Dollar General decision – a de facto win for tribal sovereignty

e-mail icon

***SCOTUS ALERT***

Dollar General decision – a de facto win for tribal sovereignty

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court today did not issue a written opinion on Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, because it was a 4 to 4 tie. Generally, there are nine Supreme Court justices, however with the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, the remaining eight justices split their decision in a tie in this tribal civil jurisdiction matter. In the event of tie, the lower court’s ruling stands. Therefore, this tie worked in the tribe’s favor because the Fifth Circuit ruled that the tribe has civil jurisdiction over the Dollar General Corporation.

In December of 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (No. 13-1496), a tribal civil jurisdiction case. The case began in 2003 on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian's reservation in Mississippi when a 13-year-old tribal member alleged that he was sexually assaulted by the store’s non-Indian manager. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the non-Indian manager and both tribal and state court's lacked criminal jurisdiction over the offense. As a result, the boy’s parents sued the manager and the company in tribal court for $2.5 million in actual and punitive damages. The Navajo Nation did sign on to an amicus brief in support of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and tribal civil jurisdiction.

The case will be sent back to Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians tribal court for a hearing on the merits.

###