Appeals court decision affirms tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians

  
Via:  1stwarrior  •  6 days ago  •  10 comments

Appeals court decision affirms tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Tribes can serve orders of protection against non-Indians due to their "inherent" sovereignty, a federal appeals court ruled this week, speaking to an issue that several presidential candidates are raising on the campaign trail.

By a unanimous vote, the  6th Circuit Court of Appeals  on Tuesday said the  Violence Against Women Act  of 2013 recognized tribal authority against "any person." In this instance, it was a non-Indian who was accused of harassing a citizen of the  Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi .

"This text authorizes Indian tribal courts to issue and enforce  civil  protection orders against  any person —Indian or non-Indian, tribal member or non- tribal member—in matters arising in the Indian country of an Indian tribe," Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote in the  13-page decision , referring to the  section of federal law that implements  the landmark provisions of VAWA.

The ruling marks the first time a federal appeals court has considered the legality of personal protection orders against non-Indians. Nathaniel Spurr, the Nottawaseppi citizen who had sought the order from his Michigan-based tribe's judicial system, told Indianz.Com on Thursday that it represents a "victory" that will protect people from stalking and harassment in their communities.

"This was a great victory for Indian Country and anyone wanting to combat domestic violence in Indian Country," Spurr told Indianz.Com.

It also comes as a growing number of politicians stress the importance of tribal sovereignty and the need for tribes to be able to exercise jurisdiction over anyone who comes into their homelands. The issue was discussed repeatedly at the  Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum  last week.

"Tribes must have jurisdiction over their own lands -- including regulatory -- you name it." said  Amy Klobuchar , the  U.S. Senator from Minnesota , who was among the  record number of presidential candidates  who  attended the historic event , held over two days in Iowa, a critical state in the race for the White House.

The personal protection order at issue in Spurr's case was civil in nature, the federal appeals court pointed out. The target of the order was his stepmother, who had instead claimed that the order was a criminal punishment.

The distinction is significant -- under VAWA, a  tribe can only exercise criminal authority over non-Indians  in limited situations. Spurr's stepmother, who lives off the reservation, argued that the law did not apply to her due to her lack of ties to the tribal community.

She is not a partner of a tribal citizen, does not live in Indian Country and isn't employed there, which are limitations imposed by Congress in VAWA.

But the 6th Circuit rejected the stepmother's line of thinking. The court relied on Nottawaseppi law to confirm that that the protection order was indeed a civil one -- although one that could possibly lead to criminal charges or even imprisonment if she violated it.

"For all those reasons, we disagree with Spurr: The tribal court issued a civil protection order against her," Cook wrote of Joy Spurr, who is Nathaniel's stepmother.

According to court briefs, the pair had a falling out a few years ago that contributed to the stalking and harassment at issue in the dispute. The stepmother, however, adamantly denied the behaviors attributed to her.

Of the "hundreds of letter, emails, voice mails and letters" allegedly sent by the stepmother, attorney Stephen Spurr, who is married to Joy Spurr and has represented her throughout the ordeal, told the 6th Circuit during  oral arguments on May 1 : "I would like to say that not one word of this is true."

VAWA's limitations reflect a long-standing issue affecting criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians. They stem from the  U.S. Supreme Court  decision in  Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe , a destructive ruling from 1978 that restricted tribal authority based on a paternalistic views of their governments.

Earlier this month, Democratic presidential candidate  Elizabeth Warren , the  U.S. Senator from Massachusetts  who also appeared at the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum, called for  Oliphant  to be reversed completely as part of her  expansive Indian Country platform . In doing so, she became the first presidential candidate to support tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians in all criminal aspects.

"It's about money and honoring our treaty obligations,"  Warren said at the forum  last Monday, stressing that the federal government must support tribes with resources in order to keep their communities safe.

Other White House hopefuls have taken notice following the release of Warren's platform.  Joe Sestak , a veteran and former U.S. Congressman who also  participated in the forum , said tribes must be able to go beyond VAWA, which does not address sexual assaults, for example.

"Eighty percent of all sex crimes on a reservation are committed by non-Native American men. It’s wrong," Sestak said at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City last Tuesday.

Klobuchar, who pushed for passage of the 2013 version of VAWA, said she supports an expansion of the law to cover additional offenses. Along with sexual assaults, tribes should be able to prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes against children and law enforcement, she  told attendees of the forum  last Monday.

As president, Klobuchar said, "I will make sure that we have people’s back when it comes to tribal issues."

On April 4, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives passed  H.R.1585 , the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, to address the crimes mentioned by Klobuchar. The bill, however, has not been brought up in the U.S. Senate, which is in Republican hands.

"The Violence Against Women Act -- don't you think people would want to pass that bill and get it signed by the president so that women can be protected?"  Rep. Deb Haaland  (D-New Mexico), who is one of the  first two Native women in Congress , said to applause at the forum last Monday.

Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, referred to the GOP-controlled Senate a "legislative graveyard" and urged forum attendees to contact  Sen. Mitch McConnell  (R-Kentucky), the Republican majority leader of the chamber, to "make sure that he hears from Indian Country about why we think the Violence Against Women Act needs to be put on the floor of the Senate, passed by the Senate and signed by the president."

Turtle Talk has posted documents from  Joy Spurr v. Melissa Pope , the Nottawaseppi Huron Band case. Melissa Pope, one of the named defendants, serves as Chief Judge of the tribe's trial court. She was the one who issued the civil protection order against Joy Spurr.

The case later went to the tribe's highest court. In a  January 25, 2018 , decision, the court noted that Joy Spurr "inundated [Judge Pope] with dozens, even hundreds, of pages of documents."

"The incredible amount of time and effort the staff of the tribal court took to communicate with Joy Spurr and her counsel, to provide service of court documents to Joy Spurr and her counsel, and to receive, manage, and file the voluminous material Joy Spurr filed — much of which did not comply with the court’s rules for filing and service — is worth noting," Tribal Judge Matthew Fletcher, a  prominent Indian law professor and scholar  who maintains Turtle Talk, wrote in the decision. "The appellate court applauds this effort to ensure Joy Spurr received the process due her in this matter from the inception of the case until now, and perhaps going forward as the case continues.

The civil protection order against Joy Spurr was deemed "permanent" but under Nottawaseppi Huron law, it only ran for a year after being issued in February 2017.

Nathaniel Spurr is the son of late  Laura Spurr , a well-respected  former chairwoman  of the tribe. At the time of her passing in February 2010, she was married to Stephen Spurr, who is now married to Joy Spurr, formerly Joy Judge.

"This would not have been possible without Patti McClure, the domestic violence victims advocate for our tribe, who stood by me from day one of this case," said Nathaniel Spurr, who also thanked Judge Pope for her role in issuing the protection order. He said the tribe's leadership played a key role in protecting his rights during the legal challenge.

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision

Joy Spurr v. Melissa Pope  (August 26, 2019)

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1stwarrior
1  seeder  1stwarrior    6 days ago

By a unanimous vote, the   6th Circuit Court of Appeals   on Tuesday said the   Violence Against Women Act   of 2013 recognized tribal authority against "any person." In this instance, it was a non-Indian who was accused of harassing a citizen of the   Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi  .

"This text authorizes Indian tribal courts to issue and enforce  civil  protection orders against  any person —Indian or non-Indian, tribal member or non- tribal member—in matters arising in the Indian country of an Indian tribe," Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote in the   13-page decision  , referring to the   section of federal law that implements   the landmark provisions of VAWA.

The ruling marks the first time a federal appeals court has considered the legality of personal protection orders against non-Indians. Nathaniel Spurr, the Nottawaseppi citizen who had sought the order from his Michigan-based tribe's judicial system, told Indianz.Com on Thursday that it represents a "victory" that will protect people from stalking and harassment in their communities.

"This was a great victory for Indian Country and anyone wanting to combat domestic violence in Indian Country," Spurr told Indianz.Com.

Absolutely fabulous decision.  Now, if we could only get the Feds to start funding under the Tribal Law and Order Act and VAWA as reauthorized in 2019 for the law enforcement agencies, both Fed, State, local and Tribal/Nation for their training and enforcement activities - which includes Tribal Courts.

 
 
 
FLYNAVY1
1.1  FLYNAVY1  replied to  1stwarrior @1    6 days ago

Love it..... about damn time too!

Could this be the start of a reversal of or at least a review of previous bad court decision that went against NAs?

I know it takes money for the various tribal issues to be brought to court.  Or more simply put...... Money talks and buys justice in America!   Are the tribes finding more sources of revenue that they didn't have in the past?  

 
 
 
1stwarrior
1.1.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1.1    6 days ago

What I and numerous others are "hoping" is happening is that the Roberts Court will start actually adhering to the laws and treaties, as written and intended, to start undoing the blatant disregard of the laws by the Rehnquist Courts.  Granted, Roberts and his sidekicks are still not ruling in favor of the Tribes/Nations a lot, but they are making headway.

 
 
 
Dulay
1.1.2  Dulay  replied to  FLYNAVY1 @1.1    5 days ago
 Are the tribes finding more sources of revenue that they didn't have in the past?  

Judging from the Potawatomi in my area, the definitely have a more sources of revenue. They've expanded their casinos across Northwester Indiana and Southwestern Michigan. 

I only wish that they would concentrate more on their cultural heritage than on the Benjamins. I suggested that they plant a garden that illustrates their agricultural heritage and they ignored me. 

 
 
 
Kavika
2  Kavika     6 days ago

Excellent. This is really good news. 

Perhaps the Oliphant vSuquamish SCOTUS decision will be re-addressed. One of the worst SCOTUS decisions involving Indians and Indian Law/sovereignty 

 
 
 
Kavika
2.1  Kavika   replied to  Kavika @2    6 days ago

A demand for action on the Capitol steps

Advocates say pressure must be applied to the Senate for a vote on the Violence Against Women Act

Nearly 25 years ago the Violence Against Women Act was passed into law. Today a large crowd of tribal leaders, allies and members of Congress stood footsteps from the Capitol and demanded that the now expired law be renewed.

People braved the heat and humidity on a summer Washington day to celebrate the act, as well as to honor victims of domestic violence and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.

And to push a reluctant Senate to act.

https://newsmaven.io/indiancountrytoday/news/a-demand-for-action-on-the-capitol-steps-X6bmbTbQlE2YJi6k8-cZIQ/

 
 
 
Dulay
3  Dulay    6 days ago

It's about time!

 
 
 
1stwarrior
3.1  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Dulay @3    6 days ago

Ya know, maybe things are going to start working for the Tribes/Nations, eh?

 
 
 
Dulay
3.1.1  Dulay  replied to  1stwarrior @3.1    6 days ago

Well having the authority to police their sovereign nation, no matter the nationality [or race] of the perpetrator is a start. 

 
 
 
1stwarrior
3.1.2  seeder  1stwarrior  replied to  Dulay @3.1.1    6 days ago

Yes'm.

 
 
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