United States Supreme Court holds no in rem exception to tribal sovereign immunity; holds automobile exception does not apply within a house’s curtilage; and holds certain criminal restitution unavailable when based on private investigations or civil actions.

Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v Lundgren

Tribe sought review of the Washington Supreme Court decision that the Court’s Yakima precedent stands for the proposition that Indian tribes lack sovereign immunity in in rem suits. Resolving a split of authority, the Court, 7-2, vacated and remanded. The majority held that the Yakima decision in fact only dealt with taxation of real property in light of an old statues and said nothing whatever about in rem tribal immunity. It declined to affirm on the basis of the common law rule that a sovereign had no immunity as to immovable property within the jurisdiction of another sovereign because the issue was raised late in the process and it better practice to allow the Washington Supreme Court to decide the issue after full briefing. Roberts, joined by Kennedy, added a concurrence arguing that the immovable property rule may be the best approach here as otherwise tribes will be able to seize land without any remedy for other landowners and it is unwise to require Lundgren to go onto eh disputed land and take actions which will trigger a quiet title action by the tribe making the claim. Thomas, joined by Alito, dissented arguing that the majority approach leaves the issue of immunity open, the immovable property exception was extensively briefed and argued and is a straightforward black letter rule which would resolve this case as tribal immunity does not extend beyond common law principles.

Collins v Virginia

Collins sought review of the Virginia Supreme Court decision affirming denial of his motion to suppress evidence about a motorcycle parked on a house driveway which the officer searched without a warrant based on the automobile exception. The Court, 8-1, reversed. The majority held that the driveway was part of the house’s curtilage, that warrantless searches of a house’s curtilage violate the 4th Amendment and the automobile exception did not change the outcome as the reasoning for such an exception focuses on the mobility of the automobile which had no place in this setting and further that eth protection of homes, including curtilage, takes priority over competing interests. It held that the cases relied upon by Virginia did not require a different outcome as one was a fact bound decision and the other lacked any indication anyone with 4th Amendment interest in the house and driveway nor any analysis of the curtilage question and further rejected Virginia’s argument that driveways should be excluded form protection as this was contrary to Court precedent and would undermine uniform application of the curtilage doctrine. Thomas added a concurrence arguing the exclusionary rule is legally dubious and the Court lacks authority to require states to apply it in their courts as relevant reliable evidence was admissible at the time of the founding and the exclusionary rule must be federal common law which cannot be imposed on states. Alito dissented arguing the automobile exception applied, curtilage doctrine only identifies when the 4th Amendment applies and the search here was objectively reasonable.

Lagos v United States

Lagos sought review of the 5th Circuit decision affirming a restitution award for a private investigation by the corporate defendant under 18 USC 3663A(b)(4). Resolving a circuit split on the issue of whether private investigations and civil procedures are covered by the statute, the Court unanimously reversed. It held the text supports limiting restitution to government investigations and criminal proceedings as the text includes prosecutions which are criminal, participation is best understood as appearing at a specific hearing instead of doing an investigation, the listed items of reimbursement (lost income, child care and transportation) reinforce the appearing at a hearing interpretation and noted that reading eth statue broadly would require district courts to undertake extensive fact-finding about what parts of a private investigation were necessary, held broad purpose does not overcome narrower language , noted victim here got a civil judgment against Lagos and held the private investigation here was done before corporate victim here became involved in the government proceedings and thus was not done during the government proceeding as required by the statute.