WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Supreme Court justices grappled April 18 with how to best balance the treaty-guaranteed fishing rights of several Indian tribes in the state of Washington with the state’s responsibility to honor the treaties by correcting hundreds of fish-blocking road culverts at a cost of billions of dollars, hearing arguments from the state, the United States and the tribes (Washington v. United States, et al., No. 17-269, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ reversal of a state court murder conviction based on its finding that an Indian reservation in Oklahoma had not been disestablished by Congress, so the accused should have been tried in federal court, does not warrant U.S. Supreme Court review, the convicted man told the high court April 9 in response to Oklahoma’s petition for a writ of certiorari (Terry Royal v. Patrick Dwayne Murphy, No. 17-1107, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1472).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On the second time around before the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, a California Indian tribe was victorious April 13 in its effort to acquire land for a casino, with an appellate panel holding that there is sufficient evidence to establish the tribe’s cultural and historical connections to the property at issue (Butte County, California, v. Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, et al., No. 16-5240, D.C. Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 9216).
SEATTLE — A Washington federal judge on April 11 declined a request by the recognized leaders of the Nooksack Indian Tribe to indicate to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that if it remanded the leaders’ interlocutory appeal of the judge’s denial of dismissal of fraud and racketeering claims leveled by a faction of the tribe that was facing disenrollment, the judge would dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (Margretty Rabang, et al. v. Robert Kelly, Jr., et al., No. 17-0088, W.D. Wash., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61769).
BISMARCK, N.D. — A tribal member who had his driver’s license revoked by North Dakota for driving drunk on another tribe’s reservation had his driving privileges reinstated by the state’s Supreme Court, which held April 10 that his arrest was not valid because the county sheriff’s deputy who made the arrest did not have the authority to enforce the state’s criminal laws against an Indian on Indian land (Harold J. Olson v. North Dakota Department of Transportation, No. 20170351, N.D. Sup., 2018 N.D. LEXIS 104).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Native American owner of a tribal fireworks business cannot stop Minnesota from enforcing its fireworks laws on the tribe’s reservation because he probably will not succeed on the merits of his claim that the state cannot enforce the laws on tribal land, a state appeals court held April 9 (Irv’s Boomin’ Fireworks, LLC, et al. v. John J. Muhar, et al., No. A17-1416, Minn. App., 2018 Minn. App. Unpub. LEXIS 275).
DENVER — Two owners of property on an Oklahoma Indian reservation cannot pursue class claims that the U.S. government approved oil and gas wells on the reservation in violation of environmental law due to lack of standing and insufficient pleadings, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 5 (Martha Donelson, et al. v. United States of America, et al., No. 16-5174, 10th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 8745).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court justices need look no further than the recent oral arguments in a Native American law case for reason to grant certiorari for a public utility company’s challenge to a 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling denying it the ability to condemn Indian land for a power line right of way, the company says in an April 5 reply brief (Public Service Company of New Mexico v. Lorraine Barboan, et al., No. 17-756, U.S. Sup.).
ATLANTA — A federal trial court properly dismissed a suit filed by oil company principals seeking to halt enforcement of subpoena in a tribal court action because at the time of the suit, and even now, there was no indication that the recipient of the subpoena intended to comply with it, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held April 6 (Asker B. Asker, et al. v. Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., et al., No. 17-12535, 11th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 8838).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals heard oral arguments March 22 in which attorneys for a landowner, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and a hydraulic fracturing company debated whether the agency’s approval of a fracking lease and drilling permits violated federal law (Merrill Chance v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 17-5057, 10th Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several Indian tribes and housing agencies asked the U.S. Supreme Court March 22 to review a divided 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ finding that while the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development illegally took back federal funding from 22 Native American housing agencies due to alleged overpayments, the agency does not have to repay the money if HUD no longer has the recaptured funds in its possession (Fort Peck Housing Authority, et al. v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, et al., No. 17-1353, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1251).
NEWARK, N.J. — A New Jersey couple that loaned $25,000 — all of their retirement savings — to the owners of an oil company who promised repayment plus a $10,000 dividend within a month and then defaulted cannot pursue claims against the treasurer of an Indian tribe for a tribal member’s promise to repay the loan with the tribe’s dividend checks due to the tribe’s sovereign immunity, a federal judge held April 3 (Eugene J. Long, et al. v. Ruben M. Barrett, et al., No. 2:17-cv-5741, D. N.J., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 57583).
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A New Mexico appeals panel on April 3 affirmed a lower court ruling that a Native American water settlement was fair, adequate, reasonable and consistent with the public interest and state and federal laws (State of New Mexico, et al. v. United States of America, et al., No. A-1-CA-33535, N.M. App., 2018 N.M. App. LEXIS 21).
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota again enacted a voter ID law that discriminates against Native Americans and poor people, a federal judge held April 3 while directing the state to fix the law and inform voters of the changes. However, this time, the state is fighting back; it filed a notice of interlocutory appeal the next day (Richard Brakebill, et al. v. Alvin Jaeger, No. 1:16-cv-8, D. N.D., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56603).
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A federal judge in Wyoming on April 4 issued an order staying the implementation of the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that requires oil and gas producers to use currently available technologies and processes to cut flaring in half at hydraulic fracturing wells on public and tribal lands (Wyoming, et al. v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 16-285, D. Wyo.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California federal judge on March 31 dismissed once and for all a suit filed by one faction of an Indian tribe that was facing disenrollment by the other faction after finding that the record is now “saturated” with “multiple unequivocal representations” by the second faction that the first group no longer faces the threat of disenrollment or tribal banishment (Adrian John, Sr., et al. v. Agustin Garcia, et al., No. 3:16-cv-02368, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56126).
OAKLAND, Calif. — Federal government defendants in a challenge by two California Indian tribes to the construction of a highway bypass were awarded summary judgment in federal court March 30 on the tribes’ claims that the United States failed to engage in a government-to-government consultation process with the tribes under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) for construction of the bypass (Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California, et al. v. United States Department of Transportation, et al., No. 15-cv-04987, N.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34923).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A casino gaming equipment company asked the U.S. Supreme Court March 19 to review a ruling by a California appellate court that a promissory note signed by an Indian tribe for payment of gaming machines was part of a management contact and, therefore, required approval by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) (Sharp Image Gaming, Inc. v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, No. 17-1330, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 1158).
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation filed a wrongful death complaint March 27 in federal court alleging that police officers in an Arizona city unlawfully shot and killed a member of the tribe with mental health issues who was suspected of shoplifting (Navajo Nation v. Jefferson Sessions, et al., No. 3:18-cv-08072, D. Ariz.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals impermissibly favored the rights of Indians in an appeal that should never have been heard in the first place because the appellant Indian agency was never a party in the trial court, wind farm developers that have been found to have violated a tribe’s mineral rights say in a March 2 petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court (Osage Wind, LLC, et al. v. United States of America, et al., No. 17-1237, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 889).