Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe

RESPONDENT:Suquamish Indian Tribe
LOCATION:Alameda County Sheriff’s Office

DOCKET NO.: 76-5729
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 435 US 191 (1978)
ARGUED: Jan 09, 1978
DECIDED: Mar 06, 1978

Barry D. Ernstoff – for respondents
Chestnut H. Bartow Farr III
H. Bartow Farr, III – for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court
Philip P. Malone – for the petitioners
Slade Gorton – for the State of Washington, as amicus curiae, by special leave of Court

Facts of the case


Media for Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 09, 1978 in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – March 06, 1978 in Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the court in 76-5729 Oliphant against the. Suquamish Indian Tribe, will be announced by Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

William H. Rehnquist:

In this case which comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the petitioners are two non-Indian residents of the Port Madison Indian Reservation in the state of Washington.

The reservation is the tribal home of the Suquamish Indians who are the respondents in this case.

Pursuant to a law and order Court, that the tribal government adopted in 1973.

Tribal officers arrested the petitioners in 1974 for violating various criminal provisions of that Court.

The petitioners applied for writs of Habeas Corpus the United State’s District court for the District of Washington and Seattle on the ground that the Suquamish Indian provisional court does not have jurisdiction over non-Indians.

The District Court rejected petitioner’s argument and denied the petitioners.

The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s rulings.

In an opinion filed today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Respondents that is the tribe do not point any treaty provision or congressional statute giving the Suquamish Indians criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians.

Instead they contend that Indian tribes have inherent jurisdiction to try non-Indians as part of their original sovereignty.

But Indian tribes retain only that sovereignty which is neither terminated by Congress nor inconsistent with their status.

By submitting to the overriding sovereignty of the United States Indian tribes necessarily gave up their power to try non-Indians citizens of the United States except in a manner, acceptable to Congress.

This fact has long been recognized as we point out in an opinion filed today with the clerk by Congress the executive branch in the lower Federal court.

Mr. Justice Marshall has filed a dissenting opinion in which, the Chief Justice joins.

Mr. justice Brennan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Mr. Justice Rehnquist.