This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Joelyn Rose Hart,
Filed May 9, 2006
Cass County District
File No. T4-04-4066
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445
Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Earl E. Maus, Cass County Attorney, Gregory J. Bloomstrom,
Assistant County Attorney, P.O. Box 3000, Walker, MN 56484 (for respondent)
Nathaniel J. Zylstra, Special Assistant State Public
Defender, Faegre & Benson, LLP, 2200 Wells Fargo Center, 90 South Seventh
Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Joelyn Rose Hart
argues that the district court erred in determining that respondent State of Minnesota has
jurisdiction to enforce its driver’s license and proof of insurance laws
against an American Indian who commits these offenses on a road located on the
reservation of a tribe of which she is not an enrolled member. Because the Minnesota Supreme Court has
already decided this issue, and we defer to that court as to any reevaluation
of its previous holding, we affirm.
is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians. On December 17, 2004, a police officer
stopped her while she was driving a vehicle in Cass Lake,
Minnesota, a town within the boundaries of
both Cass County and the Leech Lake
Reservation. The officer stopped
appellant for a cracked taillight and then ticketed her for driving without a
driver’s license, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.02, subd. 1 (2004),
and driving without insurance, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.791,
subd. 2 (2004). Appellant had neither a
driver’s license nor automobile insurance on December 17, 2004.
appellant moved to dismiss the charges against her, arguing that the state does
not have subject matter jurisdiction to prosecute Indians for violations of Minnesota regulatory laws that occur within Indian territory.
In April 2005, the district court denied appellant’s motion.
waived her right to a jury trial, and the parties submitted the case to the
court on stipulated facts. In June 2005,
the district court found appellant guilty of driving without a license, in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.02, subd. 1, and driving without insurance, in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.791, subd. 2.
At the subsequent sentencing hearing, the district court imposed a $100
fine for driving without a license and a $1,000 fine ($500 conditionally
stayed) and 50 days in jail, stayed, for failure to provide proof of insurance.
D E C I S I O N
court reviews issues of subject matter jurisdiction de novo. State
v. R.H.M., 617 N.W.2d 55, 58 (Minn.
2000). Whether the State of Minnesota has
jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters involving American Indians is governed
by federal statutes and caselaw. Gavle v. Little Six, Inc., 555 N.W.2d 284,
1996). Generally, state law does not
apply to tribal Indians on their reservation absent express consent from
Congress. R.M.H., 617 N.W.2d at 58 (citing California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, 480 U.S. 202, 207, 107 S. Ct.
1083, 1087 (1987)).
Public Law 280, Congress granted Minnesota
broad criminal subject matter jurisdiction over all Indian lands in the state
except the Red Lake Reservation. Pub. L.
No. 83-280, 67 Stat. 588 (1953) (codified as amended at 18 U.S.C. § 1162 (2000)). In contrast, Congress granted the states only
limited civil jurisdiction over Indian affairs, and it did not grant the state
general civil regulatory authority. Pub.
L. No. 83-280, 67 Stat. 589 (1953) (codified as amended at 28 U.S.C. § 1360
(2000)); State v. Stone, 572 N.W.2d
725, 729 (Minn. 1997) (citing Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373, 384-88, 96 S. Ct.
2102, 2108-11 (1976)). But the United
States Supreme Court has not adopted a per se rule that precludes states from
exercising jurisdiction over tribes and tribal members absent express
congressional consent. Cabazon, 480 U.S.
at 214-15, 107 S. Ct. at 1091.
certain circumstances a State may validly assert authority over the activities
of nonmembers on a reservation, and . . . in exceptional circumstances a State
may assert jurisdiction over the on-reservation activities of tribal
members.” New Mexico v. Mescalero Apache Tribe, 462 U.S. 324, 331-32, 103 S.
Ct. 2378, 2385 (1983). In
addition, absent express consent from Congress, a state may exercise its
authority over tribal Indians only if federal law does not preempt it from
doing so. R.H.M., 617 N.W.2d at 58; see
also Cabazon, 480 U.S. at
216, 107 S. Ct. at 1092 (determining whether
federal law preempted the state from regulating bingo on a tribal reservation).
law preempts state jurisdiction “if it interferes or is incompatible with
federal and tribal interests reflected in federal law, unless the state
interests at stake are sufficient to justify the assertion of state
authority.” Mescalero, 462 U.S.
at 334, 103 S. Ct. at 2386. Thus, “[t]he inquiry is to proceed in light
of traditional notions of Indian sovereignty and the congressional goal of
Indian self-government, including its ‘overriding goal’ of encouraging tribal
self-sufficiency and economic development.”
Cabazon, 480 U.S. at 216, 107 S. Ct.
argues that Minnesota
does not have jurisdiction to enforce its driver’s license and car insurance
laws against an Indian who commits offenses on a road located on a tribal
reservation, even if the Indian is not an enrolled member of that tribe. In
R.M.H., the Minnesota Supreme Court decided this issue, determining that
the state has jurisdiction to enforce its speeding and driver’s license laws
against a nonmember Indian. 617 N.W.2d at
65. To reach its conclusion, the court
engaged in a two-step analysis. Id.
the supreme court determined that Congress has not expressly consented to Minnesota’s jurisdiction
over R.M.H.’s traffic offenses. Id. The court held that “R.M.H.’s driving without
a license and speeding offenses are civil/regulatory and do not fit within
[Public Law 280’s] express grant of jurisdiction to Minnesota.”
Id. at 60. Second, the supreme court considered whether
federal law preempts state jurisdiction by balancing the federal interest of
tribal sovereignty with the state’s interest over civil/regulatory traffic
at 60-65. Citing United States Supreme
Court cases Duro v. Reina, 495 U.S.
676, 110 S. Ct. 2053 (1990), United
States v. Wheeler, 435 U.S. 313, 98 S. Ct. 1079 (1978), and Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191, 98 S. Ct.
1011 (1978), the supreme court concluded that “regulation of nonmember Indians
warrants different consideration than does regulation of member Indians.” Id. at
61-63. The court noted that tribal
sovereignty is at its strongest when a state threatens the “tribal self-government,
self-sufficiency, and economic development.”
Id. at 64. The supreme court then determined that “tribal
interest in self-governance is limited to relations between a tribe and its own
members, not all Indians generally.” Id.
supreme court concluded that regulating traffic offenses against nonmembers of
the tribe does not threaten the economic development and self-sufficiency of
the tribe. Id.
at 65. Finally, the court noted that
federal law does not pervasively regulate traffic offenses; therefore, “there
is no federal regulatory scheme so pervasive as to preclude state
at 65. Thus, the supreme court concluded
interests, when compared with the federal interests, are more than sufficient
to justify state jurisdiction over civil/regulatory traffic offenses committed
on a state highway on an Indian reservation by an Indian who is not an enrolled
member of the governing tribe.” Id.
the United States Supreme Court issued United States v. Lara, 541 U.S. ___, ___, 124 S. Ct.
1628, 1637 (2004), stating that Wheeler,
Oliphant, and Duro are no longer determinative because Congress “enacted a new
statute, relaxing restrictions on the bounds of the inherent tribal
[prosecutorial] authority that the United States recognizes.” In that case, the Supreme Court addressed
whether the Double Jeopardy Clause prohibits the federal government from
prosecuting a nonmember Indian for a federal offense after he pleaded guilty in
tribal court to a crime related to the same incident. Lara, 541 U.S.
at ___, 124 S. Ct. at 1629. Because the Double Jeopardy Clause does not
bar successive prosecutions brought by separate sovereigns, the Court sought to
determine whether the Indian tribe and the federal government are separate
sovereigns. Id. at ___, 124 S. Ct. at 1632.
Court noted that it held in Duro that
a tribe does not possess inherent or sovereign authority to prosecute a
nonmember Indian. Id. (citing Duro, 495 U.S.
at 691-92, 110 S. Ct. at 2063). But soon after the court issued Duro, Congress enacted new legislation
that specifically authorized tribes to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all
Indians, including nonmembers. Id. at ___, 124
S. Ct. at
1632; see also 25 U.S.C. § 1301 (2000)
(defining “powers of self-government” as “the inherent power of Indian tribes .
. . to exercise criminal jurisdiction over all Indians”). Because Congress had enlarged Indian tribes’
inherent authority to prosecute nonmember Indians for misdemeanors, the Court
held that the Double Jeopardy Clause did not prohibit the federal government
from proceeding with its prosecution because the Indian tribe acted in its
capacity as a sovereign authority. Id. at ___, 124
S. Ct. at 1639.
argues that because Congress expanded Indian tribes’ sovereign prosecutorial
authority, R.M.H. is no longer good
law and Minnesota
no longer has jurisdiction to prosecute nonmember Indians for civil/regulatory
offenses. Appellant contends that Laradissolved the distinction between
member and nonmember Indians, and therefore the district court in this case
should have based its decision on Stone,
in which the Minnesota Supreme Court held that the state lacks jurisdiction to
enforce its traffic and driving regulations against member Indians. 572 N.W.2d at 731. Although it is true, as appellant contends,
affects the underlying rationale of R.M.H.,
there are ample reasons for this court to conclude that the prerogative remains
with the Minnesota Supreme Court to determine whether Lara mandates a
redetermination of R.M.H.
the holding in Lara is limited in
scope. The United States Supreme Court
addressed only whether a tribe has jurisdiction to bring a criminal misdemeanor
prosecution against an Indian who is not a member of that tribe. See Lara, 541 U.S.
at ___, 124 S. Ct. at 1631. The Court did not address Indian tribes’ inherent
sovereignty over prosecutions for civil/regulatory offenses. More importantly, the Court did not address
states’ authority to prosecute nonmember Indians under criminal or civil law or
whether states may have concurrent jurisdiction over nonmember Indians. As the Court stated, “the change at issue
here is a limited one. . . . [T]his case involves no interference with the
power or authority of any State.” Id. at ___, 124
S. Ct. at 1636.
the Minnesota Supreme Court did not base its decision in R.M.H. solely on the notion that Indian tribes have a weaker
sovereign interest over nonmember Indians than over member Indians. The court recognized that Congress has not
expressly granted Minnesota
jurisdiction to prosecute driver’s license and speeding offenses that occur on
tribal lands. 617 N.W.2d at 60. Thus, the court noted that the state could
only have jurisdiction if the court determined that the operation of federal
law did not prevent Minnesota
from exercising jurisdiction. Id.
the federal interest in tribal sovereign authority and the state’s interest in
regulating traffic on its highways, the supreme court determined that the
federal interest of tribal sovereignty is diminished when the state exercises
jurisdiction over nonmember Indians. Id.
at 64. Thus, the court determined that
federal law does not pervasively regulate traffic laws to the extent that state
regulation would obstruct federal policies.
Id. at 65. The supreme court noted that the federal
government has not imposed a detailed traffic regulation system on tribal
reservations and that it has expressed little interest in traffic law
enforcement on state-operated and maintained highways. Id. And the court emphasized the state’s strong
interest in regulating traffic on its highways.
(citing Raymond Motor Transp., Inc. v.
Rice, 434 U.S.
429, 443, 98 S. Ct. 787, 795 (1978) (“In no field has this [federal] deference
to state regulation been greater than that of highway safety
although Lara may have affected the
court’s rationale in R.M.H., we defer
to the Minnesota Supreme Court for any reevaluation of whether R.M.H. remains good law and conclude
that the state continues to have jurisdiction to enforce traffic laws against
nonmember Indians who commit traffic offenses on tribal lands.