Tuesday, February 5, 2008

NARF to Co-Counsel U.S. Supreme Court Case

Washington D.C.-On January 4, 2008, the United States Supreme Court accepted the petition of a non-Indian bank to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upholding tribal court jurisdiction over claims by tribal members against the bank. In the Supreme Court, NARF will serve as co-counsel to the Indian family business, along with their local counsel and a Supreme Court practitioner. The Response Brief is due March 12, 2008 and the case will be argued in April 2008.

In Plains Commerce Bank v. Long Family Land & Cattle Co., the Supreme Court granted review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit which affirmed the district court’s holding that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court has jurisdiction over a discrimination action by tribal members against a non-Indian bank who had entered into a number of loan transactions with the Long family farming and ranching business. The question presented by the petitioner, Plains Commerce Bank, is: “Whether Indian tribal courts have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims as an “other means” of regulating the conduct of a nonmember bank owning fee-land on a reservation that entered into a private commercial agreement with a member owned corporation.”

In the tribal court proceedings, a unanimous jury had found in favor of the Long family, and the verdict was upheld by the tribal court of appeals based on traditional common law of the Tribe. The Eighth Circuit found that the bank had formed concrete commercial relationships with the business and its Indian owners, had taken advantage of the BIA loan guarantees and, therefore, had engaged in the kind of consensual relationship contemplated by Montana v. United States, the leading Supreme Court case on tribal civil jurisdiction over non-Indians. Montana determined that tribal courts do not have civil jurisdiction over non-Indians unless a consensual relationship has been established.

The Tribal Supreme Court Project is working with the attorneys representing the Long family in the preparation of the merits brief which is due March 12, 2008. The Project is also working with the attorneys representing the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and others to develop and coordinate a strategy for tribal amicus briefs which are due on March 19, 2008.

For more information on the Tribal Supreme Court Project and how you can support its important work, please visit http://www.narf.org/ and click on Tribal Supreme Court Project.