Festival attendees, festival organizers, and the media are reporting that the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, are indiscriminately stopping and, often, searching, vehicles as they pass through an Indian reservation en route to the event. Numerous people have written about being told that they had “touched the center line,” were missing a front license plate (even when their vehicle was registered in a state that doesn’t require the same), or had been a few miles an hour over the speed limit, and then held up for a couple of hours while dogs were brought and then vehicles were searched.
If this happened to you, you should hire a lawyer. But many simply can’t afford a lawyer or find a competent lawyer, so I’ve created a handy lawsuit template for you to sue the BIA officers who violated your rights, pro se, in federal court!
Here’s how it works:
- Download the template (below) and open in a recent version of Microsoft Word. (OpenOffice or other freeware that supports .docx format are also fine.)
- Make sure “Show Comments” is on, because I’ve created little notes at each place you need to edit. (How do I do that?)
- Fill out the form according to the little notes.
- Visit the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada’s forms page and also fill out the following two short forms: Civil Cover Sheet (one for the whole case), Summons in a Civil Action (one for each officer you’re suing).
- The filing fee is $400. If you legitimately do not have $400 to spare, you can file for free with this form (but the court will inquire as to your finances, so only do this if you legitimately cannot afford $400).
- Print 3 copies of everything and take them to the clerk’s office of the local federal court (address info here).
- After filing, you’ll need to serve the summons and complaint on the government. The clerk’s office can provide you instructions, or you can just hire a process server.
- Also after filing, fill out and mail into the BIA a Form 95 (Federal Tort Claims Act claim form). This isn’t required for the suit you just filed, but allows you a different kind of lawsuit if BIA doesn’t pay you within 6 months, and you can amend your complaint then to cover that new kind of suit too.
Bureau of Indian Affairs Lawsuit Template (.docx)
Remember, this template was designed only for BIA! If other federal police stopped you, you can probably modify it on your own to state a claim. But if local police stopped you, it requires modifications beyond just searching & replacing the name. Also, if your incident resulted in the police finding drugs or otherwise arresting/citing you for a crime, please stop and seek a lawyer right away.
The publication of forms, guides, etc., does not constitute legal advice — see Dacey v. New York County Lawyers’ Association, 423 F.2d 188 (2nd Cir. 1970) — only a consult with an attorney can provide you legal advice because an attorney needs to hear your specific facts to provide advice specifically applicable to you. As discussed, if you can afford to consult with an attorney before filing, that’s best. If not, I’d rather see people make an attempt at seeking justice, even if imperfect, than allow their rights to be trampled.