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Navajo Supreme Court Issues Fundamental Law Opinion December 14, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in Navajo Supreme Court, Tribal Courts.
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Joe v. Black, No. SC-CV-62-06 (Nav. Sup. Ct. Nov. 29, 2007)

Issue(s): Navajo Law > Fundamental Law >> Nályééh >>> Compatibility of Anglo Law; Torts > Comparative Negligence; Navajo Law > Fundamental Law >> Construction with Other Law

The Navajo concept of nályééh refers to a process of restoring relationships between injured parties and tortfeasors. Joe sued Black and several other parties for injuries when her car struck a horse that wandered into the highway. Joe reached settlements with some parties, but not all. And, Joe did not join some possible tortfeasors in her suit. Assuming that nályééh is a non-adversarial resolution method and comparative negligence is adversarial, can the court apply both concepts simultaneously?

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Ninth Circuit Partially Reverses District Court’s Denial of Sovereign Immunity December 11, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in 9th Circuit, Federal Circuits.
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Burlington Northern v. Vaughn, No. 05-16755 (9th Cir. Dec. 7, 2007)

Issue(s): Federal Courts > Appellate Jurisdiction >> Interlocutory Appeals; Tribal Sovereign Immunity > Injunctions >> Ex Parte Young Doctrine; Federal Courts > Jurisdiction >> Pendant Appellate Jurisdiction

Normally, the Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction only over final decisions. Before final judgment, however, courts may hear interlocutory appeals over a small class of lower court orders. These are orders that finally determine claims of right that are collateral to the merits of the action. The district court denied the Appellants’ motion to dismiss based on tribal sovereign immunity. Can the Court review the district court’s order under the collateral orders doctrine?

Unless waived or abrogated by Congress, tribal sovereign immunity prevents suits against tribal officials acting within the scope of their authority. An outgrowth of the Ex Parte Young doctrine, however, allows suits for prospective relief against tribal officials allegedly acting in violation of federal law. Burlington Northern alleged that the Hualapai Tribe violated federal law by attempting to tax their railroad. Does tribal sovereign immunity bar their suit?

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Navajo Supreme Court Dismisses Challenge to Navajo-Hopi Compact December 11, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in Navajo Supreme Court, Tribal Courts.
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Bennett v. Shirley, No. SC-CV-21-07 ( Nav. Sup. Ct. Nov. 29, 2007)

Issue(s): Navajo Law > Sovereign Immunity >> Injunctive Relief; Navajo Law > Civil Procedure >> Failure to State a Claim

The Navajo Sovereign Immunity Act waives the Nation’s sovereign immunity for claims seeking injunctive relief. Bennett sued the tribal President to enjoin enforcement of the “Navajo-Hopi Intergovernmental Compact”* based on violations of the Navajo Bill of Rights. Bennett filed the complaint after the Council approved the Compact, but before the President signed it. Does sovereign immunity bar the suit? If not, has Bennett failed to state a claim on which the court can grant relief?

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Navajo Supreme Court Rules in Habeas Corpus Case December 10, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in Navajo Supreme Court, Tribal Courts.
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In the Matter of L.R. v. Greyeyes, No. SC-CV-39-07, (Nav. Sup. Ct. Nov. 21, 2007)

Issue(s): Habeas Corpus > Juvenile Code; Habeas Corpus > Remedies

According to the Navajo Children’s Code, a delinquency petition shall be dismissed if the petition is not filed within 30 days. 31 days lapsed between the referral and filing of the petition. L.R. subsequently pleaded guilty. Given that the proceedings below failed to comply with the Code, can the Court vacate the subsequent conviction?

The Navajo Children’s Code also states that a delinquency petition shall be filed within 48 hours if the juvenile is taken into custody. Police arrested L.R. on a curfew violation on August 10. Later that day, a hearing was held concerning prior charges, but not the curfew violation. That hearing was held on August 15. In the interim, L.R. was in detention. Was L.R. illegally detained?

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Navajo Supreme Court Confirms Nation’s Regulatory Authority Over Arizona School Districts December 10, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in Navajo Supreme Court, Tribal Courts.
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Cedar Unified School Dist. v. Navajo Nation Labor Commission, No. SC-CV-53-06, (Nav. Sup. Ct. Nov. 21, 2007).

Issue(s): Administrative Law > Agency Jurisdiction >> Subject Matter; Eleventh Amendment > Tribal Courts >> Immunity; Navajo Law > NPEA >> Contractual Waiver; Navajo Law > Federal Law >> Preemption; Conflict of Laws > Comity

Under the Navajo Preference in Employment Act, employers may not fire employees without “just cause.” The Cedar Unified School District operates on the Navajo Reservation, but is organized under Arizona law. The District fired an employee, allegedly without “just cause.” Does the National Labor Commission (NLC) have subject matter jurisdiction over the employee’s claim under the NPEA? If so, does federal law preempt the NPEA? And, if there is no preemption, should Court defer to Arizona law as a matter of comity?

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Ninth Circuit Says Arizona Not Entitled to $36M in Medicaid Costs December 9, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in 9th Circuit, Federal Circuits.
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Arizona Health Care v. McClellan, No 05-16386 (9th Cir. Dec. 3, 2007)

Issue(s): Administrative Law > Agency Interpretations of Law >> Chevron Deference; Indian Health Care Improvement Act > Statutory Interpretation >> Medicaid Reimbursement

Section 402(e) of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA) requires the federal government (through Medicaid) to reimburse all Medicaid costs for services “received through an Indian Health Service facility.” The Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) interprets § 402(e) to mean services an IHS facility offers and bills Medicaid for. Is the meaning of § 402(e) ambiguous; and if so, is the HCFA interpretation reasonable?

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Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Challenges to Tohono O’odham Water Settlement December 8, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in State Courts.
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In re Adjudication Gila River System, No. WC-07-0002-IR (Ariz. Sup. Ct. Nov. 30, 2007)

Issue(s): Water Rights > Arizona Water Settlements Act >> Approval Procedures; Water Rights > Settlements >> Objections >>> Bases

Under the 2004 federal Arizona Waters Settlements Act (AWSA), the Arizona courts must approve any water settlement before it becomes binding. An Arizona Supreme Court Special Order allows claimants (non-settling parties) to object to the settlement terms if claimant’s water rights would suffer “material injury.” Given that AWSA could not affect its water rights, could the Pascua Yaqui Tribe successfully object to the settlement agreement?

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Iowa Supreme Court Rules Iowa ICWA “Indian Child” Definition Unconstitutional December 6, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in State Courts.
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In the Interest of A.W. and S.W. v. Iowa Attorney General, No. 60/06-1074 (Iowa Sup. Ct. Nov 30, 2007)

Issue(s): Constitutional Law > Fourteenth Amendment >> Equal Protection >>> Political or Racial Classifications; Indian Child Welfare Act > Federal Delegation of Authority >> State Legislation

The Iowa ICWA defines an “Indian child” as any unmarried minor that “an Indian tribe identifies as a child of the tribe’s community.” For purposes of this definition, the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska identifies children of tribal members as part of its “community.” A.W. and S.W. do not qualify for membership under the Winnebago Constitution, but are children of a tribal member. As applied, does the Iowa definition violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment?

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Ninth Circuit Dismisses Tribal Membership Bid December 5, 2007

Posted by rezjudicata in 9th Circuit, Federal Circuits.
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Alvarado v. Table Mountain Rancheria, No. 06-15351 (9th Cir. Nov. 29, 2007)

Issue(s): Federal Jurisdiction > Subject Matter Jurisdiction >> Tribal Membership Claims

In 1958, Congress terminated the Table Mountain Rancheria (TMR). Individual members and their descendants filed a class action suit against the government in 1983 to regain federal recognition. The ensuing settlement defined the class members and restored their status as Indians under US law. Plaintiffs alleged that the TMR wrongfully denied their membership in the tribe. Does the court have subject matter jurisdiction to force the TMR and federal goverment to admit the plaintiffs as tribal members?

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