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Indian Properties Given Legal Rights

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Police in Western states have no legal right to search tribal property on Indian reservations. That´s according to a ruling yesterday from the federal appeals court in

San Francisco.

The US Court of Appeals says the Bishop Paiute Tribe could sue Inyo County for a March 2000 search of a tribal casino´s payroll records.

The county sheriff and district attorney conducted the search, using bolt-cutters to remove locks. They had a warrant to look for evidence of welfare fraud by casino employees. The tribe objected, saying its policies allowed a search only with the employees´ consent.

A federal judge dismissed the tribe´s suit, saying federal law gave California and several other states authority over crimes on Indian reservations. But the three-judge appellate panel said the law does not give the states jurisdiction over the tribes or their property.

The ruling is binding on federal courts in California and eight other states.