Talk v. Southern UTE Detention Center
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by District Judge William P. Johnson GRANTING Petitioner thirty (30) days to file an amended petition that identifies and joins at least one Santa Ana Pueblo tribal official as a respondent in this habeas action. (mag)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW MEXICO
No. 1:17-cv-00669 WJ/KK
SOUTHERN UTE DETENTION CENTER,
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
REQUIRING JOINDER OF TRIBAL OFFICIALS
Before the Court is Truman Talk’s petition under 25 U.S.C. § 1303 for habeas corpus
relief from a tribal court conviction (Doc. 1).
Talk is an inmate at the Southern UTE Detention
In this lawsuit, he claims Santa Ana Pueblo tribal officials falsely accused him of
driving under the influence of alcohol and otherwise violated his due process rights.
reasons below, the Court determines the tribal officials are necessary parties for purposes of Fed.
R. Civ. P. 19(a) and will grant Talk leave to amend his petition to join those individuals.
On April 5, 2017, Talk was convicted of aggravated DUI by the Santa Ana Tribal Court
and sentenced to 364 days in jail.
Talk claims he was hitchhiking when the incident occurred
and that he never occupied the driver’s seat of the vehicle. He also asserts tribal officials
violated his right to counsel guaranteed by the Indian Civil Rights Act, and that he was prevented
from obtaining legal documents and filing an appeal.
Talk seeks issuance of a writ of habeas
corpus commanding his immediate release from custody.
He is serving his sentence at the
Southern Ute Detention Center in Colorado, where he appears to be confined pursuant to the
detention center’s agreement with the Tribe.
Indian tribes are distinct, independent nations that exercise sovereign authority over
their members and territories. See Okla. Tax Comm’n v. Citizen Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe
of Okla., 498 U.S. 505, 509 (1991).
The sovereignty of Indian tribes predates the Constitution
and, as a result, Indian tribes are not subject to the constitutional restraints that bind the federal
government and the states.
See Talton v. Mayes, 163 U.S. 376, 382-84 (1896).
Congress has primary and plenary authority over Indian affairs and may impose such restraints
See Washington v. Confederated Bands & Tribes of Yakima Indian Nation, 439
U.S. 4663, 470-471 (1979).
In the exercise of this authority, Congress enacted the Indian Civil Rights Act (“ICRA”),
25 U.S.C. § 1301, et seq.
The ICRA extends certain federal rights to members of Indian tribes,
including the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus to challenge a tribal detention order.
25 U.S.C. § 1303.
Jurisdiction over such proceedings is vested in federal courts.
U.S.C. 1303; Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 69-72 (1978).
Relief under §
1303 can be granted against tribal officials but not Indian tribes, who retain their sovereign
Talk sued the Colorado detention center, but he did not name any tribal officials.
physical custodian is a proper respondent in many, if not most, habeas proceedings.
Rumsfeld v. Padilla, 542 U.S. 426, 436 (2004) (“in habeas challenges to present physical
confinement-‘core challenges’-the default rule is that the proper respondent is the warden of the
facility where the prisoner is being held”); Habeas Corpus Rule 2(a) (“If the petitioner is
currently in custody under a state-court judgment, the petition must name as a respondent the
state officer who has custody.”).
In direct, core habeas challenges to the mere fact of
confinement or the way a sentence is executed, the custodian may be the only respondent, as he
or she is in the best position to address those issues.
The Rumsfeld petitioner, for example,
alleged he was indefinitely detained as an “enemy combatant” before a grand jury completed its
See 542 U.S. at 431.
The Supreme Court determined the proper respondent was
the commander of the military brig where the petitioner was being held, rather than the Secretary
of Defense, because the commander could remedy the unlawful detention.
Id. at 441-442.
However, where the petition indirectly challenges confinement by collaterally attacking
the conviction or sentence, the immediate physical custodian may lack the authority to afford the
requested relief. In these circumstances, an official who can modify the conviction or sentence
is included in the proceeding.
See, e.g, 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (if a § 2255 petition survives
screening, the court must cause service on the United States attorney); Rule 4 Governing Section
2254 cases (“In every case” where an answer is ordered, “the clerk must serve a copy of the
petition and any order on the … attorney general or other appropriate officer of the state
Nothing in § 1303 identifies the proper respondent in a habeas action challenging a
detention order by an Indian tribe, and there is no controlling authority on point.
Second Circuit has recognized that where the habeas petition attacks a tribal order, the tribal
officials are necessary parties to the action.
F.3d 874, 899-900 (2nd Cir. 1996).
him from the Indian reservation.
Poodry v. Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians, 85
The Poodry petitioner challenged a Tribal order banishing
The court stated:
The important thing is not the quest for a mythical custodian, but that the petitioner
name as respondent someone (or some institution) who has both an interest in opposing
the petition if it lacks merit, and the power to give the petitioner what he seeks if the
petition has merit— namely, his unconditional freedom.
The [Tribal officials] surely fit this description—they have an interest in opposing the
petitions, as well as the ability to lift the [Tribal court] … orders should the petitions be
found on remand to have merit.”
Id. at 899-900 (quotations omitted).
See also, Settler v. Yakima Tribal Court, 419 F.2d 486 (9th
Cir. 1969), abrogated on other grounds, Moore v. Nelson, 270 F.3d 789, 791-92 (9th Cir. 2001)
(concluding that a tribal court or judge is an appropriate respondent in a habeas proceeding testing
the validity of a tribal conviction or sentence).
The Court agrees with Poodry’s reasoning.
If Talk only proceeds against the detention
center, full relief cannot be granted because an order directing the custodian to release him does
not modify or vacate the underlying Tribal conviction in the absence of a Tribal official.
means he could be rearrested and incarcerated for the same crime if he returned to Santa Ana
Pueblo Indian Reservation following his release.
Talk must therefore name as a respondent a
tribal official who has an interest in opposing the petition or affording relief as necessary. See
Poodry, 85 F.3d at 900.
To effectuate this, the Court will invoke the joinder procedure in Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a)(2),
Joinder by Court Order. If a person has not been joined as required, the court must order
that the person be made a party. A person who refuses to join as a plaintiff may be made
either a defendant or, in a proper case, an involuntary plaintiff.
Talk must identify and join as respondent(s) the appropriate Santa Ana Pueblo tribal official(s).
The Court cautions Talk not to name the actual tribe, who is not a proper respondent in a § 1303
See Santa Clara Pueblo v. Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 59 (1978) (“suits against
the tribe under [§ 1303] … are barred by its sovereign immunity”).
If Talk fails to file an
amended petition naming an appropriate tribal official as a respondent within thirty (30) days of
entry of this Memorandum Opinion and Order, the Court may dismiss this case under the
provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(b).
It is THEREFORE ORDERED that Petitioner Truman Talk is granted thirty (30) days
to file an amended petition that identifies and joins at least one Santa Ana Pueblo tribal official
as a respondent in this habeas action.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?