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Law Review Articles and Essays

  • Building on Common Ground: A national agenda to reduce jurisdictional disputes between tribal, state, and federal courts. 

Federal Laws

Pending Federal Legislation

Federal Agencies

United States Supreme Court Indian Decisions

Tribal Court Decisions

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court Decisions

Wayne L. Ducheneaux -vs- Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Election Board
The Cheyenne River Sioux Superior Court rules on plaintiffs petition for a preliminary injunction alleging election fraud and violation of plaintiffs civil rights.

Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribal Court Decisions

The Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe -vs- The American Tobacco Company
The Tribe commenced this instant action against the Defendants alleging that they conspired to conceal the addictive nature of tobacco products and deliberately manipulated the level of nicotine in tobacco products. The Tribe also contends that the Defendants illegally consorted to conspire not to sale a "safer cigarette" and attempted to market their cigarettes so as to appeal to young smokers ...

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation Tribal Court Decisions

Robert M. Peregoy -vs- Tribal Council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
The Tribal Court for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation rules on defendants instant action alleging breach of contract and request for both declaratory and injunctive relief against the Defendants to enjoin alleged improper interference with the judicial branch of tribal government.

Navajo Nation Court Decisions

Russell Means -vs- The District Court of the Chinle Judicial District
Russell Means is subject to the criminal jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation. The Court based its ruling on three principles: (1) The "set apart for the use and occupation" and "bad men" language of the United States-Navajo Nation Treaty of 1868 recognizes criminal jurisdiction over nonmember Indians by the Navajo Nation. (2) Russell Means gave his consent to criminal jurisdiction by "assuming tribal relations" with Navajos by becoming a hadane or "in-law." (3) The assertion of criminal jurisdiction over a nonmember Indian does not violate equal protection of the law, because any person can become an in-law and there is a Navajo Nation governmental interest in maintaining peace and order.

The Navajo Nation -vs- Ethelyn Begay, a/k/a Ethelyn Peterson
Navajo District court decision which upholds the authority of the court to dismiss a criminal complaint based upon a showing that the defendant had complied with a peacemaking agreement.

In the Matter of W
Crownpoint Family Court decides that discrimination against Navajos for adoption subsidies does not justify surrender of jurisdiction over a Navajo child to a state court.

Begay -vs- Silversmith
The Crownpoint District Court grants a contested motion for peacemaking in a personal injury action, separating issues which can be addressed in peacemaking from litigation issues, and gives guidance on peacemaking procedure.

Begay -vs- Silversmith
The Crownpoint District Court denies a motion to vacate Navajo peacemaking or enter a protective order, laying out the standards for a protection order and applying them to the testimony provided at hearing.  The court finds a violation of the good faith pleading standards of Rule 11(a)(1) of the Navajo Rules of Civil Procedure by the plaintiff’s attorney.  

Murphy -vs- Hand
The Navajo Nation refuses to honor a New Mexico district court decree because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Navajo Nation trust lands.

Nez -vs- Peabody Western Coal Company, Inc.
A federal statute which extends state workers' compensation coverage to employees of private employers doing work on federal lands, 40 U.S.C. Sec. 290, also applies in Navajo Indian Country. The statute does not apply to employees of tribal governments or enterprises.

Guy Benally -vs- Dairyland Insurance Company
The Crownpoint District Court of the Navajo Nation rules that a bar located on fee land within the Checkerboard Area of New Mexico may be sued under the Navajo Nation Dram Shop Act for selling alcohol to a driver who allegedly caused an alcohol-induced auto wreck, because the complaint alleged that the defendant bar "caused an action to occur" within Navajo Indian Country under the Navajo Nation's civil jurisdiction statute.

Capital Loan Corporation -vs- Platero, Henry, and Largo
The Crownpoint District Court of the Navajo Nation uses Section 2-302(A) (unconscionable contracts) to void interests rates in consumer loans of 191.31%, 233.67% and 89.62% and reforms the contracts to allow a maximum 21% interest rate. The court does not apply the Navajo Nation Charge Limitation Act because the contracts were made before the Act’s effective date.

The Navajo Nation -vs- Patricia M. Jim and Clinton Jim
The court dismisses criminal charges, with prejudice, on its own motion, for lack of a speedy trial. The court has the authority to dismiss charges for a lack of a speedy trial taking into account judicial economy, the speedy trial right, fair trials on the merits, and the swift and certain administration of justice. Where the defendants were reasonably available, delays in charging, service, arraignment, and setting a court date justified dismissal.

Rose Ann Benally -vs- Farmers Insurance Group of Arizona
The Shiprock District Court reviews a motion to dismiss for a lack of jurisdiction based upon a lack of minimum contacts by the defendant insurance company with the Navajo Nation, finds that it is a motion for summary judgment under the civil rules, and that there are issues of material fact regarding the nature, frequency, and substance of insurance company contacts in or with the Navajo Nation. The court reviews Navajo Nation due process- minimum contacts decisions to guide the parties, and orders an evidentiary hearing on the nature of the defendants’ activities within the Navajo Nation.

Nishi Gene, et al., -vs- Rufina Hallifax
The Window Rock Family Court found that an employee life insurance application was vague and ambiguous in the designation of the beneficiary of insurance proceeds and distributed policy proceeds under Navajo common law. On appeal, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court ruled that: (1) Courts should construe policies of insurance as contracts and interpret the relevant documents before finding that the contract is vague or ambiguous before receiving extrinsic evidence to find the insured's intent or resorting to Navajo common law to ascertain the beneficiaries of life insurance proceeds: (2) Courts should read insurance contracts as a whole when interpreting them. The meaning of "beneficiary" in the life insurance application was clear and not vague or ambiguous: (3). The trial court erred in requiring the designated beneficiary to prove that she was the beneficiary, and the burden of proof was on those who asserted claims to the life insurance proceeds: (4) There is no insurable interest problem when an insured designates the beneficiary of choice, and so long as the choice of beneficiary is consistent with law and public policy, Navajo Nation employees who name beneficiaries in a wide range of relationships should feel free to make their own free choice.

Dilcon Navajo Westerner/True Value Store -vs- Shirley Jensen
On an appeal of a Navajo Nation Labor Commission decision finding that an employer did not have just cause for the discharge of an employee, the Navajo Nation Supreme Court rules that: (1) The Labor Commission need not hold a hearing within 60 days after it receives a complaint under the Navajo Preference in Employment Act. It must hold a hearing in respect of the due process rights of the parties, considering the interests of the Commission, the parties, and time to prepare for a hearing, within a reasonable time and without excessive or undue delays: (2) While the "just cause" requirement for adverse employer action is broad, it is largely based upon facts to be determined by the Labor Commission. It did not abuse its discretion in determining that the employer did not have just cause for adverse actions against an employee in this case: (3)  The terms of an employee manual may create a contract and enforceable expectations by employees. The employer's manual was enforceable in this case: (4) The Court, while declining to define what "substantially justified" means for an award of attorney fees and costs, because the parties did not address the issue, found that the Labor Commission did not abuse its discretion under the statue in making an award in this case.

Lita Manygoats -vs- Cameron Trading Post
This is an employment discharge case where the Navajo Nation Supreme Court held: (1) The Navajo Nation has civil regulatory and adjudicatory jurisdiction over a New Mexico corporation doing business and hiring Navajo employees within the exterior boundaries of the Navajo Nation: (2) While it is proper to allocate the burden of proof upon an employer to show just cause for an employment decision, there is a sufficient risk of an erroneous deprivation of an employer's right to terminate a contract of employment that the "clear and convincing" standard of evidence in the Navajo Preference in Employment Act violates due process of law: (3) The Navajo Nation Labor Commission erred in levying a civil penalty upon the employer when it did not have prior notice of an alleged intentional violation of the Navajo Preference in Employment Act and the intent to levy a penalty and an opportunity to prepare to defend against the proposed penalty: (4) The proper reference to attorney hourly rates under the Act is to the rates of attorneys practicing in the Navajo Nation judicial district where the dispute arose and not regional attorney fee hourly rates: (5) The Navajo Nation Supreme Court may take judicial notice of jurisdictional facts on appeal, including the employer's web site and a history of the employer as an Indian trading post.

Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court Decisions

Dorothy Divisano -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court renders judgment for the defendant in plaintiff’s claim for damages relating to personal injuries suffered in a slip and fall in defendant’s parking garage, finding that the plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant had either actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition.

In Re: Samuel E. Dixon, Jr., Attorney Discipline
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court reciprocally imposes the identical discipline on the respondent as that imposed by the Connecticut Superior  Court, suspending the respondent from the practice of law for a period of nine months for his failure to keep his client informed that he intended to settle her claim on her behalf, or as to the amount of settlement offer, prior to settling the claim. 

Richard J. Eiden -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
Finding that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear an employment appeal where the plaintiff failed to request a Board of Review and exhaust all administrative remedies available to him, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court grants the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

James V. Farrell  -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
Finding that the defendant’s denial of the plaintiff’s right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses before the Board of Review was not harmless error, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court remands the plaintiff’s appeal for a de novo hearing by the Board on the charge of misconduct, specifically failure to cooperate in a company investigation. 

Leonard A. Fraiter -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise 
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court sustains the plaintiff's appeal of his termination from employment as poker dealer holding that the President/CEO's decision constituted an abuse of discretion, finding that all prior disciplinary actions occurred more than one year prior to the latest event and thus the President/CEO could not rely upon this incident for consideration in terminating the plaintiff's employment under the Progressive Discipline Policy.

Lina Johnson -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
After sustaining the plaintiff’s appeal from the termination of her employment, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court awards judgment in the amount of $25,701.90, finding that the plaintiff is entitled to reinstatement, back wages, medical insurance premiums, and 401(k) contributions, but denies the claim for attorney’s fees finding that the CEO/President’s decision was not a substantial abuse of discretion .

Matthew Jones -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
Concluding that it does not have general and original jurisdiction, nor does it have the jurisdictional foundation of an administrative record and final decision of the President/CEO, which is required for appeals brought under the Employee Appeal Ordinance, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court grants the defendant’s motion to dismiss plaintiff’s appeal from termination of his employment as a part-time Cinetropolis theater operator.

Michael A. Miller -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
Granting the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff's appeal from termination of his employment as a craps floor supervisor, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court holds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction where there is lacking the foundation of an administrative record and final decision of the President/CEO.   

Sherri Olderman -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The Mashantucket Pequot Court Of Appeals affirms the judgment of the lower court and finds that the Appellant’s Board of Review hearing complied with procedural due process and upholds plaintiff's termination of employment.

Bernard Schram -vs- Holly Ohar
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise and Robert A. Zitto as permittee (the "Tribal Defendants") move for judgment on the pleadings because the plaintiff’s claim was not filed in a timely manner and because the Tribal Defendants have not waived their sovereign immunity against certain causes of action alleged in the complaint and because other causes of action alleged in the complaint do not exist under Connecticut or Tribal law.

Holly Ohar -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The defendants in this action, the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise and Robert A. Zitto as permittee, move for judgment on the pleadings because the papers by which this action was commenced were not timely filed, and because the defendants did not waive their sovereign immunity against the cause of action set forth in the first count of the complaint, and because the cause of action set forth in the second count is not recognized as a cause of action under Connecticut or Tribal law.

Paul Tranchida -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The plaintiff, a "focus representative " at the Foxwoods High Stakes Bingo and Casino, appeals the termination of his employment by the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise (the "Gaming Enterprise") pursuant to the provisions of the Employee Review Code, VIII M.P.T.L. ch. 1.

Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise -vs- Felix C. Ziffer
The plaintiff moves to dismiss the defendant’s special defense for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and to dismiss the defendant’s counterclaim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Matthew Louchart -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The issue on appeal is whether the Tribal Court erred in reversing the President/CEO’s decision to suspend the appellee on the ground that it was arbitrary and capricious.

Joseph W. Burns -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The plaintiff, a limousine driver for the Foxwoods High Stakes Bingo and Casino operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise (the “Gaming Enterprise”) appeals the termination of his employment by the Gaming Enterprise, pursuant to the provisions of the Employee Review Code, VIII M.P.T.C. ch. 1. The relevant facts are set forth in the court’s discussion of the issues.

Leon Johnson -vs- Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprise
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court upholds the defendant's decision to terminate the plaintiff's employment as a Slot Technician for misconduct and dishonesty finding that the President/CEO of the Gaming Enterprise could have reasonably concluded that the plaintiff conspired with a patron to receive cash from credits that were accumulated on a slot machine.

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  • Tribal Child and Family Protection Code (Microsoft Word 6 format)

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Federal Agencies

Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
Administration for Native Americans (ANA)
American Indian Environmental Office
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Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ)
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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Tribal Justice and Safety in Indian Country
Tribal Youth Program

more . . .

Native Organizations

California Indian Legal Services
National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA)
National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC)

National Congress of American Indians (NCAI)

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)

National Indian Country Clearinghouse on Sexual Assault (NICCSA)

National Child Welfare Resource Center for Tribes (NRC4Tribes)

Native American Children’s Alliance (NACA)

Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

Native Elder Health Care Resource Center
Navajo Nation Bar Association
Southwest Center For Law And Policy

Walking on Common Ground

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Native America, Discovered and Conquered
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