On July 13, 2015 District Court Judge Burrell Jr. dismissed the Bishop Paiute Tribe case against Inyo County, the Inyo County Sheriff and District Attorney for lack of jurisdiction. The Tribe’s law suit was filed after a tribal law enforcement officer was arrested and criminally charged for restraining and detaining, on December 24, 2014, a non-Indian on the reservation who was in violation of both a tribal and state domestic violence protection by being at the home of her estranged tribal member husband. The Tribe’s law suit sought Declaratory and Injunctive Relief against the County and County officials re-affirming tribal inherent authority to stop, restrain, detain, and investigate violations of tribal, state, and federal law and to turn over non-Indians violators to proper law enforcement authorities.
The District Court’s dismissal does not address the merits of the Tribe’s law suit, but instead basis its dismissal on procedural grounds. The Court found that the Tribe’s January 2015 response to Inyo County Sheriff’s “Cease and Desist” Order removed the controversy between the parties, leaving the Court without jurisdiction to proceed with the case. The Tribe’s January response to the “Cease and Desist” Order, took direct issue with the County’s actions with regard to its law enforcement officer and the County’s interpretation of tribal inherent authority and federal law over non-Indians. However, the Tribe agreed that its officers would not enforce California state law on the reservation, which the Tribe firmly believes its officers do and have not engage in. Regardless, the Court found the Tribe’s statement in its response to the County Sheriff resolves the issues between the parties.
Dorothy Alther, Executive Director of California Indian Legal Services stated, “The Tribe is very disappointed in the District Court’s dismissal. The Tribe is essentially back to where it started from. The fundamental question(s) raised in the Tribe’s law suit have not been addressed and tribal law enforcement officers remain uncertain on whether they will be arrested and criminally prosecuted for performing their legal duties under tribal authority and defined by federal law. The Court’s finding there is no “controversy” in the Tribe’s case fails to acknowledge that a tribal police officer is still being prosecuted and there is no indication that future tribal officers won’t be prosecuted.”
The Tribe is preparing to appeal the District Court’s dismissal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
California Indian Legal Services is the largest non-profit Indian law firm in California with four offices statewide and has been in operation for 48 years. CILS represents California Tribes, tribal organizations, and low-income individuals on matters of Indian law.
Director of Marketing and Development
California Indian Legal Services
T: (760) 746-8941