Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Worcester v. Georgia case brief summary

Worcester v. Georgia
31 US 515 (1832)
Policy: remember Marshall treated discovery doctrine in Johnson like what’s done is done, here he calls it absurd. He wants Jackson to lose presidency and so is trying to drum up support for Indians

o    Issue: Georgia tries to put its code over everyone incl. Cherokee country, can it do that? (remember, P is VT, operating in Cherokee country w/o license)

o    Ruling: Indian’s right to self-governance is PRE-discovery, not something to be granted by US gov’t, the power of self-gov’t cannot be intruded upon by GA’s statutes

o    The treaty did not grant power to regulate inside Cherokee country, plus must be interepreted in the Indian’s favor  (Indian Canon)

o    Protection doesn’t mean giving up self-government

o    Possible interps: Treaties are not gifts, they are mutual agreements  OR anything not given to the US in the treaties is reserved for the tribes


62, SCOTUS (1832)
  • VT man moved to Indian Country without a license in defiance of GA law; GA arrested him for violating state law. Marshall wrote opinion invalidating GA laws on two grounds: (1) federal preemption in affairs with Indians and (2) Indian sovereignty over their lands. 
    • These two rationales continue to this day, but PREEMPTION is the more vital one, per a 1976 SCOTUS opinion in which preemption is considered “on the backdrop of Indian sovereignty.” 
    • Desire for peace was bilateral in Treaty of Hopewell – indicating that Cherokee were a separate political power.
    • Cession of right to manage affairs doesn’t cede sovereignty, only ability to trade with other nations
  • Canons of Statutory Construction at Work in Worcester
    • Ambiguities are resolved in favor on Indians
    • Interpret the language would be interpreted by Indians
    • Indians are not responsible for the nuances of terms in treaties
    • Liberal construction of treaties in favor of Indians
  • Lasting Principles in Worcester
    • Trust responsibility to tribes (guardian and ward)
    • Federal preemption as a bar to state jurisdiction
    • Indian sovereignty/self-government firmly established

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