Previous post on this litigation here.
Alexander Tallchief Skibine has posted “The Tribal Right to Exclude Non-Tribal Members from Indian-Owned Lands,” forthcoming from the American Indian Law Review, on SSRN.
Here is the abstract:
In 1981, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Montana v. United States, severely restricting the ability of Indian Tribes to assume civil regulatory and adjudicatory jurisdiction over non-tribal members for activities taking place on non-Indian lands within Indian reservations. The Court in Montana stated that “it could readily agree” with the Court of Appeals’ holding that the tribe could regulate the conduct of non-member on tribal lands. Yet, twenty years later, the Court issued its opinion in Nevada v. Hicks holding that in certain circumstances, the jurisdiction of Indian tribes could also be limited even if the activities of the non-members took place on Indian-owned lands.
It has been almost twenty years since Hicks and because of the cryptic and fractured nature of that decision, the federal circuits are divided and still trying to figure out under what circumstances tribal civil jurisdiction over non-members should be restricted when these activities take place on Indian-owned lands.
In this Article, I argue that among all the possible interpretations of Hicks, the one adopted by the Ninth Circuit makes the most sense. Under that interpretation, the so-called Montana framework used to divest tribes of jurisdiction is not applicable to cases where a tribe has retained the right to exclude. I argue that Hicks can be reasonably conceptualized as endorsing the 9th Circuit methodology. However, I also argue that Hicks should have been decided as a state jurisdiction cases and not a tribal divestiture of inherent sovereignty case. Re-imagining Hicks as a state jurisdiction case would not have changed the outcome but would have avoided the last twenty years of confusion surrounding how Hicks should be interpreted.
Katherine Florey has posted “Toward Tribal Regulatory Sovereignty in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” forthcoming in the Arizona Law Review. Here is the abstract:
The media has often highlighted the devastating toll COVID-19 has taken in many parts of Indian country – and that, to be sure, is part of the story. But there are other aspects of the picture as well. On the one hand, tribes have taken resourceful and creative measures to combat COVID-19. On the other, a troublesome doctrinal landscape has complicated their efforts to do so. The judicially crafted Montana framework severely restricts tribal civil regulatory power over nonmembers – a particular problem during the COVID-19 pandemic, when nonmembers have defied tribal curfews, camped in prohibited areas, and opened businesses on reservations despite closure orders. While Montana nominally contains a “health and welfare” exception allowing tribes to exercise power over nonmembers in emergencies, its contours are too ambiguous and fact-specific to allow tribes to act with the certainty and speed they require. The pandemic thus provides a vivid illustration of the way in which Montana hinders effective tribal governance. Further, the pandemic has occurred at a moment when the Court may be more receptive than it has been in the past to arguments favoring tribal sovereignty – and at a time when many of the concerns about tribal regulation that motivated the Court four decades ago in Montana seem increasingly distant both from current doctrine and contemporary tribal realities. As a result, it is time, at a minimum, for the Court to expand Montana’s “health and welfare” exception to resemble something closer to the powers states possess to safeguard public health.
Here are the new materials in Big Horn County Elec. Coop. v. Big Man (D. Mont.):
Prior post with additional briefing here.
Fletcher’s paper, “Indian Lives Matter — Pandemics and Inherent Tribal Powers,” is now available online (PDF).
More ammo for the paper on the pandemic and Montana 2….
I posted a draft paper, “Indian Lives Matter: Pandemics and Inherent Tribal Powers,” on SSRN.
Here is the introduction to the paper:
America’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 is a microcosm of how Americans see the nation. It is a story of rugged individualism versus community needs. Many Americans insist on freedom to do as they please, rigorously pushing back on government. But in an environment where small numbers of individuals can easily transmit a deadly infection to others, creating the exponential increase in infections, rugged individualism is a terrible threat. Pandemics, luckily for humans, do not seem to occur all that frequently, but when they do occur, they can dramatically alter human history.
Indian people know all too well the impact of pandemics on human populations, having barely survived smallpox outbreaks and other diseases transmitted during the generations of early contact between themselves and Europeans. Indian people also suffered disproportionately from the last pandemic to hit the United States about a century ago. Some things have changed for the better for Indian people, namely tribal self-governance, but many things are not much better, including the public health situation of many Indian people.
Modern tribal governments navigate a tricky legal and political environment. While tribal governments have power to govern their own citizens, nonmembers are everywhere in Indian country, and the courts are skeptical of tribal authority over nonmembers. For example, after the Navajo Nation announced a 57-hour curfew for the weekend of April 10-13, 2020 (Easter weekend for many), the sheriff’s offices of Cibola and McKinley counties sent letters to the tribe insisting that the tribe refrain from citing nonmembers during the curfew, further insisting that nonmembers are governed more “fully” by the Governor of the State of New Mexico. Further, the fact that it is the county sheriff’s offices – and not counsel for the nonmembers – sending the letters is a deeply consequential signal to the tribal government. Of course, allowing nonmembers freedom to flout the tribe’s curfew defeats the purpose of the curfew. During a pandemic, the limitations on powers of tribal government could lead to tragedy.
This short essay is designed to lay down the argument favoring tribal regulatory powers over nonmembers in Indian country during a pandemic. It should be an easy argument, but federal Indian law makes it more complicated than it should be.
Here are some of the primary source documents noted in the paper: