United States v. Mazurie 8212 1018

Decision Date21 January 1975
Docket NumberNo. 73,73
Citation42 L.Ed.2d 706,419 U.S. 544,95 S.Ct. 710
PartiesUNITED STATES, Petitioner, v. Martin Dewalt MAZURIE et al. —1018
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Respondents, who operated a bar on non-Indian land on the outskirts of an unincorporated village within the Wind River Reservation and who had been denied a tribal liquor license by the Wind River Tribes pursuant to their option under 18 U.S.C. § 1161 to regulate the introduction of liquor into Indian country, were convicted at a nonjury trial of introducing spirituous beverages into Indian country in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1154. Section 1154(c) defines the term 'Indian country' as not including feepatented lands in non-Indian communities, but does not define the term 'non-Indian communities.' In entering the judgment of conviction, the District Court, on the basis of testimony about the bar's location and the racial composition of residents of the surrounding area as being largely Indian families, concluded that the bar was located within 'Indian country' and held that federal authority could reach non-Indians located on privately held land within a reservation's boundaries. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the prosecution had not met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the bar was not excluded from Indian country by the § 1154(c) exception for 'fee-patented lands in non-Indian communities'; that § 1154 was fatally defective because of the indefiniteness and vagueness of the term 'non-Indian community'; and that insofar as § 1161 authorized Indian tribes to control the introduction of alcoholic beverages onto non-Indian land, it was an invalid congressional attempt to delegate authority. Held:

1. Section 1154 is not unconstitutionally vague. Given the nature of the bar's location and the surrounding population, the statute was sufficient to advise respondents that their bar was not excepted from tribal regulation by virtue of being located in a non-Indian community. Pp. 550—553.

2. Congress has the authority under Art. I, § 8, of the Constitution to regulate the distribution of alcoholic beverages by establishments such as respondents' bar. Such authority is adequate even though the land was held in fee by non-Indians and the persons regulated were non-Indians. Pp. 553—556.

3. Congress could validly delegate such authority to a reservation's tribal council. The independent authority of Indian tribes over matters that affect the internal and social relations of tribal life is sufficient to protect Congress' decision to vest in tribal councils this portion of its own authority 'to regulate Commerce . . . with the Indian tribes' under Art. I, § 8. Pp. 556 557.

10 Cir., 487 F.2d 14, reversed.

Harry R. Sachse, New Orleans, La., for petitioner.

Charles E. Hamilton, Riverton, Wyo., for respondents.

Jerome F. Statkus, Cheyenne, Wyo., for the State of Wyoming, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court.

Mr. Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

The respondents were convicted of introducing spirituous beverages into Indian country, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1154.1 The Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reversed. 487 F.2d 14 (1973). We granted certiorari, 415 U.S. 947, 94 S.Ct. 1468, 39 L.Ed.2d 562 (1974), in order to consider the Solicitor General's contentions that 18 U.S.C. § 1154 is not unconstitutionally vague, that Congress has the constitutional authority to control the sale of alcoholic beverages by non-Indians on fee-patented land within the boundaries of an Indian reservation, and that Congress could validly make a delegation of this authority to a reservation's tribal council. We reverse the Court of Appeals.

I

The Wind River Reservation was established by treaty in 1868. Located in a rather arid portion of central Wyoming, at least some of its 2,300,000 acres have been described by Mr. Justice Cardozo as 'fair and fertile,' Shoshone Tribe of Wind River Reservation in Wyoming v. United States, 299 U.S. 476, 486, 57 S.Ct. 244, 246 247, 81 L.Ed. 360 (1937). It straddles the Wind River, with its remarkable canyon, and lies in a mile-high basin at the foot of the Wind River Mountains, whose rugged, glaciated peaks and ridges form a portion of the Continental Divide.2 The reservation is occupied by the Shoshone and Arapahoe Tribes. Although these tribes were once 'ancestral foes,' ibid., they are today jointly known as the Wind River Tribes. As a result of various patents, substantial tracts of non-Indian-held land are scattered within the reservation's boundaries. It was on such non-Indian land that respondents Martin and Margaret Mazurie operated their bar, which did business under the corporate name of the Blue Bull, Inc.

Before 1953 federal law generally prohibited the introduction of alcoholic beverages into 'Indian country.' 18 U.S.C. § 1154(a). 'Indian country' was defined by 18 U.S.C. § 1151 to include non-Indian-held lands 'within the limits of any Indian reservation.'3 In 1949, the term was given a narrower meaning, insofar as relevant to the liquor prohibition, so as to exclude both fee-patented lands within 'non-Indian communities' and rights-of-way through reservations. Act of May 24, 1949, 63 Stat. 94, 18 U.S.C. § 1154(c), supra, n. 1. The quoted term is not defined, a fact which creates problems with which we shall shortly deal. In 1953 Congress passed localoption legislation allowing Indian tribes, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, to regulate the introduction of liquor into Indian country, so long as state law was not violated. Act of Aug. 15, 1953, 67 Stat. 586, 18 U.S.C. § 1161.4 The Wind River Tribs responded to this option by adopting an ordinance which permitted liquor sales on the reservation if made in accordance with Wyoming law. When the Blue Bull originally opened, a liquor license had been issued to it by Fremont County, Wyo., and its operation was therefore consistent with that tribal ordinance. But in 1971 the Wind River Tribes adopted a new liquor ordinance, Ordinance No. 26.5 That ordinance required that retail liquor outlets within Indian country obtain both tribal and state licenses.

In 1972, the Mazuries applied for a tribal license, after warnings that they would be subject to criminal charges if they continued to operate without one. The tribes held a public hearing which Martin Mazurie and the Mazuries' lawyer attended. Witnesses protested grant of the license, complaining of singing and shooting at late hours, disturbances of elderly residents of a nearby housing development, and the permitting of Indian minors in the bar. The application was denied.

Thereafter, the Mazuries closed the Blue Bull. Three weeks later they reopened it. It remained in operation for approximately a year, until federal officers seized its alcoholic beverages, and this criminal prosecution was initiated. 6

The case was tried to the District Court without a jury. Since most of the factual issues were disposed of by stipulations,7 the testimony at trial primarily dealt with whether the bar was within 'Indian country.' On the basis of testimony about the Blue Bull's location, and about the racial composition of residents of the surrounding area, the court concluded that the bar was so located. Holding that federal authority could reach non-Indians located on privately held land within a reservation's boundaries, the court entered judgments of conviction. Each respondent was fined $100.

The Court of Appeals reversed the convictions. It concluded that the prosecution had not carried its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the bar was not excluded from Indian country by the § 1154(c) exception for 'fee-patented lands in non-Indian communities.'8 This conclusion was tied directly to the more basic holding:

'(T)he terminology of 'non-Indian community' is not capable of sufficiently precise definition to serve as an element of the crime herein considered . . .. The statute is thus fatally defective by reason of this indefinite and vague terminology.' 487 F.2d, at 18.

As a second basis for reversal, the court held that insofar as 18 U.S.C. § 1161 authorized Indian tribes to adopt ordinances controlling the introduction by non-Indians of alcoholic beverages onto non-Indian land, it was an invalid congressional attempt to delegate authority. The Court of Appeals also suggested that Congress itself could not regulate the sale of alcohol by non-Indians on fee-patented non-Indian lands within Indian reservations.

II

It is well established that vagueness challenges to statutes which do not involve First Amendment freedoms must be examined in the light of the facts of the case at hand. United States v. National Dairy Products Corp., 372 U.S. 29, 83 S.Ct. 594, 9 L.Ed.2d 561 (1963). In determining whether § 1154(c) is unconstitutionally vague as to respondents, we must therefore first consider the evidence as to the location of the Blue Bull.9

The evidence showed that the bar was located on the outskirts of Fort Washakie, Wyo., an unincorporated village bearing the name of the man who was chief of the Shoshones during their early years on the Wind River Reservation. Shoshone Tribe v. United States, 299 U.S., at 486, 57 S.Ct., at 247; Harmston, supra, n. 2, at 3—4. Fort Washakie is the location of the Wind River Agency of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and of the Tribal Headquarters of the Wind River Tribes. One witness testified that the village was an 'Indian community.' App. 49. The evidence also showed that of the 212 families living within a 20-square-mile area roughly centered on the Blue Bull, 170 were Indian families, 41 were non-Indians, and one was mixed. A large-scale United States Geological Survey map was introduced to show the limits of this housing survey. It indicates that the survey included all settlements within the Fort Washakie area, and that the nearest not-included concentrations of housing were at Saint James Church and...

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