Tavares v. Whitehouse, No. 14-15814 (9th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
After petitioners disagreed with how the Tribal Council was governing internal tribal affairs, they submitted a recall petition to the Tribe's Election Committee. The Council subsequently disciplined petitioners for press releases that the Tribe described as inaccurate, false, and defamatory. The Council voted to withhold petitioners' per capita distributions and to ban them temporarily from tribal lands and facilities. Petitioners subsequently filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under the Indian Civil Rights Act (ICRA), 25 U.S.C. 1303, against the members of the Council. The district court dismissed the petition for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that petitioners' punishment of exclusion was not a detention sufficient to invoke federal habeas jurisdiction. The court held that, reading the ICRA's habeas provision in light of the Indian canons of construction and Congress's plenary authority to limit tribal sovereignty, the district court lacked jurisdiction under section 1303 of the ICRA to review this temporary exclusion claim. The court also explained that any disputes about per capita payments must be brought in a tribal forum, not through federal habeas proceedings.