WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior needs to do a better job providing Native Americans with information on its tribal funding decisions and tracking how the funds are disbursed, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said Jan. 29 in a Senate subcommittee report on tribal self-governance.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Whether an Indian tobacco company must pay federal excise taxes on its products hinges on the interpretation of an 1855 treaty, which is the U.S. Supreme Court’s task in another case that awaits a decision, so the company’s petition for a writ of certiorari in its fight against a $57.9 million judgment against it should be held until the other case is decided, the company says in its petition, which was docketed Jan. 29 (King Mountain Tobacco Co., Inc. v. United States, No. 18-984, U.S. Sup.).
PHOENIX — An Arizona court did not abuse its discretion in recognizing a tribal court’s award of attorney fees to a tribe in a former casino worker’s losing suit against casino management over his firing, an Arizona appellate panel determined Jan. 22, saying the tribal court’s decision is entitled to comity by the state courts (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, et al. v. Gregory F. Mullally, No. CV 18-0175, Ariz. App., Div. 1, 2019 Ariz. App. Unpub. LEXIS 72).
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah federal judge on Jan. 24 denied the Ute Indian Tribe’s request to recuse another judge from a water rights case, rejecting the tribe’s claim that the judge “is heavily biased against both the Ute Tribe and the fundamental tenets of Federal Indian law and policy” (Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation v. Gregory D. McKee, et al., No. 2:18-cv-314, D. Utah, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12472).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three couples who own homes on a Washington Indian reservation turned to the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 24 seeking review of a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that the couples’ quiet title claims against the tribe are barred by the tribe’s sovereign immunity (Thomas Mitchell, et al. v. Tulalip Tribes of Washington, No. 18-970, U.S. Sup.).
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Three Texas inmates won their six-year fight to grow their hair long in prison based on their Native American religious beliefs when a federal judge on Jan. 24, on remand from the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, awarded them judgment on their Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) claims (Robbie Dow Goodman, et al. v. Lorie Davis, et al., No. 2:12-cv-166, S.D. Texas).
RENO, Nev. — Finding no substantial justification for the way the federal government treated a Native American tribe in denying it federal recognition, a Nevada federal judge on Jan. 24 awarded the tribe more than $102,000 for its attorney fees (Winnemucca Indian Colony, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 3:11-cv-00622, D. Nev., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11309).
SAN FRANCISCO — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 22 vacated summary judgment in favor of a Native American tribe in a declaratory lawsuit against the state of Washington, saying that under the well-pleaded complaint rule, the tribe cannot use its claim to sovereign jurisdiction to create federal jurisdiction (Stillagumish Tribe of Indians v. Washington, et al., No. 17-35722, 9th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 1943).
DENVER — A panel of the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Jan. 18 reversed and remanded a hydraulic fracturing lease case, holding that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lacked the authority to require landowners to provide the agency with a key to a lease site on privately owned land (Maralex Resources Inc., et al. v. David Barnhardt, et al., No. 17-1421, 10th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 1705).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a Florida Indian tribe must pay federal taxes on millions of dollars in gaming revenue that it distributes per capita to tribal members demands review because it infringes on Indian tribes’ rights to self-governance, a tribe and one of its members say in separate Jan. 7 U.S. Supreme Court petitions for writs of certiorari (Miccosukee Tribe of Indians v. United States, No. 18-895, 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 86, and Sally Jim v. United States, No. 18-891, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 83).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on Jan. 16 directed the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to restore federal recognition to a California Indian tribe after finding that a federal regulation is invalid and that the DOI’s decision to deny the tribe recognition was “arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with law” (Koi Nation of Northern California v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 17-1718, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 7859).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A couple have taken their slip-and-fall action against an Indian casino to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing in a Jan. 10 petition for a writ of certiorari that the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ holding that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) does not authorize the transfer of jurisdiction to state courts for such tort claims conflicts with high court precedent (Harold McNeal, et ux. v. Navajo Nation, et al., 18-894, U.S. Sup., 2019 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 85).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling that an Indian tribe’s sovereign immunity cannot shield a drug company from inter partes review (IPR) of patents should be vacated because it conflicts with U.S. Supreme Court precedent, a tribe and drugmaker argue in their petition for a writ of certiorari, docketed Jan. 11 with the high court (Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, et al. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., et al., No. 18-899, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A convicted killer and his Native American tribe are wrong in asserting that Oklahoma’s admission to the union granted criminal jurisdiction over Indians in the state to the federal government, the United States argues in a Jan. 11 supplemental reply brief to the U.S. Supreme Court justices, who requested additional briefing after oral arguments were heard (Mike Carpenter v. Patrick Dwayne Murphy, No. 17-1107, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American tribe is trying to litigate an issue already resolved in the “long-running battle” between Indian tribes and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a District of Columbia federal judge ruled Jan. 10 in denying the tribe’s bid to amend its complaint (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., No. 16-1534, D. D.C., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4420).
DENVER — Indian property owners deserve summary judgment that pipeline companies are liable for trespass, but they are not entitled to an order forcing the companies to remove the offending pipeline without an analysis of the equities under federal law, a slightly divided 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel held Jan. 10 (Marcia W. Davilla, et al. v. Enable Midstream Partners, L.P., et al., No. 17-6088, 10th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 877).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The question of whether the National Labor Relations Board has jurisdiction over Native American casinos and their tribal operators heads to the U.S. Supreme Court, with a petition for a writ of certiorari from a California Indian casino docketed Jan. 8 (Casino Pauma v. National Labor Relations Board, No. 18-873, U.S. Sup.).
OMAHA, Neb. — Although rejecting claims by the Winnebago Tribe that the State of Nebraska violates equal protection laws through regulation of tribal cigarette sales, a Nebraska federal judge on Dec. 19 refused to dismiss the tribe’s related allegation that the escrow requirements of the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) violate the Indian commerce clause (HCI Distribution Inc., et al. v. Douglas Peterson, et al., No. 18-173, D. Neb., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 213531).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The state of Utah on Dec. 31 filed a brief in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia arguing that it has a right to file a brief in the lawsuit brought by Native American tribes and environmental groups that oppose the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of two national monuments, which the plaintiffs say was done to open the land for hydraulic fracturing activities (Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, D. D.C., Hopi Tribe, et al. v. Donald Trump, et al., No. 17-2590, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A South Dakota federal judge did not err in increasing the prison sentence for a Native American who pleaded guilty to domestic assault by a habitual offender, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Jan. 7, finding that the sentence is not “substantively unreasonable” for a man with 101 prior tribal court convictions (United States of America v. Charles Eagle Pipe, No. 17-3039, 8th Cir., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 367).