Indian law

The American legal system is premised on overlapping jurisdiction as the federal, state, and local governments share authority. Adding Indian tribes into the mix complicates matters further as the Supreme Court’s decision in Nebraska v. Parker illustrates.

Three factors indicate an Indian reservation has been diminished and that state and local government have jurisdiction over the land. In Nebraska v. Parker the Court concluded the Omaha Indian Reservation hadn’t been diminished where only the third factor—how the land was treated once open to non-Indian settlers—indicated diminishment.  

May nonmembers of Indian tribes (including state and local governments) be sued in tribal court (as opposed to state or federal court) for tort (civil wrongdoing) claims?

In Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians John Doe, a thirteen-year-old tribe member, alleges that his supervisor sexually molested him while he was working as part of a job training program at a Dollar General located on a reservation. Doe sued Dollar General in tribal court alleging a variety of torts including negligent hiring, training, and supervision.

In Montana v. United States (1981) the Court held that generally nonmembers may not be sued in tribal court except that “tribe[s] may regulate, through taxation, licensing, or other means, the activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members through commercial dealing.”  The question in this case is whether “other means” includes suing nonmembers for civil tort claims in tribal court.