Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

Supreme Court Rules Tribal Police Can Detain, Search Non-Indigenous People on Reservations


The United States Supreme Court.

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Tuesday in favor of tribes in a case about the authority of tribal law enforcement in situations where non-Indigenous people may pose a threat to the health and welfare of the tribe.

According to the opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, the court ruled that tribal law enforcement can stop and search a non-Indigenous person "traveling on public rights-of-way running through a reservation for potential violations of state or federal law." The ruling vacated the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings based on an exception in the 1981 Supreme Court ruling Montana v. United States. Breyer's opinion says this exception gives tribes jurisdiction over non-Indigenous people "'when [their] conduct threatens or has some direct effect on the political integrity, economic security, or the health and welfare of the tribe.'"

The case, United States v. Cooley, involved Joshua James Cooley, a non-Indigenous man who was parked on the side of Highway 212 within the Crow Reservation in Montana. Crow tribal police officer James Saylor approached Cooley's truck and noticed he had "watery, bloodshot eyes" and two semi-automatic rifles lying on the front seat of the vehicle.


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