On June 23, 2016, the Supreme Court decided Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. This case concerns a dispute over tribal court jurisdiction relating to allegations that the non-Indian manager of a Dollar General store on Choctaw tribal land sexually molested an Indian minor who interned at the store. When the minor’s parents sought to hold Dolgencorp--the subsidiary that operated the store--vicariously liable for the manager’s conduct, Dolgencorp petitioned in federal district court for an injunction barring tribal court proceedings, on the grounds that the tribal court lacked jurisdiction. The district court denied relief, concluding that while tribal courts typically lack civil authority over the conduct of non-members on non-Indian land within a reservation, Dolgencorp’s situation fell within a “consensual relationship” exception to the rule. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed, and denied rehearing en banc over the dissent of five judges.
The question before the Supreme Court was whether Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against non-members, including as a means of regulating the conduct of non-members who enter into consensual relationships with a tribe or its members.
In a per curiam opinion, the judgement of the Fifth Circuit was affirmed by an equally divided court.
To discuss the case, we have Zachary Price, who is Associate Professor of Law at University of California, Hastings College of Law.