Justia U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Native American Law
Williams v. Medley Opportunity Fund II, LP
The plaintiffs obtained payday loans from AWL, an online entity owned by the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians. The loan agreement stated that the loan was governed by tribal law and that the borrowers consented to the application of tribal law. The plaintiffs filed a purported class action, asserting that AWL charged unlawfully high interest rates, in violation of federal and Pennsylvania law, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968. The defendants moved to compel arbitration. The district court denied their motion, holding that the loan agreements, which provided that only tribal law would apply in arbitration, stripped the plaintiffs of their right to assert statutory claims and were therefore unenforceable. The Third Circuit affirmed. Because AWL permits borrowers to raise disputes in arbitration only under tribal law, and such a limitation constitutes a prospective waiver of statutory rights, its arbitration agreement violates public policy and is therefore unenforceable. View "Williams v. Medley Opportunity Fund II, LP" on Justia Law
Goldenstein v. Repossessors Inc.
Goldenstein, obtained a $1,000 online loan from a company owned by Chippewa Indians, incorporated under Chippewa tribal law, and authorized to issue loans secured by vehicles at interest rates greater than permitted under Pennsylvania law. Goldenstein pledged his car and was charged 250 percent interest. The company, after deducting a $50 transfer fee and wiring $950 to Goldenstein, withdrew installments of $207.90 from Goldenstein’s bank account in June and July. Goldenstein removed funds from the account because he did not recognize the activity on his bank statements. When the company attempted to collect the August installment, it was rejected for insufficient funds. Repossessors took Goldenstein’s car. Goldenstein was told that his payment would not be accepted, nor his car returned unless he signed releases. Goldenstein paid $2,393 ($2,143 for the loan and $250 in repossession fees), signed the releases, then filed suit, claiming violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692–1692p; Pennsylvania’s Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act and Uniform Commercial Code; and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c). The Third Circuit vacated summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the RICO and state law claims, but affirmed as to the FDCPA claim. Forfeiture of collateral can amount to “collection of unlawful debt” under RICO, but defendants had a right to possession and did not violate the FDCPA by repossessing the car. View "Goldenstein v. Repossessors Inc." on Justia Law
Thorpe v. Borough of Jim Thorpe
Multi-sport Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe died in California in 1953 without a will. His estate was assigned to his third wife, who, over the objections of children from his previous marriages, buried him in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, a new borough that was created by merging the boroughs of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk. Thorpe was a Native American of Sauk heritage and a member of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. Some of Thorpe’s children want him reburied on Sac and Fox tribal land. In 1990 Congress enacted the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, which requires museums and federal agencies possessing or controlling holdings or collections of Native American human remains to inventory those remains, notify the affected tribe, and, upon the request of a known lineal descendant of the deceased Native American or of the tribe, return such remains, 25 U.S.C. 3005. In 2010, Thorpe’s son sued the Borough for violation of NAGPRA. The district court held that the Borough was a “museum,” required to disinter Thorpe’s remains and give them to the tribe. The Third Circuit reversed. Congress could not have intended the “patently absurd result” of a court resolving a family dispute by applying NAGPRA to Thorpe’s burial. . View "Thorpe v. Borough of Jim Thorpe" on Justia Law