Minnesota SCT Confirms Authority of Tribal Police to Detain and Expel Non-Indians from Rez

Here is the opinion in State v. Thompson:


The court’s syllabus:

When, on the Red Lake Reservation, a non-Indian violates a Minnesota law under circumstances where the non-Indian is subject to the State of Minnesota’s criminal jurisdiction, Red Lake Band police officers are authorized to detain and expel the non-Indian from the Reservation.

Minnesota Supreme Court Rule Recognizing Tribal Court Orders

Over 15 years ago, the Minnesota Tribal Court/State Court Forum petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to adopt a robust rule for recognition of tribal court orders. Due in large part to public concern about the efficacy of tribal courts, the supreme court adopted a more cautious rule, one that provided limited guidance and delegated excessive discretion to district courts. The consequences were delays and inconsistencies in the recognition process.

In 2016, the Forum petitioned the supreme court to amend the rule, arguing that any concerns about today’s tribal courts are unfounded. It asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to enhance the rule and extend due deference and respect to tribal courts. The petition received overwhelming support from state court judges, local attorney associations, and the national Indian law community. In a 4-2 decision on July 2, 2018, the Minnesota Supreme Court granted the Forum’s petition with minor amendments.

Thank you to all of the state and tribal court judges of the Forum for their leadership and thanks also to Peter Rademacher (Hogen Adams PLLC) for his tireless work as scrivener of the Forum.

Administrative – Order – Other

ICWA QEW Opinion in the Minnesota Supreme Court


The question of what Qualified Expert Testimony (QEW) actually is under ICWA comes up all the time. The Minnesota Supreme Court did a pretty deep dive into what it means in terms of termination of parental rights, and concludes,

Read straightforwardly, the statute provides that to terminate parental rights, a district court must determine that “continued custody of the child by the parent . . . is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child.” 25 U.S.C. 1912(f). This determination must be supported by evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt,” and part of the supporting evidence must be QEW testimony. Id. The statute is unambiguous.

. . .

The parents . .  suggest that the statute requires that the QEW testify specifically that “continued custody . . . is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage.” 25 U.S.C. § 1912(f).  . . . If Congress wanted to impose a requirement that the expert utter a “magic phrase,” it could have done so. But as written, neither ICWA nor MIFPA require a specific QEW opinion that “continued custody . . . is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage.” 25 U.S.C. § 1912(f); Minn. Stat. § 260.771, subd. 6(a). S

Accordingly, we conclude that in a termination proceeding governed by ICWA and MIFPA, a court cannot terminate parental rights unless it determines that evidence shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that continued parental custody of the child is likely to result in serious emotional or physical damage to the child. That determination must be supported by QEW testimony.

Because the QEW admitted on the stand that she focused most of her testimony and affidavits on the mother (who was a tribal member) and not the father (who not an enrolled tribal member in any tribe), the court held her testimony did not support the termination as to father.

I get questions pretty frequently about QEW, QEW training, and whether a person should be a QEW. My answer is almost always the same–a QEW must be comfortable stating that the parental rights should be terminated, or that these children should be put in foster care. That information is what is required by statute, and why the state (or party seeking removal/termination) must put a QEW on the stand. The QEW is ultimately there to testify against the parents, regardless of any other testimony they may proffer.

White Earth Descendant Selected for Minnesota Supreme Court

Congratulations Judge Anne McKeig

Link to full article here

From the article:

Gov. Mark Dayton has selected Fourth Judicial District Judge Anne McKeig as the next Supreme Court justice, giving the state’s highest court its first American Indian jurist, as well as the first female majority since 1991.

McKeig, 49, a descendant of White Earth Nation, has specialized in child protection and Indian welfare issues. She was first appointed to the bench in 2008 by GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. She will replace retiring Justice Christopher Dietzen, also a Pawlenty appointee.

The selection means that Dayton has made a majority of appointments on the 7-member court, likely ensuring his legacy on the bench long after he leaves office. He has now appointed five justices, though former Justice Wilhelmina Wright joined the federal bench earlier this year.

In his two terms, Dayton has made diversifying the state’s courts a priority. He praised McKeig’s legal experience, and he also emphasized her biography, reading a passage from her application as he announced his pick.

“I grew up in rural Minnesota in challenging circumstances surrounded by poverty,” McKeig wrote. “The lessons I learned as a young woman from Federal Dam, Minn. planted in me a strong desire to make a difference for my community. My passion for public service comes from seeing the enormous need matched against the limited resources on the reservation.”

McKeig delivered an emotional speech Tuesday to reporters, members of her family and other Minnesota dignitaries, including the state Supreme Court. She called her appointment a “historic day” for American Indians. She thanked trailblazing Judge Robert A. Blaeser for paving the way for other American Indians pursuing legal careers.

“I didn’t know him, but he was a White Earth member,” McKeig said, recalling the impression his 1995 swearing-in ceremony left on her. “And, I, a proud descendant of the White Earth nation, knew that if he could do it, than maybe I could.”

She added: “It is people like him and his wife who have led the way that have allowed for others like me to dare to dream. So today is a historic day, not only for myself and for my family, but for all native people.”

Minnesota Supreme Court Affirms Tribal Immunity in City of Duluth v. Fond du Lad Band — UPDATED with Briefs

Here is the opinion in City of Duluth vs. Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. Link to oral argument video here. Briefs are not available publicly, so if anyone has them, please send along.

Here are the briefs:

08 26 13 FDL Initial Brief – FINAL

09 30 13 City of Duluth Response Brief

10 14 13 FDL Reply

An excerpt:

When an Indian band enters into a contract with a city, waives its sovereign immunity, and consents to be sued only in federal district court, a state court may go no further than interpreting contractual provisions pertaining to jurisdiction to determine whether the court has jurisdiction over a dispute arising under the contract.

Our post with a link to the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision, now reversed, is here.

Attorney Sanctioned by State for Behavior in Tribal Court

Minnesota Supreme Court decision here.

The Director argues that Michael’s e-mail questioning the tribal court’s impartiality violated Rule 8.4(d). Michael counters that her accusation regarding the tribal court’s impartiality was well founded and, therefore, was not a violation of Rule 8.4(d). Similar to the misconduct in Getty, the conclusion that Michael’s conduct constitutes a violation of Rule 8.4(d) rests on the manner in which she raised her concerns about the tribal court’s alleged unfairness. Even if Michael could establish that her concerns were well founded, Michael’s flippant rhetorical question at the end of the e-mail that she addressed to the presiding tribal court judge and sent to opposing counsel was unprofessional and disrespectful. Michael’s conduct demonstrates a failure to “show . . . restraint and . . . respect for the judicial system even while disagreeing strongly with it or its decisions.” In re Getty, 401 N.W.2d at 671; cf. In re Snyder, 472 U.S. 634, 645-47 (1985)