Monday, June 20, 2016

More Monday At The Bar. U.S. Supreme Court: The Bill of Rights still doesn't apply to Indians on the Reservation.

One of the most shocking features of US Constitutional law is that the Bill of Rights doesn't apply, at all, to Indians on the Reservation.  It fully applies off the reservation, but not on.

This is so shocking that people will often refuse to believe it.  Even skilled legal practitioners will scoff at the thought.

Well, this past week the United States Supreme Court, in an opinion with no dissents, confirmed that this remains the law, overturning the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Bryant.

I understand the basis of this line of legal thought, but frankly, I think it's appalling and that this old doctrine is long obsolete.  I can think of solid legal arguments for changing it that do not do violence to the Constitution, and which would certainly be less novel than Obergefell.

So, in the name of protecting tribal sovereignty, a laudable goal, the population that's been within the geography of the nation the longest, remains the one with the fewest rights, on the land where they are sovereign.  That's just wrong.  I realize that the Indian Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the ability to do what they will with the sovereign entities of the Tribes, and I realize that a less than stout Indian Bill of Rights is supposed to do something for Indians on their own lands, but in 2016, depriving Indians of their full rights on tribal lands is wrong, even if that means somewhat diminishing the sweeping authority that the tribes themselves have, as sovereign entities, within the reservations.

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