Trujillo v. Prince., No. 4342.

Docket NºNo. 4342.
Citation42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145
Case DateMarch 22, 1938
CourtSupreme Court of New Mexico

42 N.M. 337
78 P.2d 145

TRUJILLO
v.
PRINCE.

No. 4342.

Supreme Court of New Mexico.

March 22, 1938.


Appeal from District Court, Santa Fe County; David Chavez, Jr., Judge.

Death action by Antonio Trujillo, administrator of the estate of Amadeo Trujillo, deceased, against W. B. Prince. From a judgment for defendant, the plaintiff appeals.

Reversed and remanded, with directions.

The power to tax property carries with it the power of the state to dispose of the property in enforcing a payment of delinquent taxes.

[78 P.2d 146] Mechem & Hannett and Donald B. Moses, all of Aubuquerque, for appellant.

Kiker & Sanchez, of Santa Fe, for appellee.William J. Barker, Sp. Asst. to Atty. Gen., amicus curiae.

BICKLEY, Justice.

Defendant is a citizen of the United States and a citizen and resident of the state of New Mexico, not an Indian and not living on an Indian reservation.

Decedent was a Nambe Pueblo Indian and his administrator is also a member of the same pueblo. Each resided on the Nambe Indian reservation in New Mexico and by the effect of congressional enactment are citizens of the United States, 8 U.S.C.A. § 3. It is charged that decedent, while driving an automobile on a public highway, was killed by a wrongful act of the defendant. Defendant answers with denials and by further separate and affirmative answer alleged:

“Antonio Trujillo, who in said amended complaint alleges that he is the administrator of the estate of Amadeo Trujillo, deceased, is a Nambe Indian, living upon the Nambe Indian Reservation in New Mexico, and is a subject of the Nambe Indian Tribal Government, and, except for the statutory regulations enacted by the Congress of the United States of America, is governed wholly and entirely by the tribal laws of the Nambe Indian Reservation.

“That Amadeo Trujillo, now deceased, as defendant is informed and believes, and so alleges, was in his lifetime a Nambe Indian, and a resident of the Nambe Indian Reservation in New Mexico; and was the subject of the Nambe Indian Tribal Government; and, except for laws and regulations enacted by the Congress of the United States of America, was governed solely by the Nambe Indian Tribal Government.

“That at the time of his death, the said Amadeo Trujillo owned no property subject to taxation under the laws of the state of New Mexico, or subject in any way to the laws of the state of New Mexico; and that the said Amadeo Trujillo left no estate subject to administration under the laws of the state of New Mexico.

“That the Probate Court of the state of New Mexico, was and is, without jurisdiction to appoint an administrator of the estate of the said Amadeo Trujillo, deceased, and said Probate Court has no jurisdiction whatever to make any orders concerning any property or effects left by the said Amadeo Trujillo at the time of his death.

[78 P.2d 147] “That the said Antonio Trujillo, because of want of jurisdiction in the Probate Court of the county of Santa Fe and state of New Mexico to appoint an administrator for the estate of Amadeo Trujillo, deceased, is not the duly appointed, qualified and acting administrator of the estate of the said Amadeo Trujillo, deceased, and can exercise no authority as such administrator.”

Plaintiff demurred to defendant's further separate and affirmative answer and assigned the following grounds for said demurrer, to wit:

“That the plaintiff is a citizen of the United States; that the deceased was likewise a citizen of the United States; that Congress by making Indians citizens of the United States, intended that they should be subject to the laws of the state with respect to their property rights where the said property was not acquired by said Indians by virtue of any law of the United States or any treaty, but was a right created by state statute to which the said Indian or Indians are entitled.

“That this is a statutory action for wrongful death and that the administrator of the estate is designated to bring the action, and that said claim on account of said wrongful death is an asset of said estate for which the plaintiff was appointed to collect for the benefit of the heirs.”

The demurrer was overruled, the plaintiff excepted to the ruling and declined to plead further and thereafter the judgment was entered from which this appeal is taken.

The question presented is, Does a New Mexico probate court have jurisdiction to appoint an administrator for a deceased reservation Indian to enforce the right of action created by the state Death by Wrongful Act Statute?

The case has been ably presented by counsel for the parties and by the Special Assistant to the Attorney General of the United States, as friend of the court. In addition to the argument and cases cited, we have been aided by the discussion contained in articles in legal periodicals as follows: “Nationals Without a Nation” (1922) by Judge Pound of the New York Court of Appeals, Columbia Law Review, vol. 22, p. 97; “The Scope and Nature of Concurrent Power” (1934) Columbia Law Review, vol. 34, p. 995, by Professor Grant; and “The Silence of Congress”, Harvard Law Review, vol. 41, p. 200, by Professor Biklé.

So far as the question of power of the state and national governments is concerned, the principles controlling are somewhat analogous whether affecting Indian affairs or interstate commerce. Broadly speaking, Indian affairs are a matter of national concern thought to admit of only one uniform system or principle of regulation. In the main the power of Congress to deal with such affairs is exclusive. This is subject to some qualifications hereafter to be noticed.

[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] Touching the question of power, principles discussed by the law writers may be summarized as follows:

(a) The power of Congress to regulate Indian affairs is granted exclusively to Congress so far as such affairs involve matters of national concern; (b) but the Constitution does not take away from the states their police power and legislation under that power may operate even with respect to matters of national concern if it does not conflict with the will of Congress; (c) the silence of Congress in respect to a matter of national concern is generally interpreted by the court as evidence of its will that the matter shall not be regulated by the states; (d) but Congress may break this silence and permit state police laws to operate even where they involve matters of national concern; (e) in matters of local concern the power of Congress is not exclusive; and (f) as to such matters the silence of Congress discloses no objection to the operation of state laws. To this summary might be appended another principle, namely, (g) when Congress acts affirmatively in any situation involving a matter of national concern, a state statute will be inoperative which (1) conflicts with some positive regulation of the federal legislation, or (2) is regarded by the court as intruding into the field which Congress meant to occupy by its legislation. A good illustration of the principle last mentioned is found in the compensation laws which have been held inoperative as to railroad employees engaged in interstate commerce even when they were injured under circumstances that created no right of action in their favor under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C.A. § 51 et seq. Courts have interpreted this act of Congress as intended to provide a complete regulation of the liability of the [78 P.2d 148] interstate railroad to such of its employees as are engaged in interstate commerce. We mention this last subject principally because Congress in its protectorate of the Indian has enacted no law in the nature of a Death by Wrongful Act Statute for their protection and therefore has not attempted to cover the field.

The relations and status of Indians living on reservations as they may be affected by state and federal government have long been a matter of serious import. State and nation have asserted with vigor their protectorates of the Indians who themselves have urged their own supremacy to regulate their own internal and social relations. Out of these conflicts between asserted sovereignties the idea that the Indians were foreign nations to be dealt with by state and nation through formal treaties has been modified and largely superseded by statutes enacted principally by the Congress.

It is to be noted that the case at bar does not involve the right of the Indians to regulate their own internal and social relations. It is not a controversy between Indians. The wrong sought to be redressed and the right sought to be vindicated did not arise out of any law of the tribe or any act of Congress for the protection of Indians. We assume that the tort alleged to have been committed on a public highway was not committed on an Indian reservation. No representative of the Nambe Indian Tribe is here asserting that the supremacy of their own sovereignty is being impinged. The plaintiff waives any such consideration in so far as it is within his power to waive it. The United States is not asserting an invasion of its sovereignty over the Indians. To the contrary, its high law officers are here asserting the operation of the state laws.

[8][9][10] We take notice that the view, entertained in the earlier days, that the Indians were a distinct and separate people, has been somewhat modified. Earlier characterizations as being people of fiery tempers and as a people of nomadic habits and as being in a state of pupilage on account of natural infirmities and lack of mental training have also been modified. The Indians have, in varying degrees, adopted the arts and institutions of civilization. Farms and orchards abound and dwelling houses and barns are found that compare not unfavorably with those of neighboring communities. Churches and schools are maintained and modest accumulations of wealth are not unusual. Their speech, except among themselves, is largely English. Their blankets and feathered headgear...

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21 practice notes
  • Morris v. Brandenburg, NO. 33,630
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • August 11, 2015
    ...upon which our system of government was founded." (emphasis added) (citation omitted)); Trujillo v. Prince, 1938-NMSC-024, ¶ 15, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938) ("The [c]onstitution and statute, allowing compensation for life lost through negligence of another, adopt a policy touching the m......
  • Morris v. Brandenburg, 33,630.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • August 11, 2015
    ...upon which our system of government was founded.” (emphasis added) (citation omitted)); Trujillo v. Prince, 1938–NMSC–024, ¶ 15, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938) ( “The [c]onstitution and statute, allowing compensation for life lost through negligence of another, adopt a policy touching the ......
  • Stang v. Hertz Corp., No. 312
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • November 26, 1969
    ...The purpose of the Legislature was, at least in part, to make negligence that causes death costly to the wrongdoer. Trujillo v. Prince, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938); Whitmer v. El Paso & S.W. Co., (b) We must consider the language of the Act as a whole. State ex rel. Clinton Realty Co. v......
  • Morris v. Brandenburg, Docket No. 33,630
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • August 11, 2015
    ...upon which our system of government was founded." (emphasis added) (citation omitted)); Trujillo v. Prince, 1938-NMSC-024, ¶ 15, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938) ("The [c]onstitution and statute, allowing compensation for life lost through negligence of another, adopt a policy touching the m......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
21 cases
  • Morris v. Brandenburg, NO. 33,630
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • August 11, 2015
    ...upon which our system of government was founded." (emphasis added) (citation omitted)); Trujillo v. Prince, 1938-NMSC-024, ¶ 15, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938) ("The [c]onstitution and statute, allowing compensation for life lost through negligence of another, adopt a policy touching the m......
  • Morris v. Brandenburg, 33,630.
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • August 11, 2015
    ...upon which our system of government was founded.” (emphasis added) (citation omitted)); Trujillo v. Prince, 1938–NMSC–024, ¶ 15, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938) ( “The [c]onstitution and statute, allowing compensation for life lost through negligence of another, adopt a policy touching the ......
  • Stang v. Hertz Corp., No. 312
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • November 26, 1969
    ...The purpose of the Legislature was, at least in part, to make negligence that causes death costly to the wrongdoer. Trujillo v. Prince, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938); Whitmer v. El Paso & S.W. Co., (b) We must consider the language of the Act as a whole. State ex rel. Clinton Realty Co. v......
  • Morris v. Brandenburg, Docket No. 33,630
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • August 11, 2015
    ...upon which our system of government was founded." (emphasis added) (citation omitted)); Trujillo v. Prince, 1938-NMSC-024, ¶ 15, 42 N.M. 337, 78 P.2d 145 (1938) ("The [c]onstitution and statute, allowing compensation for life lost through negligence of another, adopt a policy touching the m......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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