Statutory Divestiture of Tribal Sovereignty
64 Federal Lawyer 38-47 (April 2017)
10 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2017 Last revised: 11 Apr 2017
Date Written: February 20, 2017
The Supreme Court’s non-decision in Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians is evidence not only of disagreement on tribal civil jurisdiction but perhaps also uncertainty in how to analyze divestiture of tribal sovereignty. Most scholars (including myself) have described the Court’s behavior in tribal sovereign authority cases as one of judicial supremacy, in that the Court merely makes policy choices based on its own ideological views of tribal power. That is a mistake. Persuaded by the federal government’s argument in Dollar General, I now argue that the proper analysis rests with federal statutes. Indian law practitioners can and should reconsider the Court’s prior decisions in this vein, as the best ones already do, and analyze tribal sovereign powers in the paradigm of statutory divestiture rather than judicial supremacy.
Keywords: Tribal Courts, Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Supreme Court, Judicial Supremacy, Federal Common Law, Tribal Sovereignty
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