Bishop Paiute Tribe v. Inyo County

Judges: Thomas, Murgia, Baylson (E.D. Penn.). Oral argument: 4/21/17, San Francisco. Prediction: Reversed.

People calling themselves law enforcement professionals are bickering like children, in this case that made its way to oral argument. The Tribe and Inyo County are located in the eastern region of California. Rather than treating each other like the law enforcement brethren that they are, they’ve found a way to fight about which agency gets to prosecute which crimes, where, when, and how. Inyo County has even threatened to charge a Tribal officer with various crimes under a theory that the officer is “impersonating a police officer.” The Tribe and the County have been busy writing each other threatening letters, leading up to the Tribe’s lawsuit in federal court.

Watching oral argument on this dispute was pathetic and depressing. The panel seemed to share my sentiments. In the lower court, the County appeared to have won a temporary, minor battle by persuading that judge that there was no active controversy to be litigated, winning a dismissal on Article III grounds. But the panel questioned the County’s wisdom in pressing that argument: Don’t you want an actual resolution of this complex law enforcement question, rather than trying to cleverly sneak out of this case even as you’re continuing to persist with your disputed position? If you are continuing to fight, shouldn’t we as a federal court step in and play the role society expects us to, by resolving this fight?

I see another reversal in the cards.


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