Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez

PETITIONER:Santa Clara Pueblo
LOCATION:Tellico Dam

DOCKET NO.: 76-682
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 436 US 49 (1978)
ARGUED: Nov 29, 1977
DECIDED: May 15, 1978

Marcelino Prelo
Richard B. Collins – for respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – November 29, 1977 in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 15, 1978 in Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinions in two cases, 76-682, Santa Clara Pueblo against Martinez and Kulko against the Superior Court of California, will each be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

John Marshall:

The Santa Clara case is here on writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

There a female member of the Santa Clara Indian tribe sued the tribe and its Governor, claiming that a tribal rule excluding from membership, the children of certain female members violated the Indian Civil Rights Act 1968.

The Court of Appeals held that a cause of action for the declaratory injunction relief though not expressly provided for, was implicit in the act, and concluded that the membership rule was in violation of its substantive provision.

In the opinion filed with the clerk, we reverse.

The Indian Civil Rights Act does not on its face purport to subject tribes to the jurisdiction of Federal Court in suits of this nature.

Accordingly, we hold that the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity preclude civil actions in Federal District Courts against an Indian tribe for alleged violations of the act.

We further conclude that the Indian Civil Rights Act was not intended implicitly to authorize causes of actions for declaratory and injunctive relief against tribal officers.

The structure of the act demonstrates that Congress had dual objectives.

One that protecting the individual rights of tribal members, while at the same time promoting tribal self government.

Implication of a cause of action would be inconsistent with the latter goal.

Moreover Congress consider and rejected various proposals for Federal Review of tribal action in both civil and criminal context.

In light of this history, Congress’ faith in authorized actions, other than Habeas Corpus, indicates that it would not have intended the Courts to infer additional remedies.

Recognizing the anomalous nature of our relation with the Indian tribes, and Congress has extraordinarily broad authority in this area.

We conclude that the court’s below erred in finding a cause of action here.

Mr. Justice Rehnquist joins only in part one, two, four and five of the opinion.

Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion and Mr. Justice Blackmun took no part in the consideration of the decision of this case.