Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Native American Law
METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL
Members of the Metlakatlan Indian Community (“the Community”) and their Tsimshian ancestors have inhabited the coast of the Pacific Northwest and fished in its waters. In 1891, Congress passed a statute (the “1891 Act”) recognizing the Community and establishing the Annette Islands Reserve as its reservation. In 2020, in response to Alaska’s attempt to subject the Metlakatlans to its limited entry program, the Community sued Alaskan officials in federal district court. The Community contended that the 1891 Act grants to the Community and its members the right to fish in the off-reservation waters where Community members have traditionally fished. The district court disagreed, holding that the Act provides no such right. The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending its opinion, denying a petition for panel rehearing, and denying a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an amended opinion reversing the district court’s dismissal of the Metlakatlan Indian Community’s suit against Alaskan officials. The panel applied the Indian canon of construction, which required it to construe the 1891 Act liberally in favor of the Community and to infer rights that supported the purpose of the reservation. At issue was the scope of that right. The panel concluded that a central purpose of the reservation, understood in light of the history of the Community, was that the Metlakatlans would continue to support themselves by fishing. The panel, therefore, held that the 1891 Act preserved for the Community and its members an implied right to non-exclusive off-reservation fishing for personal consumption and ceremonial purposes, as well as for commercial purposes. View "METLAKATLA INDIAN COMMUNITY V. MICHAEL DUNLEAVY, ET AL" on Justia Law
WASHINGTON STATE HEALTH CARE A, ET AL V. CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAI, ET AL
The Washington State Health Care Authority (“HCA”) and the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community petition for review of a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) decision denying Washington’s request to amend Apple Health, the Washington State Medicaid plan (the “State Plan”). HCA petitioned CMS to amend the State Plan to include dental health aide therapists (“DHATs”) on the list of licensed providers who can be reimbursed through Medicaid. CMS rejected the Amended State Plan on the basis that it violates the Medicaid free choice of providers statute and regulation guaranteeing all Medicaid beneficiaries equal access to qualified healthcare professionals willing to treat them. Petitioners challenged this denial. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition of review. The panel rejected CMS’s reasoning on the ground that the underlying Washington statute—Wash. Rev. Code Section 70.350.020—did not violate Section 1396(a)(23) because it merely authorized where and how DHATs can practice and did not in any way restrict Medicaid recipients’ ability to obtain service from DHATs relative to non-Medicaid recipients. CMS’s rejection of the Amended State Plan was “not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. Section 706(2)(A). Accordingly, the panel granted the petition for review and remanded to the agency with instructions to approve the Amended State Plan. View "WASHINGTON STATE HEALTH CARE A, ET AL V. CENTERS FOR MEDICARE & MEDICAI, ET AL" on Justia Law
In re D.B.
C.K. (Father) and I.B. (Mother) appealed the juvenile court’s order terminating their parental rights to their infant child, D.B. They argued the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services failed to comply with its duty of initial inquiry into Father’s Indian ancestry under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, and related California law (ICWA), and thus the juvenile court erroneously found that ICWA did not apply. To this, the Court of Appeal agreed and found that the error was prejudicial. It therefore conditionally reversed and remanded to allow the Department to fully comply with ICWA. View "In re D.B." on Justia Law
Interest of N.L.
N.L., Sr. appeals from the juvenile court’s order terminating his parental rights. A.H. and N.L., Sr. were the biological mother and father of N.L., Jr., born in 2015 and J.L., born in 2018. In August 2020, N.L. and J.L. were removed from their home after law enforcement performed a welfare check. N.L., Sr. argues the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to terminate his parental rights, the Grand Forks County Human Service Zone (GFCHSZ) lacked standing, and the court erred in finding GFCHSZ met the requirements for termination of parental rights under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and N.D.C.C. § 27-20.3-19. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the termination. View "Interest of N.L." on Justia Law
Native Village of Chignik Lagoon v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs.
Two tribes claimed to be a child’s tribe for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA): The Native Village of Wales claimed the child was a tribal member; the Native Village of Chignik Lagoon claims that the child is “eligible for tribal membership.” After the superior court terminated the biological parents’ parental rights, Wales moved to transfer subsequent proceedings, including potential adoption, to its tribal court. Chignik Lagoon intervened in the child in need of aid (CINA) case, arguing that the child was not a member of Wales under Wales’s constitution and that transfer of further proceedings to the Wales tribal court was not authorized under ICWA. The superior court found that the child was a member of Wales and that Wales was the child’s tribe for ICWA purposes, and therefore granted the transfer of jurisdiction. Chignik Lagoon appealed. After review, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s determination that the child was a member of Wales and that Wales was appropriately designated as the child’s tribe for ICWA purposes. The Supreme Court also concluded that, given that ruling, Chignik Lagoon lacked standing to challenge the transfer of proceedings to the Wales tribal court. View "Native Village of Chignik Lagoon v. Alaska Dept. of Health & Soc. Svcs." on Justia Law
Ahtna, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, et al.
The State of Alaska claimed the right under Revised Statute 2477 (RS 2477) to clear land and permit the use of boat launches, camping sites, and day use sites within an alleged 100-foot right of way centered on a road on land belonging to an Alaska Native corporation. The Native corporation sued, arguing that its prior aboriginal title prevented the federal government from conveying a right of way to the State or, alternatively, if the right of way existed, that construction of boat launches, camping sites, and day use sites exceeded its scope. After years of litigation and motion practice the superior court issued two partial summary judgment orders. It held as a matter of law that any preexisting aboriginal title did not disturb the State’s right of way over the land. It also concluded as a matter of law that the right of way was limited to ingress and egress. Because the superior court did not err when it granted the State’s motion regarding aboriginal title, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that grant of partial summary judgment. But because the scope of a particular RS 2477 right of way was a question of fact, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's conclusion as a matter of law that the State’s right of way was limited to ingress and egress. View "Ahtna, Inc. v. Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, et al." on Justia Law
Colorado in interest of E.A.M. v. D.R.M.
As relevant here, a trial court has reason to know that a child is an Indian child when “[a]ny participant in the proceeding, officer of the court involved in the proceeding, Indian Tribe, Indian organization, or agency informs the court that it has discovered information indicating that the child is an Indian child.” In this dependency and neglect case, the juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights with respect to E.A.M. Mother appealed, complaining that the court had failed to comply with Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”) by not ensuring that the petitioning party, the Denver Human Services Department (“the Department”), had provided notice of the proceeding to the tribes that she and other relatives had identified as part of E.A.M.’s heritage. The Department and the child’s guardian ad litem responded that the assertions of Indian heritage by Mother and other relatives had not given the juvenile court reason to know that the child was an Indian child. Rather, they maintained, such assertions had merely triggered the due diligence requirement in section 19-1-126(3), and here, the Department had exercised due diligence. A division of the court of appeals agreed with Mother, vacated the termination judgment, and remanded with directions to ensure compliance with ICWA’s notice requirements. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed, finding that "mere assertions" of a child's Indian heritage, without more, were not enough to give a juvenile court "reason to know" that the child was an Indian child. Here, the juvenile court correctly found that it didn’t have reason to know that E.A.M. is an Indian child. Accordingly, it properly directed the Department to exercise due diligence in gathering additional information that would assist in determining whether there was reason to know that E.A.M. is an Indian child. View "Colorado in interest of E.A.M. v. D.R.M." on Justia Law
In re Ricky R.
N.G. (Mother) appealed a juvenile court’s order terminating parental rights to her children, Ricky R. and Jayden R. Mother argued the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry under state law implementing the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA). DPSS did not dispute that it failed to discharge its duty of initial inquiry, but it argued that the error was harmless. DPSS also moved to dismiss the appeal as moot on the basis of postjudgment evidence, and it asked the Court of Appeal to consider that evidence under several theories. After review, the Court concluded DPSS prejudicially erred by failing to comply with its duty of initial inquiry under ICWA-related state law. The Court also denied DPSS’s motion to dismiss the appeal and declined to consider the postjudgment evidence of ICWA inquiries conducted while this appeal was pending. To this end, the Court held the juvenile court should consider that evidence in the first instance and determine whether DPSS discharged its duties under ICWA and related state law. View "In re Ricky R." on Justia Law
In re Dominick D.
T.T. (Mother) challenged a juvenile court’s finding that the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA) did not apply to the dependency proceedings concerning her son, Dominick D. She argued the juvenile court failed to ensure that San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS) discharged its duty of initial inquiry into Dominick’s possible Indian ancestry under California Welfare & Institutions Code section 224.2(b). To this, the Court of Appeal agreed, but declined to address the parties’ arguments concerning harmlessness, because ICWA inquiry and notice errors did not warrant reversal of the juvenile court’s jurisdictional or dispositional findings and orders other than the finding that ICWA did not apply. The Court accordingly vacated that finding and remanded for compliance with ICWA and related California law, but otherwise affirmed. View "In re Dominick D." on Justia Law
J.J. v. Super. Ct.
Petitioner-mother J.J. petitioned for extraordinary relief pursuant to California Rules of Court, rule 8.452, seeking review of an order denying family reunification services and setting a permanency planning hearing under Welfare and Institutions Code section 366.26. She argued the juvenile court improperly bypassed reunification services, and that real party in interest the San Joaquin County Human Services Agency (the Agency) failed to comply with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. The Agency disputed both contentions. Because the order denying reunification services was not supported by sufficient evidence, the Court of Appeal granted the petition as to mother’s first contention. Because the ICWA issue was premature, the Court rejected mother’s second contention. View "J.J. v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law