Fowler Case Heard In Ninth Circuit
Fort Peck Cross-Deputization Questioned
The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard USA v. Eric Bruce Fowler in a Seattle, Wash., courtroom June 9, with Judges Sandra Segal Ikuta, Eric D. Miller and Harry Pregerson presiding.
The judges panel heard arguments that a Montana Highway Patrol officer who cited Fowler, a local man, was not properly cross-deputized. The facts of the case state that MHP Trooper David Moon observed Fowler driving without a license plate on the Fort Peck Reservation and stopped him.
The justices in the case are considering whether Trooper Moon was able to issue the citation. Fowler’s attorney Megan Moore argued that the cross-deputization agreement between the State of Montana and the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes was and remains invalid.
The judges in the case indicated that their ruling may impact other cases involving cross-deputized officers, citations and arrests.
“It seems to me that if we were to adopt your logic, we would have to go back and look at all the dozens and dozens of convictions and suppressions and searches that have taken place over the many years and decide that those officers acted without legal authority,” said Judge Pregerson.
Moore indicated that “dozens” may be a low estimate of the cases which could be impacted.
Fowler was indicted in 2020 on two counts stemming from the traffic stop. Count I charges Fowler with prohibited person in possession of firearm. Count II charges Fowler with possession of an unregistered firearm.
Moore filed a motion to suppress stating that Trooper Moon exceeded his authority when he stopped Fowler within the exterior boundaries of the reservation and any evidence stemming from the traffic stop must be suppressed.
Court-appointed lay advocate Mary Cleland submitted a letter to the court stating that the agreements with area law enforcement are invalid. She said all law enforcement officers operating on the reservation need to carry identification cards from the Office of Justice Services showing their compliance with cross-deputization contracts.
The state argued that Moon did not know he was supposed to be carrying the ID card.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse,” Cleland told the Northern Plains Independent.
“No one is above the law.”
The judges panel will review the case and issue a ruling. To see a video of the hearing, visit ca9. uscourts.gov/media/video/? 20220609/21-30172/.