ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge on Feb. 12 mostly declined to dismiss claims leveled by the Navajo Nation and state of New Mexico against a company that worked on the Gold King Mine, where a 3-million-gallon spill in 2015 turned rivers yellow with acid mine drainage and 800,000 pounds of heavy metals (State of New Mexico v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. 16-cv-465, Navajo Nation v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, et al., No. 16-cv-931, D. N.M., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 22548).
MADISON, Wis. — A Wisconsin Indian tribe on Feb. 8 sued the state’s attorney general in federal court, seeking a declaration that Wisconsin’s industrial hemp laws are regulatory in nature, rather than criminal, and therefore not applicable on property of the tribe, which wants to start a hemp business under its new tribal ordinance (St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin v. Brad Schimel, No. 18-cv-88, W.D. Wis.).
BILLINGS, Mont. — Tribal court judges sued over their handling of divorce proceedings enjoy sovereign immunity from the claims against them, a Montana federal judge ruled Feb. 9 in dismissing the claims with prejudice, as well as claims against the opposing divorce attorney, though with leave to amend (Michael F. LaForge v. Janice Gets Down, et al., No. 1:17-cv-48, D. Mont., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21877).
LUFKIN, Texas — A Texas Indian tribe on Feb. 6 sought a stay while it appeals a federal judge’s determination on the same day that a 1987 statute barring gambling on the tribe’s land takes precedent over a 2015 National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) opinion that gaming is allowed on the land under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) (State of Texas v. Alabama Coushatta Tribe of Texas, No. 9:01-cv-299, E.D. Texas, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19104).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal appeals court’s reversal of a Native American man’s 18-year-old state court conviction for killing another member of his tribe must be vacated because the court’s finding that the murder took place on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma that had not been disestablished by Congress will have dire consequences for the people of the state, a prison warden told the U.S. Supreme Court Feb. 6 (Terry Royal v. Patrick Dwayne Murphy, No. 17-1107, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Feb. 6 directed a federal court to vacate an arbitration award in favor of an Oklahoma Indian tribe on its challenge to the state’s bid to collect sales tax on drinks sold at the tribe’s casino, after finding that the arbitration provision in the gaming compact with the state is unenforceable (Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. State of Oklahoma, No. 16-6224, 10th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 2867).
PHOENIX — An Arizona federal judge on Jan. 12 dismissed a cross-claim against the United States by a water district in a lawsuit by a Native American tribe, saying the United States did not waive its right to sovereign immunity (Ak-Chin Indian Community v. Central Arizona Water Conservation District, et al., No. CV-17-00918-PHX-DGC, D. Ariz.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of Indian tribes on Feb. 1 filed a brief in District of Columbia federal court arguing that the court should not transfer the tribes’ case against the Trump administration over the declassification of the Bears Ears National Monument because geographical location “is not enough to overcome the deference afforded to a plaintiff’s choice of forum” (Hopi Tribe, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2590, D. D.C.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two members of a class of Native American farmers forfeited their right to challenge the cy pres provision of a $680 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture by failing to present their arguments in the trial and appeal courts, so they should not be allowed to proceed with their challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court, respondents to the men’s petitions for certiorari argue in a Jan. 22 brief (Marilyn Keepseagle, et al. v. Sonny Perdue, et al., No. 17-807, Keith Mandan v. Sonny Perdue, et al., No. 17-897, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 279).
MADISON, Wis. — The Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Wisconsin cannot amend its complaint challenging another Indian tribe’s casino operations, though the community will not be sanctioned for seeking to amend with futile claims, a federal judge held Feb. 1 in dismissing all remaining claims in the case (The Stockbridge-Munsee Community v. Wisconsin, et al., No. 17-cv-249, W.D. Wis., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 17278).
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah federal judge on Jan. 31 declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over an Indian tribe’s attempts to halt a state court lawsuit over breach of contract claims, saying “exceptional circumstances” justify allowing the state court case to continue (Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, et al. v. Honorable Barry G. Lawrence, et al., No. 2:16-cv-00579, D. Utah, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16760).
SALT LAKE CITY — An attorney for a Utah city lost his attempt to have a tribal court stop summoning him into court whenever a tribal member has an issue with the attorney’s official work for the city, with his federal court lawsuit being dismissed for lack of jurisdiction Jan. 29 (Grant Charles v. Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, et al., No. 2:17-cv-00321, D. Utah, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14455).
SAN FRANCISCO — On Jan. 29, another Native American tribe filed a lawsuit, this one in California state court, seeking damages from drugmakers and distributors for the harm caused to Indians by prescription opioid painkillers (Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians v. McKesson Corporation, et al., No. CGC-18-563933, Calif. Super., San Francisco Co.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — If allowed to stand, a Washington Supreme Court decision that sovereign immunity does not protect a Native American Indian tribe from an in rem adverse possession action to quiet title will “undermine the autonomy, territorial integrity, and resources of Indian tribes throughout the nation,” the tribe that lost the ruling tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a Jan. 22 brief (Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Sharline Lundgren, et vir, No. 17-387, U.S. Sup.).
SEATTLE — A Washington federal judge on Jan. 29 extended a stay of a lawsuit filed by Native Americans battling their disenrollment from the Nooksack Indian Tribe until the federal government can decide whether the tribe’s latest disputed election of tribal officers was proper (Margretty Rabang, et al. v. Robert Kelly, Jr., et al., No. 17-0088, W.D. Wash., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 216262).
EUREKA, Calif. — A California Indian tribe cannot sue another tribe in federal court over fishing rights on the first tribe’s reservation because of tribal sovereign immunity, a federal magistrate judge held Jan. 25 (Yurok Tribe v. Resighnini Rancheria, et al., No. 16-cv-02471, N.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12444).
RENO, Nev. — A Nevada federal judge on Jan. 18 entered judgment requiring a water district to repay a Native American tribe 344,208 acre-feet of water over 20 years for improper diversions (United States of America v. Board of Directors, et al., No. 95-757, D. Nev.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Allowing a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision giving the U.S. government authority to regulate hovercraft use on rivers within conservation system units in Alaska under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) to stand would be “a crushing blow to Alaska’s sovereignty” and “would severely restrict Alaskans from beneficially using their natural resources,” a moose hunter tells the U.S. Supreme Court Jan. 2 in his second petition for a writ of certiorari (John Sturgeon v. Bert Frost, et al., No. 17-949, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 25).
RICHMOND, Va. — Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2017 decision in Matal v. Tam, 137 S. Ct. 1744, 1751 (2017), the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 18 vacated and remanded to the Eastern District of Virginia a dispute over the registrability of six trademarks and logos belonging to the Washington Redskins professional football team (Pro-Football Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse, et al., No. 15-1874, 4th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 1186).
DETROIT — A Michigan Indian tribe was freed Jan. 23 by a federal judge from having to face a bankruptcy trustee’s fraudulent transfer claims, with the judge affirming bankruptcy court findings that the tribe did not waive its sovereign immunity from suit and that a waiver cannot be implied based on theories of alter ego and veil piercing (Buchwald Capital Advisors, LLC v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, et al., No. 16-cv-13643, E.D. Mich., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10110).