue to be protected from the types of abusive child welfare practices that Congress outlawed 40 years ago when it enacted ICWA.
By granting the stay, the protections provided by ICWA will remain in full force pending an appeal of the ruling handed down in October by a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas.
The Cherokee Nation, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, the Oneida Nation and the Quinault Indian Nation will continue to defend Native children and Native families by advocating for the constitutionality of ICWA by all available means. We strongly believe the ruling holding the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional was wrong, will ultimately be reversed on appeal, and as a result, the rights of Indian children, families and communities protected by the Indian Child Welfare Act will be affirmed and reinforced.