Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Native American Law
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Defendant appealed after a jury convicted him of abusive sexual contact of a minor. Defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to establish the offense occurred in Indian Country, that the district court erred by admitting uncharged conduct as propensity evidence, and that the use of acquitted conduct to increase his sentence violated his constitutional rights.The Eighth Circuit affirmed. The court explained Major Crimes Act gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction over certain crimes committed by an Indian within Indian Country, including abusive sexual contact. Here, the deputy superintendent of the trust for the BIA’s Yankton Agency with nearly 32 years of experience, testified that the tract was part of the Yankton Sioux Reservation in 2006. Accordingly, the court held that it would not disturb the conviction because the deputy’s testimony provided a reasonable basis for the jury to find the offense occurred in Indian Country. Further, the court wrote that in affording great weight to the district court’s balancing, it found no abuse of discretion in admitting the evidence under Rules 413 and 414. View "United States v. Frank Sanchez" on Justia Law

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Fisher was charged with conspiracy to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and two counts of possession with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); 846. The government filed notice that Fisher was subject to an enhanced sentence based on his prior conviction for first-degree burglary under Minnesota law, 21 U.S.C. 841(b)(1)(A). Fisher pleaded guilty to one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine but objected to the enhanced sentence and requested sentencing credit for the time he served in tribal jail for a tribal court conviction based on the same conduct.The district court overruled Fisher’s objection to the sentence enhancement and denied Fisher’s request to credit his time served in tribal jail, reasoning that it did not have the authority to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum. The district court sentenced Fisher to 180 months’ imprisonment, the statutory minimum for a defendant with a “serious violent felony” conviction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed. While Minnesota’s statute is broader than the generic definition of burglary, it is divisible; applying the modified categorical approach, Fisher’s conviction for burglary with assault is a “serious violent felony.” Treating discharged and undischarged sentences differently does not violate the Due Process Clause. View "United States v. Fisher" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction of an action challenging provisions in the tribal constitution requiring nonresidents to return to the reservation to vote in tribal elections and prohibiting nonresidents from holding tribal office. The court explained that it has previously held that the Voting Rights Act does not apply to Indian tribes because they are not states or political subdivisions subject to the Act. The court concluded that the district court did not err in finding that the Indian Civil Rights Act does not contain a private right of action to seek injunctive or declaratory relief in federal court. In this case, plaintiff failed to allege that he intended to run for public office, and thus he lacked standing to challenge the Tribe's eligibility requirement for holding public office. View "Cross v. Fox" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Andeavor agreed with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, to renew the right-of-way over tribal lands, and to pay trespass damages for continued operation of an oil pipeline after expiration. Andeavor then began renewal negotiations with individual Indian landowners. In 2018, the Allottees filed a putative class action seeking compensatory and punitive damages for ongoing trespass and injunctive relief requiring Andeavor to dismantle the pipeline. The district court granted Andeavor's motion to dismiss, concluding that the Allottees failed to exhaust administrative remedies with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).The Eighth Circuit concluded that the case turns on issues sufficiently within the primary jurisdiction of the BIA to warrant a stay, rather than dismissal, to give the BIA opportunity to take further action. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. The court denied the Allottees' motion to dismiss Robin Fredericks as a plaintiff. View "Chase v. Andeavor Logistics, L.P." on Justia Law

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After determining that it had appellate jurisdiction, the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's order concluding that the National Indian Gaming Commission correctly determined that the Ponca Restoration Act does not preclude gambling on a parcel of land in Iowa that is held in trust by the United States for the Tribe because the land is eligible as part of the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to federal recognition. However, because the Commission failed to consider a relevant factor in evaluating whether the parcel is restored land for the Tribe, the court remanded to the Commission for further consideration. View "City of Council Bluffs v. U.S. Department of the Interior" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment declaring that the United States has a duty to provide "competent physician-led healthcare" to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and its members. In light of the promises the United States made to the Tribe more than 150 years ago in the Fort Laramie Treaty, and relevant legislation since that time, such as the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, the district court correctly articulated the existence and scope of the duty and declaratory judgment was proper. View "Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. United States" on Justia Law

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After the Fishery received two citations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the OSHA Commission dismissed them. The citation stemmed from an incident where a Fishery boat capsized on the reservation in Lower Red Lake and two employees drowned.The Eighth Circuit denied the petition for review, holding that EEOC v. Fond du Lac Heavy Equip. & Constr. Co., 986 F.2d 246, 248 (8th Cir. 1993), was controlling here. The court concluded that OSHA was inapplicable to the Tribe because enforcement of the Act would dilute the principles of tribal sovereignty and self-government recognized in the applicable treaty which gave the Tribe fishing rights in the reservation. Even if OSHA applied to Indian activities in other circumstances, OSHA does not apply to an enterprise owned by and consisting solely of members of perhaps the most insular and independent sovereign tribe. View "Scalia v. Red Lake Nation Fisheries, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not preempt the imposition of statewide tax on the gross receipts of a nonmember contractor for services performed in renovating and expanding the Tribe's gaming casino located on the Reservation. The court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the Tribe and held that the Tribe has failed to show that the tax has more than a de minimis financial impact on federal and tribal interests. Furthermore, the State's legitimate interests in raising revenues for essential government programs that benefit the nonmember contractor-taxpayer in this case, as well as its interest in being able to apply its generally applicable contractor excise tax throughout the State, were sufficient to justify imposing the excise tax on the construction services performed on the Casino's realty. Finally, the court granted the State's motion to dismiss the State Treasurer and remanded for further proceedings. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Haeder" on Justia Law

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After the Tribe failed to remit the use tax on goods and services sold to nonmembers at its casino and store, the State's Department of Revenue denied the Tribe renewals of alcoholic beverage licenses that were issued to the casino and the store. The South Dakota Office of Hearing Examiners upheld the decision and the Tribe appealed.The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's conclusion that imposition of the South Dakota use tax on nonmember purchases of amenities at the Casino is preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Applying the analysis in White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980), the court held that the Tribe’s on-reservation Class III gaming activity is analogous to the nonmember logging activity on tribal land at issue in Bracker, and to the nonmember activity in building a reservation school at issue in Ramah Navajo School Bd., Inc. v. Bureau of Revenue of N.M., 458 U.S. 832, 838 (1982). Furthermore, raising revenues to provide government services throughout South Dakota does not outweigh the federal and tribal interests in Class III gaming reflected in the IGRA and the history of tribal independence in gaming.However, the court reversed the district court's Amended Judgment declaring that the State could not condition renewal of any alcoholic beverage license issued to the Tribe on the collection and remittance of a use tax on nonmember consumer purchases. In this case, the Tribe has failed to meet its burden to demonstrate that the State alcohol license requirement was not reasonably necessary to further its interest in collecting valid state taxes. View "Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe v. Noem" on Justia Law

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Suits over oil and gas leases on allotted trust lands are governed by federal law, not tribal law, and the tribal court lacks jurisdiction over the nonmember oil and gas companies. This appeal involved a dispute over the practice of flaring natural gas from oil wells, and at issue was the scope of Native American tribal court authority over nonmembers. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of a preliminary injunction enjoining the tribal court plaintiffs and tribal court judicial officials and held that the district court correctly rejected the tribal court officials' argument that this suit was barred by tribal sovereign immunity.The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting the preliminary injunction because the oil and gas companies are likely to prevail on the merits. In this case, the district court correctly concluded that the oil and gas companies exhausted their tribal court remedies by moving to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and appealing the issue to the MHA Nation Supreme Court; the district court correctly concluded that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction over the oil and gas companies; and the balance of the remaining preliminary injunction factors, along with the oil and gas companies' strong likelihood of success on the merits, showed that the district court did not abuse its discretion by granting the preliminary injunction. View "Kodiak Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. v. Burr" on Justia Law