Cahto Tribe v. Dutschke

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Tribal Law
  • Date Filed: 05-15-2013
  • Case #: No. 11-17847
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Hawkins for the Court; Chief Judge Kozinski; Circuit Judges Hawkins and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

A Tribe’s governing documents must provide for an appeal of its disenrollment action to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”) in order for the BIA to review the Tribe’s action under the Administrative Procedure Act.

In 1995, the Cahto Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria (“Tribe”) removed 22 members from its membership roll because the Tribe’s General Council determined each individual violated the membership requirements of the Tribe’s Articles of Association. In 1999, Gene Sloan on behalf of himself and other disenrolled members, his family (“the Sloans”), appealed the action to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (“BIA”), which granted the appeal in 2009, and directed the Tribe to reinstate the Sloans’ membership. The Tribe appealed the BIA’s final action to the district court, which affirmed the BIA’s action, finding that the Tribe’s governing documents granted the BIA authority to review of the Tribe’s action under 25 C.F.R. § 62.4. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit examined the Tribe’s governing documents and held that they did not grant such authority to the BIA to review disenrollment action because the documents only allowed for review of an applicant’s appeal of the Tribe’s decision to admit him/her as a member. Upon the finding that relevant portions of the documents’ discussion of appeals only referred to applicants and not to members, the panel held that the plain language of the Tribe’s governing documents made a distinction between applicant and member, and the BIA was not authorized to review an action regarding a member’s disenrollment. REVERSED.

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