Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Native American tribes lack criminal jurisdiction over nonmembers. The general proposition is that the inherent sovereign powers of an Indian tribe do not extend to the activities of nonmembers of the tribe. Where nonmembers are concerned, the exercise of tribal power beyond what is necessary to protect tribal self-government or to control internal relations is inconsistent with the dependent status of the tribes, and so cannot survive without express congressional delegation.
Respondent Hicks is a member of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribes of western Nevada and lives on the Tribes' reservation. After petitioner state game wardens executed state-court and tribal-court search warrants to search Hicks's home for evidence of an off-reservation crime, he filed suit in the Tribal Court against, inter alios, the wardens in their individual capacities and petitioner Nevada, alleging trespass, abuse of process, and violation of constitutional rights remediable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Tribal Court held that it had jurisdiction over the tribal tort and federal civil rights claims, and the Tribal Appeals Court affirmed. Petitioners then sought, in Federal District Court, a declaratory judgment that the Tribal Court lacked jurisdiction over the claims. The District Court granted respondents summary judgment on that issue and held that the wardens would have to exhaust their qualified immunity claims in the Tribal Court. In affirming, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the fact that Hicks's home is on tribe-owned reservation land is sufficient to support tribal jurisdiction over civil claims against nonmembers arising from their activities on that land.
Did the Tribal court have jurisdiction over claims against state officials who entered tribal land to execute search warrant against tribal member suspected of violating state law outside reservation?
The Supreme Court held tribal assertion of regulatory authority over nonmembers had to be connected to the Indians' right to make their own laws and be governed by them. State sovereignty did not end at the reservation's border. The tribe lacked legislative authority to restrict, condition, or otherwise regulate the ability of state officials to investigate off-reservation violations of state law. It also lacked adjudicative authority to hear a claim that officers violated tribal law in the performance of their duties. The state had considerable interest in the execution of its process. Even when it related to Indian-fee lands it did not impair the tribe's self-government any more than federal enforcement of federal law impaired state government. Any distinction between individual and official capacity suites was irrelevant. There was no authority for the tribe to adjudicate Hicks’ § 1983 claim. Since the lack of authority was clear, there was no need to exhaust the jurisdictional dispute in tribal court. Officers could be held accountable for tortious conduct and civil rights violations in either state or federal court, but not in tribal court.