Argument in the Supreme Court on December 7 revealed a distinct possibility that the Court will restrict the reach of tribal courts to hear certain civil matters involving non-Indians (or nonmembers), namely civil tort claims brought against nonmembers.
In Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the tribal member plaintiffs sought a $2.5 million civil judgment in tribal court against the store alleging the store manager made sexual advances toward a 13-year old boy working there under a tribal youth employment program. The civil action was brought after the U.S. Attorney declined to seek criminal charges. The mere fact that the Court took the case has shaken Indian country, where it has been assumed this tribal adjudicatory power is neither controversial nor in question. Granting certiorari without a split in the circuits, the Court has raised fears in the tribal community that it will significantly limit civil adjudicatory power over nonmembers, or at least as to civil disputes between members and nonmembers.