Greene v. Commissioner — Minn. Supreme Court Decision on Political Status Test

In an interesting decision, Greene v. Commissioner of the Minnesota Dept. of Social Services (opinion), and a 4-3 split, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a state law under Morton v. Mancari‘s political status classification. Justice Alan Page dissented, appearing to be shocked that Indians would be treated differently (both positively and negatively) under the political status test.

Here is the court’s syllabus:

1.     Minnesota Statutes § 256J.645, subd. 4 (2006), requires that a tribal member residing in the service area of a federally recognized tribe, which provides employment services under an agreement with the State of Minnesota, receive employment services through the tribe and is subject to sanction for refusing to participate in those services.  Under Minn. Stat. § 256J.57, subd. 1 (2006), a tribal member has the right to show good cause for failing to participate in the employment services through the tribe.
2.     Because Minn. Stat. § 256J.645, subd. 4, neither burdens a fundamental right nor involves a suspect classification, rational basis review is the appropriate level of scrutiny to apply to an equal protection challenge under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.
3.     Minnesota Statutes § 256J.645, subd. 4, satisfies rational basis review under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions.