Supreme Court tie favors tribal court authority

AP News
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Posted: Jun 23, 2016 1:44 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Supreme Court tie has left in place the authority of Native American courts to judge complaints against people who are not tribal members.

The justices said Thursday they deadlocked 4-4 in a closely watched dispute between the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and Dollar General Corp.

The Tennessee-based company was sued in tribal court in 2005 over allegations that a store manager made sexual advances toward a 13-year-old boy placed in his store by a tribal youth employment program. Dollar General asked federal courts to block the lawsuit. The boy's family is seeking $2.5 million.

The case threatened to limit the ability of tribal courts to resolve cases in which a member makes claims about a company doing business on tribal land.

The Supreme Court ruled more than 40 years ago that nonmembers can be sued only in tribal court when they have agreed to dealings with the tribe, including through a contract, lease or other business arrangement.

Lower courts ruled that such a connection exists between Dollar General and the Mississippi Choctaws. The Obama administration and Mississippi, among six states, supported the tribe.