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2/15 Conference Update: MacArthur v. San Juan County February 15, 2008

Posted by rezjudicata in SCOTUS.
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MacArthur v. San Juan County

Case Summary

From the NARF Supreme Court Project: “On November 13, 2007, attorneys representing individual tribal members filed a petition for cert seeking review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit which held that the Navajo Tribal Courts do not have subject matter jurisdiction over employment related claims against the San Juan Health Services District which operates a clinic within the exterior boundaries of the Navajo Nation. In MacArthur, the tribal member plaintiffs sought to enforce the tribal court’s preliminary injunction orders against clinic and county officials through the federal courts. In applying the analysis of Montana and its progeny, the Tenth Circuit found that Montana‘s consensual relationship exception does apply to a nonmember who enters into an employment relationship with a member of the tribe on the Reservation. However, based on its understanding of Nevada v. Hicks, the Tenth Circuit held that Montana‘s consensual relationship exception only applies to “private” consensual relations, not to consensual relations by the state or state officials acting in their official capacity on the Reservation. The San Juan Health Services District filed their brief in opposition is on December 20, 2007.”

Justice Yazzie of the Navajo Supreme Court had an interesting take on this case in the context of a case recently decided by the Court. In Cedar Unified School Dist. v. Navajo Nation Labor Commission, Yazzie pointed out that the MacArthur dispute arose out of activities on Utah fee land. If the case had arisen on the “Arizona side” of the reservation, however, any federal court would have to consider the Treaty of 1868, which explicitly grants the Navajo Nation the right to exclude. Id, slip op. at 6, fn. 7. Rez Judicata’s write-up on Cedar Unified is here.

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