Eighth Circuit Decision Upholding Tribal Jurisdiction in Watso v. Piper [ICWA, PL 280]]

Decision here.

This settles a long running string of cases out of the Minnesota federal courts in which the non-Indian parents of tribal member children argued there was no tribal jurisdiction over their children when they lived on the tribal reservation due to ICWA and PL 280.

ICWA holding:

Watso and Dietrich believe this provision means that “the tribe does not have jurisdiction over a child held by the state until the state court transfers jurisdiction to the tribe, which can only occur after a state court ICWA hearing.” To the contrary, § 1911(b) does not require a state court hearing. Section 1911(b) addresses the transfer of proceedings from state court to tribal court. Here, there were no state court proceedings. There was no transfer from state court to tribal court. Section 1911(b) does not apply.

PL 280 holding:

Public Law 280 does not require a state court hearing or any state court proceedings. See Walker v. Rushing, 898 F.2d 672, 675 (8th Cir. 1990) (“Nothing in the wording of Public Law 280 or its legislative history precludes concurrent tribal authority.”); Doe v. Mann, 415 F.3d 1038, 1063 n. 32 (9th Cir. 2005) (“Public Law 280 states have only concurrent jurisdiction with the tribes over child custody proceedings involving Indian children.”), citing Native Village of Venetie I.R.A. Council v. State of Alaska, 944 F.2d 548, 562, 559–62 (9th Cir. 1991) (rejecting argument that Public Law 280 vested enumerated states with exclusive jurisdiction). The SMSC Court’s jurisdiction over C.P. and C.H.’s child custody proceedings is consistent with Public Law 280.

And a succinct due process holding:

Lastly, Watso and Dietrich allege that the absence of a state court proceeding violated their due process rights, based on parents’ fundamental right “to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 66 (2000) (invalidating state law that allowed any third party to petition state courts for child visitation rights over parental objections). They allege due process rights “to object and to stop the transfer, a right to notice and a right to a meaningful court hearing.” Watso and Dietrich had sufficient notice of the tribal court proceedings. They were heard in tribal court. They have presented no evidence of a due process violation.

San Bernadino County Sheriff Enjoined from Citing On-Reservation Tribal Members for Traffic Violations

Here are the materials in Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. McMahon (C.D. Cal.):

13-1 Tribe Motion

14 Opposition

24 Supplemental Opposition

26 Reply

32 Tribe Supplemental Brief

35 Response to 32

51 DCT Order

We posted the complaint here.

Washington Supreme Court Affirms State Authority to Search Tribal Trust Lands for Criminal Violations

Here is the opinion in State v. Clark. State v Clark (PDF)

Briefs and other materials here.

New Scholarship Arguing PL 280 is Unconstitutional

Kyle Conway has published “Inherently or Exclusively Federal: Constitutional Preemption and the Relationship Between Public Law 280 and Federalism” in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law (SSRN link). Here is the abstract:

The basic principles of Indian-law jurisprudence often appear disconnected with basic principles of American constitutional law. Indian law, however, has a special significance to important issues of state and federal power. This Article seeks to build on the work of prior scholars who have sought to connect Indian law to American constitutional values.

Public Law 280 is a federal law that gives states control over certain aspects of Indian affairs that were traditionally within the scope of the federal government. This Article argues that Public Law 280 is unconstitutional under a doctrine of constitutional preemption. Constitutional preemption is grounded in the system of overlapping sovereignty that forms the structure of the Constitution and should be understood as prohibiting the federal government from delegating inherently and exclusively federal powers to the states. The power to manage Indian affairs is entrusted exclusively to the federal government, and Congress cannot constitutionally delegate it to the states.

The constitutional difficulties raised by Public Law 280 are particularly relevant in an era when issues of federalism are at the forefront of legal discussion. It is often accepted that courts may limit the federal government’s authority to exercise powers reserved to the states, but we should also take seriously the idea that courts may limit the states’ authority to exercise powers reserved to the federal government.


Walking on Common Ground — New Publications on Tribal Courts & PL 280

Promising Strategies: Tribal State Court Relations
Tribal courts and state courts interact across an array of issues, including child welfare, cross jurisdictional enforcement of domestic violence orders of protection, and civil commitments. Since the early 1990s, initiatives by judges’ organizations within both judicial systems have focused on an agenda of greater mutual understanding and cooperative action. This publication spotlights some of the most successful strategies within these initiatives. Click here to read full document.

Promising Strategies: Public Law 280
In PL 280 jurisdictions, the concurrent jurisdiction of state and tribal courts over criminal prosecutions and civil actions arising in Indian Country creates many interactions and complications. Tribal and state authorities encounter one another across an array of issues, including government-to-government recognition, concurrent jurisdiction, cross-jurisdictional enforcement of domestic violence orders of protection, cross-deputization, and civil commitments. Tensions and misunderstandings have been common features of tribal and state policing relations in the past, sometimes erupting in jurisdictional conflicts. This publication highlights unique ways in which tribal and state jurisdictions have entered into collaborations to overcome barriers to effective justice provision. Click here to read full document.

Washington SCt Briefs in State v. Clark — Authority of State Law Enforcement on Indian Trust Land

Here are the briefs in State v. Clark:

Lower court materials here.

Update in State of Washington v. Clark — Tribal Amicus Filings


Colville Amicus Brief in Support of Petition for Review

Tulalip Amicus Brief in Support of Petition for Review

The parties’ briefs at the COA are here.