McClanahan v. Arizona State Tax Commission

Rosalind McCLANAHAN, etc., Appellant, v. STATE TAX COMMISSION OF ARIZONA.
411 U.S. 164 (1973) |
SCOTUS decided 1973-03-27
Jurisdiction level:

State of Arizona has no jurisdiction to impose a tax on the income of Navajo Indians residing on the Navajo Reservation and whose income is wholly derived from reservation sources.

Result: Win
Importance:

Justice Thurgood Marshall delivered the opinion of a unanimous court. From the opinion: “This case requires us once again to reconcile the plenary power of the States over residents within their borders with the semi-autonomous status of Indians living on tribal reservations…. We hold that by imposing the tax in question on this appellant, the State has interfered with matters which the relevant treaty and statutes leave to the exclusive province of the Federal Government and the Indians themselves.”


Law type: Civil
Topic(s): Native Americans, Plenary power of states, and State taxes
State of origin: AZ
Attorneys:

Richard B. Collins (DNA People’s Legal Services) argued the cause for appellant. With him on the briefs were Donald Juneau and Theodore R. Mitchell.


Others involved: Harry R. Sachse argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. With him on the brief were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Frizzell, Deputy Solicitor General Wallace, Edmund B. Clarke, and Carl Strass. Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal were filed by Charles A. Hobbs for the National Congress of American Indians; by David H. Getches for the Native American Rights Fund; and by Samuel W. Murphy, Jr., and William C. Pelster for Montana Inter-Tribal Policy Board. Mr. Hobbs, Pierre J. LaForce, and R. Don Mahan filed a brief for the Estate of Rose Mason as amicus curiae.
Organization role: Sponsor

Last modified: 2020-04-02 11:27
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
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CASE DETAILS

(The syllabus is not part of the opinion, but is a summary prepared by the court reporter as a convenience.)

Syllabus

The State of Arizona has no jurisdiction to impose a tax on the income of Navajo Indians residing on the Navajo Reservation and whose income is wholly derived from reservation sources, as is clear from the relevant treaty with the Navajos and federal statutes. 167—181.

14 Ariz.App. 452, 484 P.2d 221, reversed.

From the opinion

This case requires us once again to reconcile the plenary power of the States over residents within their borders with the semi-autonomous status of Indians living on tribal reservations. In this instance, the problem arises in the context of Arizona’s efforts to impose its personal income tax on a reservation Indian whose entire income derives from reservation sources. Although we have repeatedly addressed the question of state taxation of reservation Indians, the problems posed by a state income tax are apparently of first impression in this Court. The Arizona courts have held that such state taxation is permissible. 14 Ariz. App. 452, 484 P.2d 221 (1971). We noted probable jurisdiction, 406 U.S. 916 (1972), and now reverse. We hold that by imposing the tax in question on this appellant, the State has interfered with matters which the relevant treaty and statutes leave to the exclusive province of the Federal Government and the Indians themselves. The tax is therefore unlawful as applied to reservation Indians with income derived wholly from reservation sources.