Seymour v. Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary, No. 62

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBLACK
Citation7 L.Ed.2d 346,368 U.S. 351,82 S.Ct. 424
Decision Date15 January 1962
Docket NumberNo. 62
PartiesPaul SEYMOUR, Petitioner, v. SUPERINTENDENT OF WASHINGTON STATE PENITENTIARY

368 U.S. 351
82 S.Ct. 424
7 L.Ed.2d 346
Paul SEYMOUR, Petitioner,

v.

SUPERINTENDENT OF WASHINGTON STATE PENITENTIARY.

No. 62.
Argued Dec. 13, 1961.
Decided Jan. 15, 1962.

Glen A. Wilkinson, Washington, D.C., for petitioner. Claron C. Spencer was with him on the briefs.

Page 352

Stephen C. Way, Olympia, Wash., for respondent.

Mr. Justice BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.

The petitioner Paul Seymour was charged with burglary by the State of Washington in the Superior Court of Okanogan County and pleaded guilty to the lesser included offense of attempted burglary. Upon this plea he was convicted and sentenced to serve seven and one-half years in the state penitentiary. Later, he commenced this proceeding by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the State Supreme Court urging that his state conviction was void for want of jurisdiction on the grounds that he was an enrolled, unemancipated member of the Colville Indian Tribe and therefore a ward of the United States; that the 'purported crime' of burglary for which he had been convicted was committed in 'Indian country' as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1151;1 and that burglary committed by an Indian in Indian country is an offense 'within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States' under 18 U.S.C. § 1153, 18 U.S.C.A. § 1153.2 Since the petition, return and answer raised issues of fact, the State Supreme Court referred the matter to the original trial court to determine (1) whether petitioner was a member of the Colville Tribe, and (2) whether the offense was

Page 353

committed in Indian country. After hearings, the trial court upheld petitioner's claim of membership in the Colville Tribe, but rejected his contention that the burglary upon which the state conviction was based had occurred in Indian country.

The trial court's conclusion that the crime did not take place in Indian country was not based upon any factual doubt as to the precise place where the burglary occurred for that fact was undisputed. Nor did that conclusion rest upon any uncertainty as to the proper definition of the term 'Indian country' for the court expressly recognized the applicability of § 1151 which defines the term to include 'all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent, and, including rights-of-way running through the reservation * * *.' Rather, the trial court's conclusion rested solely upon its holding that, although the land upon which the burglary occurred had once been within the limits of an Indian reservation, that reservation had since been dissolved and the land in question restored to the public domain.

Agreeing with the trial court, the State Supreme Court then denied the petition for habeas corpus,3 holding as it previously had in State ex rel. Best v. Superior Court,4 that 'What is still known as the south half of the diminished Colville Indian reservation is no longer an Indian reservation.' Since the question of whether the place where the crime occurred is a part of an Indian reservation and therefore Indian country within the meaning of §§ 1151 and 1153 depends upon the interpretation and application of federal law, and since the resolution of that question as presented in this case raises issues of importance pertain-

Page 354

ing to this country's relationship to its Indian wards, we granted certiorari.5

The case turns upon the current status of the Colville Indian Reservation—a reservation created in 1872 by Executive Order of President Grant which declared that 'the country bounded on the east and south by the Columbia River, on the west by the Okanagan River, and on the north by the British possessions, be, and the same is hereby, set apart as a reservation for' the Colville Indians.6 In 1892, the size of this reservation was diminished when Congress passed an Act providing that, subject to reservations and allotments made to individual Colville Indians, about one-half of the original Colville reservation, since commonly referred to as the 'North Half,' should be 'vacated and restored to the public domain * * *.'7 This Act did not, however, purport to affect the status of the remaining part of the reservation, since known as the 'South Half' or the 'diminished Colville Indian Reservation,' but instead expressly reaffirmed that this South Half was 'still reserved by the Government for their (the Colville Indians') use and occupancy.'8 Since the burglary of which petitioner was convicted occurred on land within the South Half, it is clear that state jurisdiction over the offense charged, if it is to be found at all, must be based upon some federal action subsequent to the 1892 Act.

The Washington courts found authority for the assertion of state jurisdiction in a 1906 Act of Congress9 implemented by a 1916 Presidential Proclamation. 10 The 1906 Act provided for the sale of mineral lands and

Page 355

for the settlement and entry under the homestead laws of other surplus lands remaining on the diminished Colville Reservation after allotments were first made and patents issued for 80 acres of land to 'each man, woman, and child' either 'belonging to or having tribal relations on said Colville Indian Reservation * * *.' The 1916 Presidential Proclamation issued pursuant to this Act simply prescribed the method for disposal of surplus lands under the homestead laws as the 1906 Act had authorized. The Washington courts viewed this 1906 Act and the 1916 Presidential Proclamation as completely wiping out the South...

To continue reading

Request your trial
195 practice notes
  • United States ex rel. Miner v. Erickson, No. 19977.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 5, 1970
    ...there was any question concerning the viability of La Plant, however, it should have been put to rest by Seymour v. Superintendent, etc., 368 U.S. 351, 82 S.Ct. 424, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 (1962). Although under the Act of 1908, a part of the Cheyenne River Reservation lands was opened to public sal......
  • United States v. Consolidated Mines & Smelting Co., Ltd., No. 25164
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 12, 1971
    ...Reservation," remained in the government for the use and occupancy of the Indians. 27 Stat. 62, 64 (1892); Seymour v. Superintendent, 368 U.S. 351, 82 S.Ct. 424, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 By Act of July 1, 1898, 30 Stat. 593, Congress opened the diminished Reservation to mineral entry. By Act of March ......
  • Oneida Tribe of Wi v. Village of Hobart, Wi, No. 06-C-1302.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • March 28, 2008
    ...concession appears quite reasonable in light of the Court's decision in Seymour v. Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary, 368 U.S. 351, 357-58, 82 S.Ct. 424, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 (1962) (holding that contention that fee lands within Indian reservations do not constitute "Indian County" w......
  • Langley v. Ryder, Civ. A. No. 85-0030.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Louisiana
    • March 15, 1985
    ...S.Ct. at 2550-51; see also Solem v. Bartlett, ___ U.S. ___, 104 S.Ct. 1161, 79 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984) (same rule); Seymour v. Superintendent, 368 U.S. 351, 359, 82 S.Ct. 424, 429, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 (1962) (same). As there is no substantive difference between an aggravated battery charge under La.R.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
195 cases
  • United States ex rel. Miner v. Erickson, No. 19977.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (8th Circuit)
    • June 5, 1970
    ...there was any question concerning the viability of La Plant, however, it should have been put to rest by Seymour v. Superintendent, etc., 368 U.S. 351, 82 S.Ct. 424, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 (1962). Although under the Act of 1908, a part of the Cheyenne River Reservation lands was opened to public sal......
  • United States v. Consolidated Mines & Smelting Co., Ltd., No. 25164
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • December 12, 1971
    ...Reservation," remained in the government for the use and occupancy of the Indians. 27 Stat. 62, 64 (1892); Seymour v. Superintendent, 368 U.S. 351, 82 S.Ct. 424, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 By Act of July 1, 1898, 30 Stat. 593, Congress opened the diminished Reservation to mineral entry. By Act of March ......
  • Oneida Tribe of Wi v. Village of Hobart, Wi, No. 06-C-1302.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • March 28, 2008
    ...concession appears quite reasonable in light of the Court's decision in Seymour v. Superintendent of Washington State Penitentiary, 368 U.S. 351, 357-58, 82 S.Ct. 424, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 (1962) (holding that contention that fee lands within Indian reservations do not constitute "Indian County" w......
  • Langley v. Ryder, Civ. A. No. 85-0030.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of Louisiana
    • March 15, 1985
    ...S.Ct. at 2550-51; see also Solem v. Bartlett, ___ U.S. ___, 104 S.Ct. 1161, 79 L.Ed.2d 443 (1984) (same rule); Seymour v. Superintendent, 368 U.S. 351, 359, 82 S.Ct. 424, 429, 7 L.Ed.2d 346 (1962) (same). As there is no substantive difference between an aggravated battery charge under La.R.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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