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KENNERLY V. DISTRICT COURT, 400 U. S. 423 (1971)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Kennerly v. District Court, 400 U.S. 423 (1971)

Kennerly v. District Court of the Ninth

Judicial District of Montana

No. 5370

Decided January 18, 1971

400 U.S. 423


Petitioners unsuccessfully moved to dismiss an action for a 1964 debt brought against them, on the ground that the Montana courts lacked jurisdiction because they were Blackfeet Indians and the transactions took place on the Indian reservation. Section 7 of the Act of August 15, 1953, provided in part that a State not having civil jurisdiction over Indians could

"assume jurisdiction at such time and in such manner as the people of the State shall, by affirmative legislative action, obligate and bind the State to assumption thereof."

Montana took no affirmative legislative action with respect to the Blackfeet Reservation. In 1967, the Blackfeet Tribal Council adopted an act providing for concurrent jurisdiction in the Tribal Court and the state courts of any suit where the defendant is a member of the Tribe. Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 repealed § 7 of the 1953 Act and provided for the assumption of state jurisdiction

"only where the enrolled Indians within the affected area of such Indian country accept such jurisdiction by a majority vote of the adult Indians voting at a special election held for that purpose."

Held: The Tribal Council's unilateral action was insufficient to vest jurisdiction in the Montana courts under either the 1953 Act, which required affirmative state legislative action, or under the 1968 Act, which calls for a majority vote of all enrolled Indians.

Certiorari granted; 154 Mont. 488, 466 P.2d 85, vacated and remanded.

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