Sixth Circuit Affirms Tribal Court Decision in Spurr v. Pope


But our review involves no probing of the facts, just a pure question of law: Does a tribal court have jurisdiction under federal law to issue a civil personal protection order against a non-Indian and non-tribal member in matters arising in the Indian country of the Indian tribe? Because 18 U.S.C. § 2265(e) unambiguously grants tribal courts that power, and because tribal sovereign immunity requires us to dismiss this suit against two of the named defendants, we AFFIRM the district court’s dismissal of Spurr’s complaint.

Answer Brief
Appellant Brief

Lower court materials here.

Tribal supreme court decision here.


Cert Petition

Brief in Opposition

Federal Court Rejects Tribal Court Jurisdiction under VAWA

The Western District of Washington rejected a claim that the Violence Against Women Act confers tribal court jurisdiction over personal protection orders issued against non-Indians. In this case, Martinez v. Martinez, the Suquamish Tribal Court had issued a PPO against a non-Indian man in favor of an Alaskan Native woman. They both lived on non-Indian-owned land on the Port Madison Reservation. The court also ruled that the tribal court exhaustion doctrine does not apply in this case.

Here are the materials: