Indian Country Today recently reported that I was giving certain advice about Public Law 280 to the Soboba Band of Luiseno Indians [''Soboba to sue county sheriff after latest killings by deputies,'' by Gale Courey Toensing, Vol. 27, Iss. 50]. I never spoke to the reporter, and much of the description of my views about Public Law 280 does not reflect my actual understanding of the law.
The story is correct in conveying my belief that state or local police should cooperate with tribal officials in carrying out the state's P.L. 280 jurisdiction. My research has shown that such cooperation produces more effective law enforcement. But the story mistakenly claims that I view state criminal jurisdiction under P.L. 280 as limited to 16 major crimes. In fact, one of the reasons why many tribes have objected to P.L. 280 is because it expands the reach of nontribal law enforcement to encompass nearly all criminal offenses.
While P.L. 280 does authorize state criminal jurisdiction over tribal members and the entire reservation, that state jurisdiction must be exercised in a constitutional manner, respectful of the due process and other individual rights of all persons. Thus, for example, persons may be arrested and searched only if there is probable cause to believe they have engaged in criminal activity.
An investigation is needed to determine whether the sheriff's department acted properly in responding to the situation at Soboba.
- Carole Goldberg
Professor of law, UCLALos Angeles