Dollar General Corp v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Indian Law
  • Date Filed: June 15, 2015
  • Case #: 13-1496
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 746 F.3d 167 (5th Cir. 2014)
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether tribal courts have jurisdiction to hear civil tort claims against non-Indian defendants?

Indian tribes retain all inherent sovereign powers “not withdrawn by treaty or [federal] statute, or by implication as a necessary result of their dependent status. Historically, tribes exercised broad sovereign authority within reservation boundaries, limited only by explicit treaty provisions or acts of Congress.

Montana v. United States held that Indian tribes’ exercise of civil regulatory authority over nonmembers is inconsistent with the tribes’ dependent status, but recognized two exceptions. First, a tribe may regulate the “activities of nonmembers who enter consensual relationships with the tribe or its members.” Second, a tribe may regulate the conduct of non-Indians “when that conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, the economic security, or the health or welfare of the tribe.”

Respondent is a member of an Indian tribe who held an internship position at a store operated by Petitioner, a non-Indian corporation. Respondent alleged that a supervisor sexually assaulted him and sued Petitioner in tribal court. The Fifth Circuit held that tribal court jurisdiction for Respondent to bring the claim had been established. The Fifth Circuit reasoned that tribal jurisdiction was established because the agreement to employ Respondent at the Petitioner's store was for Respondent’s commercial benefit. This created a sufficient consensual relationship between the Petitioner and tribe and therefore met the first exception of Montana. Petitioner asks the Court to consider whether tribal courts have jurisdiction to hear civil tort claims against non-Indian defendants.

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