Angela Riley & Sarah Glenn Thompson on Dual Sovereignty and Indian Country Crimes

Angela Riley & Sarah Glenn Thompson have posted “Mapping Dual Sovereignty and Double Jeopardy in Indian Country Crimes,” recently published in the Columbia Law Review, on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

The Double Jeopardy Clause guarantees no individual will be put in jeopardy twice for the same offense. But, pursuant to the dualsovereignty doctrine, multiple prosecutions for offenses stemming from the same conduct do not violate the Clause if the offenses charged arise under the laws of separate sovereigns, even if the laws are otherwise identical. The doctrine applies to tribal prosecutions, but its impact in Indian country is rarely studied. Such an inquiry is overdue, particularly as the scope of crimes potentially subject to dual tribal and federal prosecutions has broadened in recent years. This Article is the first to undertake a preliminary examination of the dual-sovereignty doctrine in the tribal–federal context and describe the complex interplay between the doctrine and the rest of the criminal law fabric in Indian country. Perhaps most significantly, it includes an original typology highlighting when a defendant may be subject to the doctrine, which sovereigns have the authority to prosecute, pursuant to what source of power each sovereign operates, and when and how the sequence of prosecutions matters, if at all. This leads to the Article’s central thesis: Indian tribes are separate sovereigns with inherent sovereignty, and, under current conditions, the dual-sovereignty doctrine plays a central role in ensuring safety in Indian country. The doctrine’s application in Indian country, however, creates unique complexities that may threaten tribal sovereignty and raise issues of unfairness for defendants. This Article offers numerous reforms—some highly ambitious and others more modest—to address these issues.

two police officers staring at each other in the style of miro

Columbia Law Review Note on Tribal Adjudicatory Jurisdiction

Here is “The Shrinking Sovereign: Tribal Adjudicatory Jurisdiction Over Nonmembers in Civil Cases,” (PDF) published in the Columbia Law Review.

Here is the abstract:

Tribal jurisdiction over nonmembers is limited to two narrow areas: consensual economic relationships between tribes and nonmembers, and nonmember activity that threatens tribal integrity. Even within these two narrow fields, the Supreme Court has stated that tribal adjudicatory power over nonmembers—the authority to decide legal rights of individuals, usually in a trial-like setting—cannot exceed the tribe’s legislative power over nonmembers—the power to regulate nonmember activity through the enactment of legislation and regulation.  This raises a question that the Court has acknowledged but never answered: whether a tribe may exercise adjudicatory authority over nonmembers as a result of its legislative power. More simply put, is a tribe’s adjudicatory jurisdiction over nonmembers less than, or equal to, its legislative power?


This Note argues that tribes should have concurrent regulatory and adjudicatory jurisdiction over nonmembers in disputes based on consensual economic relationships, but tribal regulation concerning tribal integrity should be subject to greater federal court oversight.  Tribal courts should have presumptive jurisdiction to enforce tribalintegrity regulations; however, proof that the tribal court is unfair or inaccessible to nonmembers should permit federal courts to intervene. By drawing on analogous principles in administrative law, civil procedure, and the law of federal courts, this Note provides a workable solution that is consistent with existing Supreme Court tribal law jurisprudence, that conforms with the normative values shaping jurisdiction in other contexts, and that also respects tribal sovereignty.

Columbia Law Review Article on Constitutionality of VAWA/TLOA-Type Statutes

Zachary S. Price has published “Dividing Sovereignty in Tribal and Territorial Criminal Jurisdiction” in the Columbia Law Review.

Here is the abstract:

In both federal Indian law and the law regarding United States territories, the Supreme Court in recent decades has shown increasing skepticism about previously tolerated elements of constitutionally unregulated local governmental authority. This Article proposes a framework for resolving constitutional questions raised by the Court’s recent cases in these areas. Focusing on the criminal context, where the stakes are highest both for individual defendants and for the affected communities, this Article considers three issues: (1) whether and under what circumstances Congress may confer criminal jurisdiction on tribal and territorial governments without requiring that those governments’ enforcement decisions be subject to federal executive supervision; (2) whether double jeopardy should bar successive prosecution by both the federal government and a tribal or territorial government exercising federally authorized criminal jurisdiction; and (3) what, if any, constitutional procedural protections apply when a tribal or territorial government exercises criminal jurisdiction pursuant to such federal authorization.

Through close examination of these three questions, this Article aims to show that framing the analysis in terms of divided sovereignty, and recognizing the close parallels between tribal, territorial, and related federal-state contexts, may yield the most attractive resolutions that are viable in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decisions. This Article contrasts this approach with an alternative framework that would organize the analysis around a distinction between “inherent” and “delegated” governmental authority.

Looks like a fascinating paper from a former OLC attorney. Will study with interest.

Columbia Law Review Note on State Discrimination against Indians

Shira Kieval has published “Discerning Discrimination in State Treatment of American Indians Going Beyond Reservation Boundaries” in the Columbia Law Review. Here is the abstract:

Generally, federal Indian law cases focus on jurisdiction inside of Indian Country. Occasionally, however, challenges arise about the application of state law to American Indians outside of Indian Country. In 1973, and again in 2005, the Supreme Court announced that “[a]bsent express federal law to the contrary, Indians going beyond reservation boundaries have generally been held subject to nondiscriminatory state law otherwise applicable to all citizens of the State.” While this statement is fairly accurate historically, it provides practically no direction for states, tribes, or lower courts to apply the rule in specific instances. Since American Indians are members of three distinct American political groups—Indian tribes, the states within which they reside, and the United States—how is discrimination to be discerned? How explicit must federal law be, and how much flexibility do states have in interpreting Congress’s directives? How is the Supreme Court maxim to be applied in the context of state-tribe negotiations, which have become a practical necessity for coexistence but are only occasionally addressed by federal legislation? This Note looks to the roots and rationale of the Supreme Court pronouncement, situating it inside of a larger picture of how states may, must, and cannot treat American Indian state citizens. Ultimately, it provides a framework and four specific rules for applying the Supreme Court pronouncement in disputes regarding the power of states over American Indians beyond the borders of Indian Country, and the rights of those American Indians vis-` a-vis the states.

Little Traverse Bay Bands et al. v. Great Spring Waters & Engler

In 2002, the three Michigan Ottawa tribes sued Great Spring Waters & Governor Engler over the State’s granting of rights to take millions of gallons of water from mid-Michigan’s water table — a sweetheart deal if there ever was one. The tribes sued under the Water Resources Development Act of 1986, but there was no cause of action and the district court dismissed the action. The tribes did not appeal.

Here is the motion to dismiss: Motion to Dismiss

Here is the Tribes’ response, plus an exhibit: Response Brief + Exhibits

Here is the reply brief: Reply Brief

Here is the order dismissing the case: Opinion

The tribes chose not to bring claims based on the treaty rights they had established in United States v. Michigan. At some point, we expect tribes to bring treaty claims in the environmental protection context — see our MSU Law Review paper.
There has been a fair amount of scholarly commentary on the case, such as this student note in the Columbia Law Review and this paper in the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law.