Jimmie D. Oyler Sr., who says he is one thirty-second Cherokee Indian, is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether the Sunflower State improperly seized unstamped cigarettes from his store.
Mr. Oyler claims that, because of a variety of treaties between the U.S. government and the nation's Indian tribes, Kansas courts did not have jurisdiction over him.
The dispute began when Kansas officials, armed with a search warrant, visited Mr. Oyler's "Shawnee Jim's Indian Country Smokeshop" on land Mr. Oyler says is "located and operated within Indian Country ... under the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation."
But state officials say the land has been in Mr. Oyler's family for years and is not, in any event, under the jurisdiction of the Cherokees or any other Indian tribe.
The officials seized 8,888 cartons of cigarettes, four packages of cigarettes, $450 in currency, and one check made out for $11.50. The provender was seized as evidence that Mr. Oyler was not complying with state laws requiring the collection of sales tax on cigarette sales. None of the cigarettes seized contained tax stamps.
The state district court ruled for the state and ordered that the revenue department sell the cigarettes. A state appellate court upheld the ruling, and the Kansas Supreme Court declined to review the matter.
During its last term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Oklahoma Tax Commission v. Citizen's Band Potawatomi Indian Tribe of Oklahoma that states have the right to require Indian tribes to collect taxes on sales of cigarettes to nontribal members. But the court also held that, because Indian tribes enjoy sovereign immunity, states cannot enforce those rights in court. The high court is expected to announce in October whether it will hear the Oyler case.