Eighth Circuit Upholds Tribal Court Jurisdiction over Nonmember in Sac and Fox Leadership Dispute

Here are the materials in Attorney’s Process and Investigation Services v. Sac and Fox Tribe:

APIS v. Sac and Fox Tribe opinion

APIS Brief

Sac and Fox Brief

APIS Reply Brief

API v. Sac and Fox — Court Finds Tribal Court Jurisdiction over Nonmembers

Here is the district court order granting the tribe’s motion to dismiss a challenge to the tribal court’s jurisdiction in this long-running intratribal dispute — DCT Order on Cross Motions

The pleadings are here.

An excerpt:

API’s conduct imperiled the Tribe’s political integrity. In essence, API invaded the Tribe’s land to quell an intra-tribal governmental dispute. API argues this intra-tribal dispute was merely incidental to the raid. API contends that, if the court finds the raid imperiled the Tribe’s political integrity, any action taken by a non-member on tribal land during an intra-tribal governmental dispute would justify a court’s invocation of the second Montana exception. The court disagrees. API’s actions were made and intended to be a direct challenge to the Bear Council. API raided the Casino on behalf of the Walker Council, which was not the Tribe’s true governing authority. API conducted the raid pursuant to the Agreement, and the Agreement’s terms indicate the services API was expected to provide related directly to the Tribe’s governmental affairs. See Agreement at P I.2.A (stating API “shall perform services directly relating to the investigation of a takeover by dissidents at the [Casino] located on the Tribe’s reservation lands” and “[i]nvestigat[e] [. . .] individuals involved in the unlawful acts against the Tribal Government”). In other words, API was  hired to assist in the resolution of an intra-tribal governmental dispute, which strikes at the heart of the secondMontana exception. The fact API believed it was operating with the consent of the Tribe’s governing authority, that is, the ousted Walker Council, has no effect on the application of this exception. In truth and in fact, API raided the Casino specifically to weaken one side of an intra-tribal governmental dispute, which happened to be the Bear Council, the Tribe’s true governing body. This is an act with potentially catastrophic consequences to the Tribe’s government. The court concludes this merits the application of the protective prong of the Montana exception and that the Tribal Court’s exercise of civil jurisdiction over API was proper.

PacificCorp v. Real Bird — No Tribal Court Jurisdiction

This case, out of the District of Montana, involves a trespass claim in Crow Tribal Court by Crow allottees regarding a transmission wire owned by PacificCorp.





Tribal Court Case Studies: Grand Ronde Case

An interesting case (to me anyway) that has been winding its way through state, tribal, and now federal courts — a case involving an investment contract between the Grand Ronde Confederated Tribes and Strategic Wealth Management (and now its insurance company). In short, the deal between the two went bad and the parties ended up in state court, then before an arbitrator. The arbitrator ruled against the tribe, and awarded millions in attorney fees to SWM (but nothing else). The tribe refused to pay, arguing that it had not waived its immunity in relation to attorney fees, and SWM went to tribal court to enforce the arbitration award of attorney fees. The tribal court affirmed the tribe’s claim of immunity and now the case is in federal district court on a Montana 1 theory (huh?). Anyway, I wrote about this case as it went through the tribal court recently (here). And I personally know the two principals of SWM from my work at Pascua Yaqui a thousand years ago.

This may look like a tribe hiding behind sovereign immunity, but keep in mind that the Sizemore brothers (the SWM principals) prided themselves on being “experts” on federal Indian law (despite not being lawyers) and wrote the contract at issue. Moreover, the amount of atty fees awarded by the arbitrator was extraordinary (in the millions).

Contract with Strategic Wealth Management

State Court Order

AAA Decision

Tribal Court Order

Tribal Court of Appeals Opinion

Federal District Court Materials:

Federal Court Complaint

Plaintiff Motion for Summary Judgment

Defendant Motion for Summary Judgment

Plaintiff Response Brief

Defendant Response Brief

Plaintiff Reply Brief

Defendant Reply Brief

District Court Opinion