In a reversal of the decision of the state Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Washington has ruled that prohibitions entered against a Tribal member in civil court sentences can be enforced by the state on Tribal lands. In State v. Cayenne, a prohibition against the defendant’s use of gillnets for fishing in state rivers was enforced when he subsequently used a gillnet within his Tribe’s territory.
Gerald Cayenne is an enrolled member of the Chehalis Indian Tribe, which has its reservation in southwest Washington. The Chehalis Tribe enjoys an exclusive right to fish within its reservation boundaries. As a non-treaty Tribe, Chehalis members are subject to state laws when fishing on non-tribal lands. In 2005, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife officers alleged that Cayenne unlawfully used gillnetting in the Chehalis River while on non-tribal land. The officers arrested Cayenne, the State charged him with two counts of felony first degree unlawful use of nets to take fish, and a jury convicted him on one count.
As part of Cayenne's eight-month sentence, the trial court prohibited him from owning gillnets during the term of his sentence, on and off the reservation. Cayenne appealed, arguing the trial court exceeded its authority to impose a crime-related prohibition restricting his on-reservation behavior with respect to fishing. The appellate court agreed and vacated the crime-related prohibition as it extended "[o]r could be interpreted to extend, to fishing within the Chehalis Indian Reservation." State v. Cayenne, 139 Wn. App. 114, 124, 158 P.3d 623 (2007).
Neither party disputed the power of the trial court to impose crime-related prohibitions on non-Tribal lands. However, Cayenne argued that the trial court lacked authority to extend the prohibition to his activities within the boundaries of the Chehalis Indian Reservation. This position was based on the opinion in State v. Stritmatter, 102 Wn.2d 516, 688 P.2d 499 (1984), which held that “the non-treaty fishing rights of the Chehalis Tribe are subject only to reasonable and necessary conservation regulations and that burden is on the State to demonstrate the regulation is reasonable and necessary.” Under this standard, it was argued that the state did not meet its burden of proving a connection between Mr. Cayenne’s gillnetting and a legitimate conservation concern, and therefore the state had no legal basis for regulating Cayenne’s conduct in waters running through Chehalis lands.
The state Supreme Court rejected this approach. The Court held that :
“the crime-related prohibition on gillnets is merely a sentencing condition placed on a convicted felon (who happens to be a tribal member) for an off-reservation crime. Notwithstanding Stritmatter, the defendant was personally before the trial court and subject to its full authority, which includes crime-related prohibitions. Limiting the trial court's sentencing authority, as Cayenne requests, would create the unwanted result of permitting tribal lands to be havens for criminals avoiding justice after violating state laws. As such, we hold when sentencing a tribal member for an off-reservation crime, the trial court may impose crime-related prohibitions to the extent they serve the purpose of sentencing and the crime related-prohibitions follow the individual during the prohibition's validity.”
The Cayenne decision raises significant jurisdictional and sovereignty questions, as well as issues of basic equity. The holding extends state court authority over the conduct of Tribal members on Tribal lands, yet Tribal Courts still possess little to no legal authority to punish non-Native actors who commit crimes within Tribal territory. It also impacts federal treaty rights negotiated between the Tribes and the US government (e.g. the right of Tribes to fish their waters according to their custom), and the extent to which concurrent jurisdiction can be used as a basis for increased state control over Tribal activity.