Thursday, December 08, 2005

Follow up: Scotus (J. Thomas) rules against Potawatomi Indian Tribe on Kansas taxes on its off reservation fuel distributors WAGNON V. PRAIRIE BAND POTAWATOMI NATION (04-631) 379 F.3d 979, reversed. Supreme court rules that the Bracker balancing test to weight State interests against Indian sovereignty did not apply because the taxed transaction occurred off the reservation. Supreme Court rejects Tribe's argument that the 10th Circuit accepted that Bracker test applies to effects of off reservation transactions:

" Limiting the Bracker test exclusively to on-reservation transactions between a nontribal entity and a tribe or tribal member is consistent with this Court’s unique Indian tax immunity jurisprudence, which relies “heavily on the doctrine of tribal sovereignty [giving] state law ‘no role to play’ within a tribe’s territorial boundaries,” Oklahoma Tax Comm’n v. Sac and Fox Nation, 508 U.S. 114, 123—124. The Court has taken an altogether different course, by contrast, when a State asserts its taxing authority outside of Indian Country. E.g., Chickasaw, 515 U.S. 450. " ...If a State may apply a nondiscriminatory tax to Indians who have gone beyond the reservation’s boundaries, it may also apply a nondiscriminatory tax where, as here, the tax is imposed on non-Indians as a result of an off-reservation transaction."

Finally Supreme Court rejects Tribe's equal protection argument that the tax applies only to distributors supplying tribal retail gas stations, Tribes are not"similarly situated" with other states. Dissenting, Justices Ginsburg and Kennedy would hold White Mountain Apache Tribe v. Bracker, 448 U.S. 136 (1980), did apply and imposing the taxes burdened Tribe economic activity and compromised sovereignty.

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