439 U.S. 463 (1979), 77-388, Washington v. Confederated Bands and Tribes of the

Docket Nº:No. 77-388
Citation:439 U.S. 463, 99 S.Ct. 740, 58 L.Ed.2d 740
Party Name:Washington v. Confederated Bands and Tribes of the
Case Date:January 16, 1979
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 463

439 U.S. 463 (1979)

99 S.Ct. 740, 58 L.Ed.2d 740

Washington

v.

Confederated Bands and Tribes of the

No. 77-388

United States Supreme Court

Jan. 16, 1979

Yakima Indian Nation

Argued October 2, 1978

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Section 6 of Pub.L. 280 authorizes the people of States whose constitutions or statutes contain organic law disclaimers of jurisdiction over Indian country to amend "where necessary" their constitutions or statutes to remove any legal impediment to assumption of such jurisdiction under the Act, notwithstanding the provision of any Enabling Act for the admission of the State, but provided that the Act shall not become effective with respect to such assumption of jurisdiction until the people of the State have appropriately amended their state constitution or statutes, as the case may be. In § 7 of Pub.L. 280, Congress gave the consent of the United States

to any other State . . . to assume jurisdiction at such time and in such manner as the people of the State shall, by affirmative legislative action, obligate and bind the State to assumption thereof.

The State of Washington's Constitution contains a disclaimer of authority over Indian country, and hence the State is one of those covered by § 6. In 1963, after the Washington Supreme Court, in another case, had held that the barrier posed by the disclaimer could be lifted by the state legislature, the legislature enacted a statute (Chapter 36) obligating the State to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indians and Indian territory within the State, subject only to the condition that, in all but eight subject matter areas, jurisdiction would not extend to Indians on trust or restricted lands unless the affected tribe so requested. Appellee Yakima Nation, which did not make such a request, brought this action in Federal District Court challenging the statutory and constitutional validity of the State's partial assertion of jurisdiction on its Reservation. The Tribe contended that the State had not complied with the procedural requirements of Pub.L. 280, especially the requirement that the State first amend its [99 S.Ct. 743] constitution; that, in any event, Pub.L. 280 did not authorize the State to assert only partial jurisdiction within an Indian reservation; and that Chapter 36, even if authorized by Congress, violated the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. The

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District Court rejected both the statutory and constitutional claims, and entered judgment for the State. The Court of Appeals, while rejecting the contention that Washington's assumption of only partial jurisdiction was not authorized by Congress, reversed, holding that the "checkerboard" jurisdictional system produced by Chapter 36 had no rational foundation, and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Held:

1. Section 6 of Pub.L. 280 does not require disclaimer States to amend their constitutions to make an effective acceptance of jurisdiction over an Indian reservation, and any Enabling Act requirement of this nature was effectively repealed by § 6. Here, the Washington Supreme Court, having determined that, for purposes of the repeal of the state constitutional disclaimer, legislative action is sufficient, and, the state legislature having enacted legislation obligating the State to assume jurisdiction under Pub.L. 280, it follows that the State has satisfied the procedural requirements of § 6. Pp. 478-493.

2. Once the requirements of § 6 have been satisfied, the terms of § 7 govern the scope of jurisdiction conferred upon disclaimer States. Statutory authorization for the partial subject matter and geographic jurisdiction asserted by Washington is found in the words of § 7 permitting option States to assume jurisdiction "in such manner" as the people of the State shall, "by affirmative legislative action, obligate and bind the State to assumption thereof." The phrase "in such manner" means at least that an option State can condition the assumption of full jurisdiction on an affected tribe's consent. Here, Washington has offered to assume full jurisdiction if a tribe so requests. The partial jurisdiction asserted on the reservations of nonconsenting tribes reflects a responsible attempt to accommodate both state and tribal interests, and is consistent with the concerns that underlay the adoption of Pub.L. 280. Accordingly, it does not violate the terms of § 7. Pp. 493-499.

3. The "checkerboard" pattern of jurisdiction ordained by Chapter 36 is not, on its face, invalid under the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 499-502.

(a) The classifications based on tribal status and land tenure implicit in Chapter 36 are not "suspect," so as to require that they be justified by a compelling state interest, nor does Chapter 36 abridge any fundamental right of self-government. Pp. 500-501.

(b) Chapter 36 is valid as bearing a rational relationship to the State's interest in providing protection to non-Indian citizens living within a reservation, while at the same time allowing scope for tribal self-government on trust or restricted lands, the land-tenure classification being neither an irrational nor arbitrary means of identifying those area

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within a reservation in which tribal members have the greatest interest in being free of state police power. Pp. 501-502.

552 F.2d 1332, reversed.

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 502.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we are called upon to resolve a dispute between the State of Washington and the Yakima Indian Nation over the validity of the State's exercise of jurisdiction on the Yakima Reservation. In 1963, the Washington Legislature obligated the State to assume civil and criminal jurisdiction over Indians and Indian territory within the State, subject only to the condition that, in all but eight subject matter areas, jurisdiction would not extend to Indians on trust or restricted lands without the request of the Indian tribe affected. Ch. 36, 1963 Wash.Laws.1 The Yakima Nation

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did not make such a request. State authority over Indians within the Yakima Reservation was thus made by Chapter 36 to depend on the title status of the property on which the offense or transaction occurred and upon the nature of the subject matter.

The Yakima Nation brought this action in a Federal District Court challenging the statutory and constitutional validity of the State's partial assertion of jurisdiction on its Reservation. The Tribe contended that the federal statute upon which the State based its authority to assume jurisdiction over the Reservation, Pub.L. 280,2 imposed certain procedural requirements, with which the State had not complied -- most notably, a requirement that Washington first amend its own constitution -- and that, in any event, Pub.L. 280 did not

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authorize the State to assert only partial jurisdiction within an Indian reservation. Finally, the Tribe contended that Chapter 36, even if authorized by Congress, violated the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The District Court rejected both the statutory and constitutional claims and entered judgment for the State.3 On appeal, the contention that Washington's assumption of only partial jurisdiction was not authorized by Congress was rejected by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, sitting en banc. The en banc court then referred the case to the original panel for consideration of the remaining issues. Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakima Indian Nation v. Washington, 550 F.2d 443 (Yakima I). [99 S.Ct. 745]4 The three-judge

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panel, confining itself to consideration of the constitutional validity of Chapter 36, concluded that the "checkerboard" jurisdictional system it produced was without any rational foundation, and therefore violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Finding no basis upon which to sever the offending portion of the legislation, the appellate court declared Chapter 36 unconstitutional in its entirety, and reversed the judgment of the District Court. Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakima Indian Nation v. Washington, 552 F.2d 1332 (Yakima II).

The State then brought an appeal to this Court. In noting probable jurisdiction of the appeal, we requested the parties to address the issue whether the partial geographic and subject matter jurisdiction ordained by Chapter 36 is authorized by federal law, as well as the Equal Protection Clause issue. 435 U.S. 903.5

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I

The Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakima Indian Nation comprise 14 originally distinct Indian tribes that joined together in the middle of the 19th century for purposes of their relationships with the United States. A treaty was signed with the United States in 1855, under which it was agreed that the various tribes would be considered "one nation," and that specified lands located in the Territory of Washington would be set aside for their exclusive use. The treaty was ratified by Congress in 1859. 12 Stat. 951. Since that time, the Yakima Nation has, without interruption, maintained its tribal identity.

The Yakima Reservation is located in the southeastern part of the State of Washington, and now consists of approximately 1,387,505 acres of land, of which some 80% is held in trust by the United States for the Yakima Nation or individual members of the Tribe. The remaining parcels of land are...

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