Monday, July 06, 2020

U.S. v. Many White Horses (9th Cir. - July 6, 2020)

We ended the week before the July 4th holiday by discussing an opinion about horses.  We now begin the week back, coincidentally enough, by discussing an opinion about Many White Horses.

That's Mr. Many White Horses to you.  James.  He's a member of the Blackfeet Nation, and he's got a problem.  A big one; substance abuse -- to wit, methamphetamine and alcohol.  He was sentenced in 2008 to around 7 years in federal prison for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, served his prison time, and now is on 15 years of supervised release.  Except he keeps reoffending.  "Between 2014 and 2018, Many White Horses violated the terms of his supervised release nine times, which resulted in four revocations. Eight violations involved the use of either alcohol, methamphetamine, or another illegal substance."  All but one of these offenses took place in Browning, Montana, which is the tiny town (population: 1016) that's the headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe and where Mr. Many White Horses sometimes lives (and, apparently, scores his dope).

The district judge repeatedly sends Mr. Many White Horses back to prison, but he keeps doing drugs (shockingly), so finally the district judge says he can't go back to Browning without permission.  Mr. Many White Horses appeals, claiming that this effectively banishes him from the Tribe, but the Ninth Circuit affirms -- reasonably, I think -- holding that the condition is a rational one given Mr. Many White Horses' history and merely requires him to ask permission to visit "but one quarter square mile of the 1.5 million acres of reservation land."

Browning is up in northern Montana, close to the border to Canada.  It's near Glacier National Park, but not much else.  Beautiful, it seems.  But a bit run down.  With not much to do in town, I suspect.  Though there's always the casino.  And, apparently, methamphetamine.

The other interesting thing I discovered about Browning is that even though the opinion refers to Browning as a "town" (e.g., "the sole incorporated town on the Blackfeet Reservation"), at least according to Dr. Google, it's not actually a town any longer.  It dissolved in 2018.  Apparently the town couldn't pay its bills, so the town council just stopped meeting and, pursuant to state law, thereby ceased to exist after a couple of years.  Neat trick, I guess.

So the challenged Special Condition No. 11 is at this point probably like references to Prince:  Mr. Many White Horses is only barred from going to "The Location Formerly Known As the Town of Browning."