Minnesota COA Decision Critical of Minn. SCT Precedent on Indian Country Jurisdiction, But Complies

Here is the opinion in State v. Saros:


The issue involves state civil regulatory jurisdiction (in this case, traffic offenses) over on-reservation Indians who are members of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe where a member of one band (say White Earth) is cited on the reservation of another band (say Leech Lake). The Minnesota Supreme Court in State v. Davis held that the White Earth member may be civilly cited by the state because he/she is not on his/her own reservation.

The Saros court writes:

We acknowledge, however, that the restriction on inter-reservation prosecution makes little sense. It is undisputed that the MCT is a federally recognized tribe, and that the six bands that make up the MCT are not individual federally recognized tribes, but are “component reservations.” Davis, 773 N.W.2d at 75 (Page, J., dissenting) (citing Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, 73 Fed. Reg. 18,553, 18,555 (Apr. 4, 2008)). As Gary Frazier, the executive director of the MCT testified, it is impossible to be a member of one of the individual bands but not a member of the MCT. Nonetheless, the Davis decision holds that the  differentiation between bands is dispositive as to whether tribal court has jurisdiction over the matter. In other words, under Davis, despite the fact that appellant is an enrolled member of the MCT, resides on Leech Lake, and the offenses occurred there, the tribe’s interest in self-governance is not applicable to his case because his reservation of registration is White Earth. This conclusion seems to conflict with Stone, which recognizes that “Indian tribes retain ‘attributes of sovereignty over both their members and their territory.’” 572 N.W.2d at 728 (quoting Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. at 207, 107 S. Ct. at 1087).

Minnesota Supreme Court Affirms State Jurisdiction over Tribal Traffic Offenses

…over a dissent from Justice Alan Page. The case is State v. Davis. An excerpt:

State court has subject-matter jurisdiction over appellant‟s traffic violations because Congress has not preempted Minnesota from enforcing its traffic laws against appellant in state court.

And from the dissent:

The MCT is the governing unit federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the individual bands such as the Leech Lake Band and the Mille Lacs Band are merely “component reservations” of the MCT. Indian Entities Recognized and Eligible To Receive Services From the United States Bureau of Indian Affairs, 73 Fed. Reg. 18,553, 18,555 (Apr. 4, 2008). Yet the court concludes with little explanation that the MCT has no tribal interest in self-governance. Nor does the court cite any authority for the distinction it makes between Indian tribes and Indian bands. I would also note that there is no indication in this record that the MCT has no interest in self-governance or has chosen to relinquish its interest in self-governance. Absent a showing that the MCT has chosen to relinquish its interest in self-governance, it is presumptuous for us to impose such a choice on the MCT. Because we held in Stone that no exceptional circumstances exist requiring a preemption analysis for tribal members who are alleged to have been speeding on tribal territory and because Davis is an MCT member whose alleged speeding offense occurred within the MCT‟s territory, I conclude that the state has no jurisdiction over Davis.