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State v. George

Supreme Court of Idaho

July 27, 2018

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
SHAULA MARIE GEORGE, Defendant-Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. Cynthia K.C. Meyer, District Judge.

         District court order granting motion to dismiss based on jurisdiction, affirmed.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for appellant. Russell J. Spencer argued.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, Idaho State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for respondent. Sally J. Cooley argued.

          BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE

         This is a jurisdictional dispute. Tribal police arrested Shaula Marie George ("George") for possession of methamphetamine on the Coeur d'Alene reservation. Upon discovery that George was not a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the case was referred to the Kootenai County district court. Thereafter, George filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction. The district court granted George's motion, finding that despite the fact that George was not eligible to become a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, George was an Indian; thus, the district court did not have jurisdiction. We affirm.

         On September 6, 2016, the Coeur d'Alene tribal police arrested George for possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia with intent to use. However, upon discovery that George was not an enrolled member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the tribal police referred the case to the state for prosecution.

         On November 3, 2016, a criminal complaint was filed in the Kootenai County district court charging George with felony possession of a controlled substance. On February 24, 2017, George filed a motion and memorandum to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. Therein, George claimed that although she was not eligible to enroll as a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe she was still an "Indian" because of her extensive ties to the Tribe, i.e., she was a daughter, granddaughter, and great granddaughter of enrolled members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe; she had lived on the Coeur d'Alene reservation; the Coeur d'Alene Tribe had been paying her medical, dental, substance abuse treatment bills her entire life; she was eligible for housing and food assistance through the Tribe; she attended Coeur d'Alene tribal events and was provided free tickets; and her children would be enrolled in the Tribe. The State opposed the motion, asserting that because George was not eligible to enroll as a Coeur d'Alene Tribe member, George did not fall under the jurisdiction of the tribal courts; instead, the district court had jurisdiction.

         On May 9, 2017, the district court issued its memorandum decision and order granting the motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. After a lengthy analysis, the district court concluded that George was an Indian for jurisdictional purposes:

Ms. George is for all intents and purposes an Indian. She has Indian blood which the Court determines to be substantial or significant at nearly twenty-two percent. Moreover, she has lived her entire life as a Coeur d'Alene Indian. She is not an enrolled member of the Tribe and does not qualify to receive royalties from the Coeur d'Alene Casino based on the Tribe's determination to limit the number of persons who qualify for royalties. In every other way, however, she lives as and is recognized as an Indian. She qualifies and receives benefits available only to Indians. She has lived her whole life on the reservation. Her children are being enrolled as tribal members. She has participated in tribal social and cultural events and activities throughout her life.

         Regarding the State's concern that the Tribe would not prosecute George because it only prosecuted enrolled Tribe members, the district court recognized that as a state court it either had jurisdiction or it did not, and that jurisdiction was not based on whether other agencies had jurisdiction or exercised discretion in determining whether to prosecute. On May 16, 2017, the district court entered an order dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. The State timely appealed. We affirm the district court's dismissal.

         I. Issue on Appeal

         1. Whether the district court erred in finding it lacked jurisdiction over George due to her Indian status when she is not eligible to become a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

         II. ...


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