Means v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-17489.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtKleinfeld
Citation420 F.3d 1037
Decision Date23 August 2005
Docket NumberNo. 01-17489.
PartiesRussell MEANS, Petitioner-Appellant, v. NAVAJO NATION, a federally recognized Indian Tribe; Ray Gilmore, Judge of the Judicial District of Chinle, Navajo Nation, Arizona; Robert Yazzie, Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation, Respondents-Appellees, and United States of America, Respondent-Intervenor-Appellee.
420 F.3d 1037
Russell MEANS, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
NAVAJO NATION, a federally recognized Indian Tribe; Ray Gilmore, Judge of the Judicial District of Chinle, Navajo Nation, Arizona; Robert Yazzie, Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation, Respondents-Appellees, and
United States of America, Respondent-Intervenor-Appellee.
No. 01-17489.
United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted October 10, 2002.
Submission Withdrawn November 19, 2003.
Resubmitted January 28, 2005*.
Filed August 23, 2005.

Page 1038

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

Page 1039

John Trebon, Trebon & Fine, P.C., Flagstaff, AZ, for the appellant.

Donovan D. Brown, Sr., Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Navajo Nation Office of the Attorney General, Window Rock, AZ, for the appellees.

Thomas L. Sansonetti (briefed), Assistant Attorney General, James C. Kilbourne, R. Justin Smith, U.S. Department of Justice, Env. & Nat. Resources Division, Washington, D.C., for the intervenor.

Jon Metropoulos (briefed), Gough, Shanahan, Johnson & Waterman, Helena, MT, for amicus curiae Thomas Lee Morris and Elizabeth S. Morris.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona, Earl H. Carroll, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-99-01057-EHC.

Before: KLEINFELD, RAWLINSON, Circuit Judges, and QUACKENBUSH,** District Judge.

Page 1040

KLEINFELD, Circuit Judge.


This case concerns whether an Indian tribe can exercise criminal jurisdiction over a person who is not a member of the tribe, but who is an enrolled member of another Indian tribe.

Facts

This is an appeal from a denial of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The petitioner, Russell Means, a member of the Oglala-Sioux Indian Tribe, seeks to prevent the Navajo Nation from criminally prosecuting him in Navajo tribal court for an incident that occurred on the Navajo Reservation.

In December 1997, Means allegedly threatened and battered his then father-in-law, who is an Omaha Indian, and allegedly threatened another man, a Navajo Indian. The offenses are misdemeanors under the Navajo Code, with potential maximum penalties of 90 days in jail and a $250 fine for each threatening,1 and 180 days in jail and a $500 fine for the battery.2

Means moved in the Navajo tribal court to dismiss the tribal proceedings. He argued that because he was not a Navajo, the tribal court had no jurisdiction. Means testified that he is a member of the Oglala-Sioux Tribe of Indians, and a permanent resident of Porcupine, a town in South Dakota on the Pine Ridge Sioux Indian Reservation. Means lived on the Navajo Indian Reservation from 1987 to 1997 when he was married to a woman who was a half-Navajo, half-Omaha Indian. Means moved back to the Sioux reservation that year, and the alleged offenses occurred later when Means was visiting the Navajo reservation.

Means testified that the difference between an Oglala-Sioux and a Navajo is as different as an American and a French person. Although Means lived on the Navajo reservation for a decade while married to his ex-wife, he could never become a member of the Navajo tribe because membership required at least one quarter Navajo blood.3 Means does not speak Navajo, and as a non-Navajo, he had difficulty obtaining employment because of tribal preferences given to Navajos and restrictions that make it difficult for a non-Navajo to find employment, participate in civic life, and license a business.

The Navajo Nation trial court denied Means's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Means appealed to the Navajo Nation Supreme Court which also denied his motion. The decision of the Navajo Nation Supreme Court explains that the Navajo reservation covers about 25,000 square miles, making it larger than many U.S. states and foreign countries. Over 9,000 Indians of other tribes live within the Navajo Nation, so domestic violence cases involving non-Navajo Indians arise from time to time. The Navajo Supreme Court explained that the considerable amount of violence arising from alcohol, when combined with the size and ethnic inclusiveness of the reservation, generates a "need to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all who enter the Navajo Nation," not just Navajo Indians. The Navajo Supreme Court decision says that while there are preferences for Navajos in employment

Page 1041

and contracting, they are not absolute barriers, and that Means could have qualified for jury service in the Navajo tribal courts had he been registered to vote in Arizona. The Navajo Supreme Court also noted that because Means had married a Navajo, during his residence on the reservation he was a "hadane," or in-law, connected by rights and obligations to his wife's clan. As the Navajo Supreme Court notes, however, becoming a "hadane" does not make one a Navajo.

After exhausting his remedies in the Navajo courts, Means petitioned the United States District Court for a writ of habeas corpus to enjoin the tribal courts from proceeding further in his case. The district court denied Means's petition, and he appeals.

Analysis

All the questions before us are purely matters of law, and arise on appeal of the district court's denial of a writ of habeas corpus under 25 U.S.C. § 1303, so we review de novo.4

I. Jurisdiction

Means has exhausted his tribal court remedies regarding jurisdiction, but he has still not been tried for the alleged threats and battery. Nonetheless, Means remains subject to conditions of pretrial release. Means cannot have any contact with his former father-in-law or go within 100 yards of his former father-in-law's home. Means also must appear as ordered by the Navajo trial court or face re-arrest and additional punishment for any failure to appear. The district court therefore concluded that Means was in custody for purposes of habeas jurisdiction under Justices of Boston Municipal Court v. Lydon5 and Hensley v. Municipal Court.6 The parties have not challenged that conclusion before us, and, although we are required to examine jurisdiction sua sponte,7 we agree with the district court. The charges against Means remain pending in the Navajo Nation trial court, and although the Navajo Nation and Means have stipulated to a stay in the trial court until this appeal is decided, the Navajo Nation states that it fully intends to prosecute Means if jurisdiction is resolved in its favor. Accordingly, we have jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

II. The 1990 Amendments to the Indian Civil Rights Act

In Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe,8 the Supreme Court held that Indian tribes do not possess criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians.9 In Oliphant, the Suquamish Tribe had prosecuted two non-Indians, one for racing down a highway and colliding with a tribal police car, another for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.10 The tribe did not claim that Congress had given it authority to exercise jurisdiction, but rather that the tribe had an inherent sovereign authority to exercise

Page 1042

criminal jurisdiction over incidents that occurred on its reservation — an authority that Congress had never taken away.11 The Supreme Court disagreed and held that, although Indian tribes enjoy some sovereign powers, the "domestic, dependent"12 nature of tribes distinguishes tribal governments from the governments of foreign countries,13 and that citizens of the United States who are not Indians cannot be subjected to Indian tribal sovereignty for criminal purposes.14

Following Oliphant, the Supreme Court suggested in United States v. Wheeler15 that the inherent sovereignty of a tribe might extend only to its own members.16 Then, in Duro v. Reina,17 the Court explicitly held that "the retained sovereignty of the tribe as a political and social organization to govern its own affairs does not include the authority to impose criminal sanctions against a citizen outside its own membership."18 Duro reasoned that, as American citizens,19 Indians were entitled not to be subjected to the criminal authority of sovereignties of which they were not and could not become members.20

In 1990 Congress responded to Indian tribes' concerns about the holding in Duro by amending21 the Indian Civil Rights Act22 to say that the "powers of self-government" of Indian tribes "means the inherent power of Indian tribes, hereby recognized and affirmed, to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all Indians."23 "All Indians" plainly includes Indians who are not members of the tribe. It is significant for the equal protection discussion below, however, that the 1990 Amendments do not cover anyone who might ethnically be an Indian but who is not an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. In addition to extending tribal criminal jurisdiction to "all" Indians, the 1990 Amendments make it plain that the definition of "Indian" is the same as "Indian" in the Major Crimes Act.24

The 1990 Amendments define "Indian" as "any person who would be subject to the jurisdiction of the United States as an Indian under section 1153, Title 18, if that person were to commit an offense listed in that section in Indian country to which that section applies."25 The statute referred to, 18 U.S.C. § 1153 (the Major Crimes Act), says it applies to "[a]ny Indian,"26 but has been construed by the Supreme Court in United States v. Antelope27

Page 1043

to mean only those persons who are enrolled members of a tribe — not persons who are by blood "Indian."28 Taken together, the 1990 Amendments, the Major Crimes Act, and Antelope mean that the criminal jurisdiction of tribes over "all Indians" recognized by the 1990 Amendments applies only to Indians who are enrolled members of a recognized tribe, not persons who are merely ethnically Indians.

Means argues that the 1990 Amendments were outside the powers of Congress because they were an unconstitutional delegation of federal governmental authority, and because they went beyond the congressional power authorized under the Indian Commerce29 and Treaty30 C...

To continue reading

Request your trial
3 practice notes
  • Means v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-17489.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2005
    ...Before KLEINFELD, RAWLINSON, Circuit Judges, and QUACKENBUSH,** District Judge. ORDER The opinion filed August 23, 2005, and appearing at 420 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir.2005), is withdrawn. Pursuant to General Order 5.3.a, an opinion is filed contemporaneously with this order. With the withdrawal a......
  • Stevens v. Cate, No. 2:12-cv-0239 GEB KJN P
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • July 15, 2013
    ...to dismiss). In addition, the materials are "helpful for examining the claims litigated in state court," Manufactured Home Cmtys. Inc., 420 F.3d at 1037, and are essential for the court to make a reasoned judgment about the claim-preclusive effects of plaintiff's state case. Finally, with h......
  • Adams v. Trimble, Case No. Civ S-11-01360-KJM-EFB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 26, 2012
    ...to dismiss). In addition, the materials are "helpful for examining the claims litigated in state court," Manufactured Home Cmtys. Inc., 420 F.3d at 1037, and are essential for the court to make a reasoned judgment about the claim-preclusive effects of plaintiff's state case. Accordingly, th......
3 cases
  • Means v. Navajo Nation, No. 01-17489.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2005
    ...Before KLEINFELD, RAWLINSON, Circuit Judges, and QUACKENBUSH,** District Judge. ORDER The opinion filed August 23, 2005, and appearing at 420 F.3d 1037 (9th Cir.2005), is withdrawn. Pursuant to General Order 5.3.a, an opinion is filed contemporaneously with this order. With the withdrawal a......
  • Stevens v. Cate, No. 2:12-cv-0239 GEB KJN P
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • July 15, 2013
    ...to dismiss). In addition, the materials are "helpful for examining the claims litigated in state court," Manufactured Home Cmtys. Inc., 420 F.3d at 1037, and are essential for the court to make a reasoned judgment about the claim-preclusive effects of plaintiff's state case. Finally, with h......
  • Adams v. Trimble, Case No. Civ S-11-01360-KJM-EFB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • January 26, 2012
    ...to dismiss). In addition, the materials are "helpful for examining the claims litigated in state court," Manufactured Home Cmtys. Inc., 420 F.3d at 1037, and are essential for the court to make a reasoned judgment about the claim-preclusive effects of plaintiff's state case. Accordingly, th......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT