The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, well known for terminating 25% of their tribe, violating civil rights of their people and using the threat of more disenrollments to control the vote of their people, have won another round in court.
Pechanga has terminated the Hunter Family, a portion of the Apis descendents and are keeping hundreds of others from their rightful enrollment of the tribe. Disenrolled members lose shares in casino profits as well as access to paid health care, life insurance and other benefits.
At the time of their 2006 dismissal from the tribe, every adult Pechanga member received a per capita benefit of more than $250,000 per year, court papers noted. The remaining tribal members now make $360,000 per year, after stripping the last family of their membership. The tribe claims it's "not about the money".
The group did not directly challenge the decision by the tribe's enrollment committee, which was upheld by the Tribal Council.
Instead, they contend their disenrollment was "tantamount to an unlawful detention," under the Indian Civil Rights Act. Habeas corpus.
In a rare move, the dissenting opinion was published
Judge Claudia Wilken dissented. She said she did not believe invocation of the Indian Civil Rights Act before a federal court was limited to criminal procedures.
"The act of stripping Appellants' Tribal citizenship and the current and potential restrictions placed upon Appellants constitute a severe restraint on their liberty," the judge wrote. "... Appellants have been detained."
The group can seek to have Tuesday's decision re-heard by a larger group of 9th Circuit judges. They can ultimately appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The majority of the three-judge panel disagreed and upheld a lower court's dismissal of the lawsuit.