Federal enclave

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In United States law, a federal enclave is a parcel of federal property within a state that is under the "Special Maritime and Territorial Jurisdiction of the United States". [1] As of 1960, the year of the latest comprehensive inquiry, [2] 7% of federal property had enclave status, of which 57% (4% of federal property, almost all in Alaska and Hawaii) was under "concurrent" state jurisdiction. The remaining 43% (3% of federal property), on which some state laws do not apply, is scattered almost at random throughout the United States. In 1960, there were about 5,000 enclaves, with about one million people living on them. [2] :146 These numbers would undoubtedly be lower today because many of these areas were military bases that have been closed and transferred out of federal ownership.

U.S. state constituent political entity of the United States

In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders.

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is a process by a United States federal government commission to increase United States Department of Defense efficiency by planning the end of the Cold War realignment and closure of military installations. More than 350 installations have been closed in five BRAC rounds: 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995, and 2005.


Since late 1950s, it has been an official federal policy that the states should have full concurrent jurisdiction on all federal enclaves, [3] an approach endorsed by some legal experts. [4] [5] [6]

Concurrent jurisdiction exists where two or more courts from different systems simultaneously have jurisdiction over a specific case. This situation leads to forum shopping, as parties will try to have their civil or criminal case heard in the court that they perceive will be most favorable to them.

Relation to other subdivisions

Since the 1953 Howard v. Commissioners case the Supreme Court has held [7] that the collection of city and state taxes from federal enclave residents is permissible, establishing the "Friction Not Fiction" doctrine.

Supreme Court of the United States Highest court in the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all federal and state court cases that involve a point of federal law, and original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. The Court holds the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the U.S. Constitution. It is also able to strike down presidential directives for violating either the Constitution or statutory law. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide non-justiciable political questions.

Residents of federal enclaves have the right to vote in the elections of the state in which the federal enclave is situated. This is based on the "Friction Not Fiction" doctrine, and was challenged by a Maryland law in 1968, the subject of the case Evans v. Cornman . The case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1970, and overruled the Maryland law, upholding the voting rights of enclave residents and establishing that they should be regarded as residents of the state in question. [8]

Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419 (1970), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that to deny people living in federal enclaves the right to vote is a violation of their right to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Federal enclaves are to be distinguished from federal territories and possessions administered under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2, which once included all the territory that has since become states, and still includes insular territories like Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and a few others. Historically, the Congress has not exercised a full array of state-like powers over such territories, but tried to organize them into self-governing entities, as was done with the Northwest Ordinance and the Southwest Ordinance.

Territories of the United States Political division that is directly overseen by the United States federal government

Territories of the United States are sub-national administrative divisions overseen by the United States government. The various U.S. territories differ from the U.S. states and Native American tribes in that they are not sovereign entities. They are classified by incorporation and whether they have an "organized" government through an organic act passed by Congress. All U.S. territories are part of the United States, but the unincorporated territories are not considered to be integral parts of the United States, and the U.S. constitution applies only partially in those territories.

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

United States Virgin Islands Group of American islands in the Caribbean

The United States Virgin Islands, officially the Virgin Islands of the United States, is a group of islands in the Caribbean and an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States. The islands are geographically part of the Virgin Islands archipelago and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles to the east of Puerto Rico and west of the British Virgin Islands.


Early developments

The first federal enclaves were created by the same clause of the Constitution that created the District of Columbia. That clause provides for the United States to exercise "exclusive Legislation" over the new Seat of Government and "like authority" over:

all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings. [9]

As a result of the Enclave Clause, whenever the state government consented to the purchase of property by the federal government for a needful building, the United States obtained exclusive legislative jurisdiction over that parcel of property. In 1841, the Congress enacted a general law requiring state consent for all federal building projects. [10] Moreover, the Attorneys General of the United States ruled that, in consenting to purchase, the States could reserve no jurisdiction except for the service of criminal and civil process. [11]

1885: Cession and reservation as alternatives

In 1885, the Supreme Court ruled that there were two additional ways in which the United States could acquire federal enclaves: (1) the states could "cede" legislative jurisdiction to the United States, and (2) the United States could "reserve" legislative jurisdiction at the time of statehood. The Supreme Court added that these "cessions" and "reservations" were not limited to Enclave Clause ("needful building") purposes. [12]

Because state laws did not apply to federal enclaves, Congress provided a few basic criminal laws in the Federal Crimes Act of 1790, and later adopted a series of Assimilative Crimes Acts, "federalizing" each state's crimes by making them prosecutable in federal courts. [13]

International law rule

Congress provided no civil laws to govern these enclaves. So in 1885, the Supreme Court held that the "international law rule", applied. That rule provides that when a territory is transferred from one government to another (such as when a federal enclave is ceded), laws for the protection of private rights continue in force until abrogated or changed by the new government. [14] [15]

Under the doctrine of extraterritoriality, a federal enclave was treated as a "state within a state" until 1953, and therefore enclave residents were not residents of the state. [16] [ incomplete short citation ] They could not vote in state elections, [17] attend public schools, [18] obtain a divorce in state courts, [19] or call upon state law enforcement officers to protect them from criminals. [20]

After 1900: Congress begins to authorize state laws

Nevertheless, Congress gradually authorized the enforcement of some state laws on federal enclaves. Thus, in 1928, Congress made applicable to federal enclaves state laws governing wrongful death and personal injuries. [21] And in the late 1930s Congress authorized states to apply their state taxes on fuel, [22] income, sales and use (the "Buck Act"), [23] and state laws governing worker's compensation [24] and unemployment insurance. [25]

1937: Supreme Court allows states to reserve jurisdiction

In 1937, because of concern over the lack of state law on federal enclaves, the Supreme Court held that the states could reserve some jurisdiction to themselves in consenting to federal legislative jurisdiction. [26] In response, the states began to amend their "consent" and "cession" statutes to reserve state jurisdiction, including the power to tax enclave residents.

To distinguish earlier "exclusive" jurisdiction enclaves from those acquired after the state amendments, the newer enclaves were labeled "partial" jurisdiction, and the label "concurrent" was given to enclaves over which the state had full jurisdiction. Finally, non-enclave federal property was called, "Proprietorial Interest Only". [27] [ incomplete short citation ]

February 1, 1940: Congress discourages new enclaves

Effective February 1, 1940, Congress repealed the 1841 statute requiring state consent to federal purchases, and instead said that the acquisition of federal property after that date, would no longer result in the transfer of jurisdiction to the United States unless the head of the federal agency in charge of the property filed a notice with the state governor accepting whatever jurisdiction was offered by the state. [28] However, during World War II, the United States acquired many new military installations, and the Secretary of War sent numerous letters to state governors accepting whatever jurisdiction the state offered, often without describing the location or boundaries of these military installations. [29]

Post-WWII: Courts apply state laws without retrocession

After World War II, the states began to apply state laws to enclave residents without waiting for Congress to act. [30] [ incomplete short citation ] Thus, in 1952, a California court gave enclave residents the right to vote in state elections, rejecting the "extraterritoriality" doctrine, and holding that enclave residents were residents of the state. [31] In 1970, the Supreme Court agreed, in Evans v. Cornman , holding that all enclave residents have a right to vote in state elections. [32]

In 1950, without addressing the jurisdictional issue directly, Congress passed legislation providing federal financial aid to schools in localities impacted by federal facilities. [33] Six years later, in 1956, the government reported that because of this federal aid, "not a single child is being denied the right to a public school education because of his residence on a federal enclave". [34] [ incomplete short citation ]

Earlier, courts in Kansas, Georgia, and New Mexico held they had no jurisdiction to grant divorces to residents of federal enclaves. But after each state amended its divorce statutes to permit such divorces, court decisions in each state upheld the validity of these statutes. [35] Today, every state treats enclave residents as residents of the state for purposes of divorce proceedings. [36] [ incomplete short citation ]

1953: Abolishment of the extraterritoriality doctrine

The extraterritoriality doctrine was abolished by the Supreme Court in 1953 in Howard v. Commissioners. [37] The city of Louisville, Kentucky, had annexed a federal enclave into its city limits, thereby allowing the collection of city taxes from enclave residents under the Buck Act. [23] Residents of the enclave argued that the annexation was improper because the federal enclave "ceased to be a part of Kentucky when the United States assumed exclusive jurisdiction over it". The Supreme Court rejected the argument, holding that the annexation did not interfere with federal functions, and what was important was "friction, not fiction": [37] :626

A change of municipal boundaries did not interfere in the least with the jurisdiction of the United States within the area or with its use or disposition of the property. The fiction of a state within a state can have no validity to prevent the state from exercising its power over the federal area within its boundaries, so long as there is no interference with the jurisdiction asserted by the Federal Government. The sovereign rights in this dual relationship are not antagonistic. Accommodation and cooperation are their aim. It is friction, not fiction, to which we must give heed.

1956: Congress can authorize state law without retrocession

In 1956, three years after Howard v. Commissioners, the Supreme Court in Offutt Housing Co. v. Sarpy County upheld Congress' power to authorize the application of state laws to federal enclaves without a "relinquishment" of jurisdiction. In affirming the state's right to tax a private builder of military housing, the Supreme Court emphasized that the Congress' authorization for state taxation on enclave property was not a retrocession: "We do not hold that Congress has relinquished this power over these areas. We hold only that Congress, in the exercise of this power, has permitted such state taxation as is involved in the present case." [38]

1956: Concurrent jurisdiction

Federal government reports in 1956 and 1957 concluded that the states should have full concurrent jurisdiction on all federal enclaves. [39] [ incomplete short citation ] In 1969, the Public Land Law Review Commission published a report on developments since the 1956 and 1957 reports, observing that those reports had been successful in changing federal agency policy and limiting further acquisition of federal enclaves. [40] [ incomplete short citation ] The 1969 report [2] said that in 1960, there were about 5,000 enclaves with about a million people living on them. [41] These numbers have never been updated, but they would certainly be lower today, because many military bases have been closed, and jurisdiction over most off-base housing areas has been transferred to the states.

1970: "Friction Not Fiction" reiterated

In 1970, a year after the 1969 Report, the Supreme Court in Evans v. Cornman unanimously held that enclave residents have a right to vote in state elections. In reaching this result, Evans reiterated the "friction not fiction" doctrine of Howard v. Commissioners, and reaffirmed that enclave residents should be regarded as residents of the state. [8]

Evans also unanimously reaffirmed the holding in Offutt Housing that Congress could give the states jurisdiction without relinquishing enclave status. [42] The court relied in part on the fact that Congress had authorized the states to enforce many state laws on federal enclaves. [43]

Some criminal laws have also been authorized by Congress to apply on federal enclaves, including "immigrant stations" [44] and Job Corps Centers. [45] In addition, the states' power to enforce their tax laws on federal enclaves necessarily includes the power to prosecute enclave residents criminally for violating those laws. [46]

Under Evans, Congress has the power, if it chooses, to authorize the enforcement of all state laws on federal enclaves. It need not "retrocede" or "relinquish" federal jurisdiction. Instead, it can—to use Offutt Housing's language—simply "permit" all state laws to apply to all federal property regardless of "federal enclave" status. [47] [ incomplete short citation ]

In addition, the "friction not fiction" doctrine indicates that the courts can approve the application of state laws to federal enclaves to the same extent that they apply to the other 97% of federal lands (i.e., subject only to the limitations of the Supremacy Clause). [48] [ incomplete short citation ] With regard to the states' ability unilaterally to apply their laws on federal enclaves, Evans noted that enclave residents: [49]

are required to register their automobiles in Maryland and obtain driver's permits and license plates from the State; they are subject to the process and jurisdiction of State courts; they themselves can resort to those courts in divorce and child adoption proceedings; and they send their children to Maryland public schools.

State laws enforceable

In addition to these laws mentioned by Evans, such court-applied laws include state probate laws, [50] [ incomplete short citation ] public welfare laws, [51] laws relating to mentally ill persons, [52] juvenile delinquency, [53] protection of abused and neglected children, [54] and domestic violence restraining orders. [55]

State laws not enforceable

Nevertheless, there are other cases which hold that some state laws do not apply on enclaves, including most state criminal laws, liquor laws, [56] personal property taxes, [57] some utility regulations, [58] human rights laws, [59] anti-discrimination laws, [60] racial discrimination laws, [61] whistleblower laws, [62] state occupational safety and health (OSHA) laws, [63] wage and hour laws, [64] and right-to-work laws. [65]

Effect of Mississippi Tax I opinion

Many of these decisions are based on the extraterritoriality doctrine that was abolished by Howard and Evans. They often rely on dicta in the Supreme Court's 1973 "Mississippi Tax I opinion" (United States v. State Tax Commission of Mississippi) [56] which ignored Howard and Evans and instead favorably quoted the district court's assertion that enclaves are "foreign land" and "federal islands which no longer constitute any part of Mississippi nor function under its control".

Nevertheless, Mississippi Tax I's holding—that the Twenty-first Amendment did not authorize a state "markup" on liquor—made it unnecessary to discuss enclave jurisdiction, so the "foreign lands" language was quite unnecessary. [66] [ incomplete short citation ] On the other hand, in 1990, the Supreme Court treated Mississippi Tax I as an enclave case, citing it for the proposition that a state has no authority to regulate a transaction between an out-of-state liquor supplier and a federal military base under exclusive federal jurisdiction. [67]

Still, no court has suggested that Mississippi Tax I changed the "friction not fiction" rule of Howard and Evans. The Texas Court of Appeals noted the conflict and followed the "friction not fiction" rule in holding that the federal enclave at Red River Army Depot was part of Texas for state tax purposes. [68] In upholding a state tax on aircraft parts, the court distinguished Mississippi Tax I on the ground that unlike the liquor markup in that case, in Aviall Services, Inc. v. Tarrant Appraisal Dist.: [69]

[T]here was no interference with federal jurisdiction by the taxing entities; hence, no friction. Therefore, we will not apply the fiction that the Depot was a foreign country or a sister state to deem that the aviation parts were shipped by Aviall "outside the state" when they were shipped to a location in Bowie County near Texarkana, within the geographic limits of Texas.

Similarly, the California Court of Appeal has acknowledged Mississippi Tax I's statements about the enclave clause with regard to state liquor regulations, but nevertheless relied on Howard and Evans to hold that the enclave clause did not prevent the application of state laws protecting dependent children. [70]

Recent developments in National Forests

For many years, it was believed that "the vast majority" of National Forests were not federal enclaves. [71] [ incomplete short citation ] However, federal appeals courts in North Carolina, Michigan, and Oklahoma ruled in the 1990s and 2000s that "cession" statutes in each of those states ceded concurrent jurisdiction over National Forest lands acquired by the United States before February 1, 1940. [72] Depending on the wording of "cession" statutes in other states, these cases may mean that the United States has considerable concurrent "enclave" jurisdiction in National Forests. [73]


  1. 18 U.S.C. §7(3). See United States Department of Justice Criminal Resource Manual § 1630
  2. 1 2 3 Federal legislative jurisdiction: report. Washington, D.C.: Public Land Law Review Commission, Land and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Dept. of Justice. 1969. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  3. U.S. Report of the Interdepartmental Committee for the Study of Jurisdiction over Federal Areas Within the States, Part 1, The Facts and Committee Recommendations (1956) (hereafter "1956 Report") at 70.
  4. Roger W. Haines, Jr., Federal Enclave Law (Atlas Books 2011) pp. 9, 213.
  5. Stephen E. Castlen and Gregory O. Block, "Exclusive Federal Legislative Jurisdiction: Get Rid of It!", 154 Mil. L. Rev. 113 (1997).
  6. David E. Engdahl, "State and Federal Power over Federal Property", 18 Ariz. L. Rev. 283, 336, n.228 (1976) ("No extensive patchwork of nationalized acreages created here and there out of the territory of the states, even with state consent, could have been intended.").
  7. Howard v. Commissioners, 344 U.S. 624, 626, 73 S.Ct. 465, 97 L.Ed. 617 (1953).
  8. 1 2 Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 422, 90 S.Ct. 1752, 26 L.Ed.2d 370 (1970).
  9. United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 17 (Enclave Clause).
  10. Section 355 of the Revised Statutes of the United States.
  11. U.S. Report of the Interdepartmental Committee for the Study of Jurisdiction over Federal Areas Within the States: Part II, A Text of the Law of Legislative Jurisdiction (1957) (hereafter "1957 Report") at 5.
  12. Fort Leavenworth R. Co. v. Lowe, 114 U.S. 525, 531, 5 S.Ct. 995, 29 L.Ed. 264 (1885).
  13. The current Assimilative Crimes Act is at 18 U.S.C. § 13.
  14. Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Ry. v. McGlinn, 114 U.S. 542, 546, 5 S.Ct. 1005, 29 L.Ed. 270 (1885).
  15. Armstrong, Marcia H. "Jus Gentium: The Law Regarding "Conquered Territory"". Understanding American property rights – "Online" Studies. Family Guardian. Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  16. 1957 Report, supra note 6 at 238–39.
  17. Arledge v. Mabry, 52 N.M. 303, 197 P.2d 884 (1948).
  18. Schwartz v. O'Hara Township School Dist., 375 Pa. 440, 100 A.2d 621 (1953).
  19. Chaney v. Chaney, 53 N.M. 66, 201 P.2d 782 (1949).
  20. Bowen v. Johnston, 306 U.S. 19, 59 S.Ct. 442, 83 L.Ed. 455 (1939).
  21. 16 U.S.C. § 457, enacted in 1928.
  22. 4 U.S.C. § 104, enacted in 1936 and known as the "Lea Act".
  23. 1 2 4 U.S.C. § 105-108, enacted in 1940 and known as the "Buck Act".
  24. 40 U.S.C. § 290, enacted in 1936.
  25. 26 U.S.C. § 3305(d), enacted in 1939.
  26. James v. Dravo Contracting Co., 302 U.S. 134, 148, 58 S.Ct. 208, 82 L.Ed. 155 (1937).
  27. 1957 Report, supra note 6 at 11.
  28. The February 1, 1940 law was codified in three titles of the United States Code as 33 U.S.C. § 733, 40 U.S.C. § 255 and 50 U.S.C. § 175. In 2002, the jurisdictional part of the statute was amended and re¬codified as 40 U.S.C. § 3112.
  29. See, e.g., General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc. v. Tracy, 83 Ohio St.3d 500, 700 N.E.2d 1242, 1244–45 (Ohio S.Ct. 1998) (ruling that even though the 1943 and 1945 letters from the Secretary of War did not identify specific properties, they were sufficient to accept jurisdiction).
  30. 1957 Report, supra note 6 at 7–8.
  31. Arapajolu v. McMenamin, 113 Cal. App. 2d 284, 249 P.2d 318 (1952).
  32. Evans v. Cornman, 398 U.S. 419, 90 S.Ct. 1752, 26 L.Ed.2d 370 (1970).
  33. 20 U.S.C. §§ 236 et seq.
  34. 1956 Report, supra note 2 at 55.
  35. Craig v. Craig, 143 Kan. 624, 56 P. 464 (1936); Darbie v. Darbie, 195 Ga. 769, 25 S.E.2d 685 (1943); Crownover v. Crownover, 58 N.M. 597, 274 P.2d 127 (1954).
  36. Haines, supra Note 3 at 42.
  37. 1 2 Howard v. Commissioners, 344 U.S. 624, 73 S.Ct. 465, 97 L.Ed. 617 (1953).
  38. Offutt Housing Co. v. Sarpy County, 351 U.S. 253, 260-261, 76 S.Ct. 814, 100 L.Ed. 1151 (1956).
  39. 1956 Report, supra note 3 at 70; 1957 Report, supra note 6 at viii.
  40. 1969 Report, note 2 at 52.
  41. Id., at 146.
  42. Evans, 398 U.S. at 424, quoting Offutt Housing Co. v. Sarpy County, 351 U.S. 253, 260-261, 76 S.Ct. 814, 100 L.Ed. 1151 (1956).
  43. Evans, 398 U.S. at 425.
  44. 8 U.S.C. § 1358.
  45. 29 U.S.C. § 1705(d) (originally codified at 29 U.S.C. § 937(d)).
  46. See Philadelphia v. Konopacki, 2 Pa. D. & C.3d 535, 538, 1975 WL 97 (Pa. Com. Pl.) (1975) (holding that Philadelphia could enforce a $300 fine for non-payment of City tax from a resident of a federal enclave, regardless of whether the fine was characterized as "criminal or quasi-criminal").
  47. See Haines, supra Note 3 at 9, 102–103, 213.
  48. Id. at 9, 107, 213.
  49. Evans, 398 U.S. at 424.
  50. 1957 Report, supra note 16 at 235, n.57.
  51. Board v. Donoho, 344 Colo. 321, 356 P.2d 267 (1960).
  52. Board v. McCorkle, 98 N.J. Super. 451, 237 A.2d 640 (1968).
  53. Matter of Charles B, 196 Misc.2d 374, 765 N.Y.S.2d 191 (2003).
  54. State v. Debbie F., 120 N.M. 665, 905 P.2d 205 (1995).
  55. Cobb v. Cobb, 406 Mass. 21, 545 N.E. 2d 1161 (1989).
  56. 1 2 United States v. State Tax Comm. of Mississippi, 412 U.S. 363, 378, 93 S.Ct. 2183, 2192, 37 L.Ed.2d 1 (1973).
  57. Humble Pipe Line Co. v. Waggonner, 376 U.S. 369, 84 S.Ct. 857, 11 L.Ed.2d 782 (1964).
  58. Black Hills Power and Light Co. v. Weinberger, 808 F.2d 665 (8th Cir. 1987).
  59. Hooda v. Brookhaven Nat. Laboratory, 659 F.Supp.2d 382 (E.D. N.Y. 2009).
  60. Osburn v. Morrison Knudsen Corp., 962 F. Supp. 1206 (E.D. Mo. 1997) (age discrimination); Miller v. Wackenhut Services, 808 F.Supp. 697, 700 (W.D.Mo. 1992) (anti-discrimination laws).
  61. Taylor v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 78 Cal.App.4th 472, 482, 92 Cal.Rptr.2d 873 (2000).
  62. Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp., 497 F.Supp.2d 1138 (S.D. Cal. 2007) (Stiefel I).
  63. Department of Labor and Industry v. Dirt & Aggregate, Inc., 120 Wash.2d 49, 837 P.2d 1018 (Wash. S.Ct. 1992). See also Stiefel v. Bechtel Corp., 497 F.Supp.2d 1153, 1158 (S.D. Cal. 2007) (Stiefel II). But see Taylor v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 78 Cal.App.4th 472, 485–486, 92 Cal.Rptr.2d 873 (2000) (ruling that U.S. Secretary of Labor's approval of the Cal/OSHA plan "is the equivalent of congressional action", permitting a plaintiff to assert a claim for relief under Cal/OSHA against a federal enclave contractor).
  64. Manning v. Gold Belt Falcon, LLC, 681 F.Supp.2d 574 (D. N.J. 2010).
  65. Lord v. Local Union No. 2088, Intern. Broth. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO, 646 F.2d 1057 (5th Cir. 1981). But see Professional Helicopter Pilots Ass'n. v. Lear Siegler Services, Inc., 326 F.Supp.2d 1305, 1312 n.6 (M.D. AL. 2004) citing Howard v. Commissioners, 344 U.S. 624, 626, 73 S.Ct. 465, 97 L.Ed. 617 (1953).
  66. See discussion in Haines, supra note 3 at 104–106.
  67. North Dakota v. United States, 495 U.S. 423, 110 S.Ct. 1986, 109 L.Ed.2d 420 (1990).
  68. Aviall Services, Inc. v. Tarrant Appraisal Dist., 300 S.W.3d 441, 449 (Tex.App. 2009).
  69. Aviall Services, 300 S.W.3d at 449.
  70. In re Terry Y., 101 Cal.App.3d 178, 161 Cal.Rptr. 452, 453 (1980).
  71. See, e.g., 1957 Report, supra Note 6, at 114.
  72. United States v. Raffield, 82 F.3d 611 (4th Cir. 1996) (North Carolina); United States v. Gabrion, 517 F.3d 839 (6th Cir. 2008) (Michigan); United States v. Fields, 516 F.3d 923 (10th Cir. 2008) (Oklahoma).
  73. See discussion, with particular reference to California and Missouri statutes in Haines, supra Note 3, at 134–154.

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In United States law, the federal government as well as state and tribal governments generally enjoy sovereign immunity, also known as governmental immunity, from lawsuits. Local governments in most jurisdictions enjoy immunity from some forms of suit, particularly in tort. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides foreign governments, including state-owned companies, with a related form of immunity—state immunity—that shields them from lawsuits except in relation to certain actions relating to commercial activity in the United States. The principle of sovereign immunity in US law was inherited from the English common law legal maxim rex non potest peccare, meaning "the king can do no wrong." In some situations, sovereign immunity may be waived by law.

Law of the United States Overview of United States law

The law of the United States comprises many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, the supreme of which is the United States Constitution, the foundation of the federal government of the United States. The Constitution sets out the boundaries of federal law, which consists of Acts of Congress, treaties ratified by the Senate, regulations promulgated by the executive branch, and case law originating from the federal judiciary. The United States Code is the official compilation and codification of general and permanent federal statutory law.

Bryan v. Itasca County, 426 U.S. 373 (1976), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that a state did not have the right to assess a tax on the property of a Native American (Indian) living on tribal land absent a specific Congressional grant of authority to do so.

Aboriginal title in the United States First country to recognize aboriginal title

The United States was the first jurisdiction to acknowledge the common law doctrine of aboriginal title. Native American tribes and nations establish aboriginal title by actual, continuous, and exclusive use and occupancy for a "long time." Individuals may also establish aboriginal title, if their ancestors held title as individuals. Unlike other jurisdictions, the content of aboriginal title is not limited to historical or traditional land uses. Aboriginal title may not be alienated, except to the federal government or with the approval of Congress. Aboriginal title is distinct from the lands Native Americans own in fee simple and occupy under federal trust.

The Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States, establishes that the Constitution, federal laws made pursuant to it, and treaties made under its authority, constitute the “supreme Law of the Land”, and thus take priority over any conflicting state laws. It provides that state courts are bound by, and state constitutions subordinate to, the supreme law. However, federal statutes and treaties are supreme only if they do not contravene the Constitution.

National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. 519 (2012), was a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in which the Court upheld Congress' power to enact most provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called Obamacare, and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA), including a requirement for most Americans to have health insurance by 2014. The Acts represented a major set of changes to the American health care system that had been the subject of highly contentious debate, largely divided on political party lines.

Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Sac & Fox Nation, 508 U.S. 114 (1993), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that absent explicit congressional direction to the contrary, it must be presumed that a State does not have jurisdiction to tax tribal members who live and work in Indian country, whether the particular territory consists of a formal or informal reservation, allotted lands, or dependent Indian communities.

United States v. John, 437 U.S. 634 (1978), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that lands designated as a reservation in Mississippi are "Indian country" as defined by statute, although the reservation was established nearly a century after Indian removal and related treaties. The court ruled that, under the Major Crimes Act, the State has no jurisdiction to try a Native American for crimes covered by that act that occurred on reservation land.

The current political status of Puerto Rico has ramifications into many spheres of Puerto Rican life, and there are limits to the level of autonomy the Puerto Rican government has. For example, the Island's government is not fully autonomous, and the level of federal presence in the Island is common place, including a branch of the United States Federal District Court. There are also implications relative to the American citizenship carried by people born in Puerto Rico. Specifically, although people born in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are natural born US citizens, they are not Article 14 citizens. As such, the American citizenship of Puerto Ricans can be taken away by the U.S. Congress unilaterally. Puerto Ricans are also covered by a group of "fundamental civil rights" but, since Puerto Rico is not a state, Puerto Ricans are not covered by the full American Bill of Rights. As for taxation, Puerto Ricans pay U.S. federal taxes, but most residents of the island are not required to file federal income tax returns. Representation-wise, Puerto Ricans have no voting representative in the U.S. Congress, but do have a Resident Commissioner who has a voice in Congress. Puerto Ricans must also serve in the United States military with the same duties as a US citizen residing in the other 50 states.