Law Scholars Brief in Support of St. Regis Mohawk Patent

Here is the brief from Lawrence Tribe, William Eskridge, Erwin Chemerinsky, Joe Singer, and David Orozco:

Brief of Amici Scholars iso of Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe

Unpublished California ICWA Notice Case

Reason #678 why my response to state actors when they complain about notice issues is “are you absolutely certain you did notice correctly?”:

In this short unpublished decision, the Department concedes that it concluded not once, but twice, that there is no federally recognized Mohawk tribe.



Tribal Police Jurisdiction Decision from NY

People v. Herne

It could be a bad law school exam–a tribal member is arrested by tribal police on land currently subject to an ongoing land claim and the state court finds no jurisdiction. Solve for X.

(X being the New York state statute the court incorrectly claims established the St. Regis police force. Which the court holds gives the tribal police jurisdiction only ON the reservation, not in the Triangle.)

WSJ on Off-Reservation Gaming

From the WSJ:

The Obama administration may make it easier for Indian tribes to build casinos on land far from their reservations, a move likely to spur a wave of new casino development.

The Interior Department, which runs the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is reconsidering a Bush administration directive requiring that off-reservation casino sites be within commuting distance of the reservation. Many tribes, struggling with high unemployment and poverty on their reservations, are looking to casinos for jobs and other economic benefits.

Casino Applications

See where tribes have filed applications for off-reservation gaming.

“It’s an important issue. It’s a controversial issue and they’re rethinking it,” George Skibine, a deputy assistant secretary at the bureau, said in an interview last week. He added he expected a decision on whether to change the policy “fairly soon.”

Some governors, including Democrat David Paterson of New York and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, have come out in favor of certain projects in recent months.

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Article on Indian Law Cases in New York State Courts has published an article on several Indian law cases that are active in New York state courts, including the Cayuga cigarette tax case and another involving the application of state civil regulatory law to a tort claim arising out of actions that occurred entirely within the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation.

From the article:

Hart’s attorney, John A. Piasecki of Malone, N.Y., said he argued that application of the Labor Law is an administrative action by the state and does not have force in the St. Regis Mohawk territory. Piasecki said he would like to someday argue the point before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It is larger than mere tribal sovereignty,” Piasecki said Tuesday in an interview. “We have argued that unless a law is specifically adopted on an Indian reservation or specifically imposed on an Indian reservation by a federal act of Congress … New York statutes simply don’t apply within the boundary of the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation.”

The article also notes that the Plaintiff in the litigation surrounding the alleged tort occurring on the Akwesasne reservation made a conscious effort to avoid incorporating the tribe in the lawsuit. Presumably, the Tribe’s attorney would know better than to try to bring this type of case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (as presently constituted).

It seems to me that it is these types of cases that present the greatest threat to sovereign authority, because the advocacy of tribal interests is in the hands of a self-interested litigant (perhaps with an attorney not well-versed in Indian law). These types of cases provide the courts with opportunities to limit tribal jurisdiction without the tribe being the primary party in interest a la Hicks, Strate, Means, and Lara (although the latter two did not end too badly for tribal interests).

You can read the entire article here

Catskill Litigation Trust v. Harrah’s Cert Petition

Here it is — catskill-litigation-trust-cert-petition

This was filed in mid-January, and since the SCT denied cert in the CA9 case that the petitioners claim conflicts with this one, I bet this one has no chance of being granted.

Collecting State Taxes in Indian Country

As usual, there is interest in New York in collecting taxes likely owed in accordance with the Milhelm Attea case (see article here). The St. Regis Mohawk leadership, however, suggests:

“This bill, like similar legislation proposed before it, will harm the Northern New York economy, not help it,” said Chief James W. Ransom, citing a 2003 study performed by Regional Economic Models Inc. “The economic impact could be greater than $2 million per year.”

“We already collect fees from tribal businesses that would be harmed by this legislation and that will hurt our ability to deliver essential governmental services,” said Chief Barbara A. Lazore. “It will also result in a loss of jobs that no one in the state is even considering.”

This is the problem that Supreme Court Indian tax cases have created. Indian tribes and Indian people try to develop their economies and tax base, and the state can — at any time it wishes — destroy that economy merely by imposing taxes.

“Reservations Rebuffed” — Article on Off Rez Gaming Policy

From CQ Politics:

Tribal casinos, which have bulked into a multibillion-dollar industry since Congress first gave them its blessing two decades ago, now possess all sorts of economic and political clout — but not enough, it seems, for them to go off the reservation.

American Indians marooned on reservations far from population centers have long pressed the Interior Department to grant them the authority to launch gambling operations closer to where the people willing to risk their money live — and rake in the sort of revenues that the more fortuitously situated tribes have enjoyed.

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McIntosh County Bank v. Dorsey & Whitney — Minn. Supreme Court

The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed an intermediate appellate court decision finding Dorsey & Whitney liable to third party banks in a transaction involving a loan to the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe’s failed casino venture.

Here is the opinion.

Here is a video of the oral argument.