The Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes are seeking the power to try domestic violence cases involving non-tribal members, the Portland Press Herald's Colin Woodard reports. The plan is setting up a dispute over the scope of tribal authority in Maine.
A 2013 federal law expanded the authority for tribes to try domestic violence crimes involving non-tribal members so long as tribal courts meet federal constitutional standards and provide legal counsel. A bill has been introduced in Maine to align that state's law with the 2013 amendment to the Violence Against Women Act as well as to give the Penobscots expanded criminal jurisdiction for offenses that involve sentences up to three years.
The Maine Attorney General's Office argues that federal law does not apply to Maine tribes because "the Maine Settlement Act of 1980, which says that no federal Indian law is applicable within Maine if it 'affects or pre-empts the civil, criminal or regulatory jurisdiction of the State of Maine' unless Congress explicitly specifies it is to apply to the Maine tribes," Woodard reports.
Tribal leaders counter that the bill would enable to them to better protect women abused by their non-American Indian intimate partners.