HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Water Court on July 12 issued its first final decree since its creation 41 years ago by adjudicating the water rights claimed by the United States on behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oklahoma filed a petition for a writ of certiorari on Aug. 6 asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the high court’s landmark criminal jurisdiction ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, saying the “abrupt shift in governance” in the state caused by the decision has been “calamitous” and is “worsening by the day.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mining companies have agreed to pay $21 million — including $10 million to the Navajo Nation — to settle claims for response costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for the 2015 Gold King Mine explosion and mine drainage spill, according to a consent decree the parties filed July 30 in New Mexico federal court.
SEATTLE — The family of a 51-year-old Arizona tribal member who died from a tick-borne disease after being diagnosed with a viral infection cannot pursue a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) suit against his treating physician because the doctor was not a federal employee despite working at an Indian hospital operating under a federal contract, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided Aug. 4 in affirming dismissal of the suit for lack of jurisdiction.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A federal judge in New Mexico on Aug. 3 denied environmental groups’ motion for an injunction to stop hydraulic fracturing in the Mancos Shale and dismissed the long-running case with prejudice, ruling that the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to meet requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
RENO, Nev. — A Nevada federal judge on July 28 allowed two Native American tribes to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s approval of a lithium mine, finding that the tribes “have shown a significantly protectable interest that would be impaired” if they could not intervene.
DENVER — A Utah tribal court must first determine whether a waiver of sovereign immunity in an agreement between the tribe and a business development contractor is valid before breach of contract claims in the long-running dispute can be decided, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Aug. 3 in reversing a preliminary injunction and remanding a suit by the contractor to federal district court.
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court on July 30 partly ruled in favor of two tribal employees charged under state law with illegally transporting unstamped cigarettes, finding that the trial court improperly bound over the charges for trial without first determining if the workers were aware they had “transporter status” and required a license to haul the cigarettes.
NEW YORK — A New York village’s anti-gambling laws are preempted by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) because the property where a tribe operates a bingo hall qualifies as “Indian” land within the meaning of the IGRA, the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held July 27 in affirming summary judgment for the tribe in the long-running dispute.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska’s authority to regulate fishing in the state’s waters in the interests of conservation trumps a tribal member’s purported treaty right to subsistence fish, the Alaska Supreme Court held July 23 in affirming the man’s conviction and $20,000 fine for “protest fishing” in regulated waters.
DENVER — While a federal court correctly dismissed a woman’s defenses and counterclaims as a sanction for disobeying discovery orders, it erred in quieting title to land she claimed ownership of as an Indian allotment without first determining if it had jurisdiction to do so, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled July 26 in vacating in part and remanding so the case can be sent back to state court.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government owes an Indian tribe health care funding that it withheld because it had budgeted the money for a second tribe but does not owe the tribe for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held July 23 in partly vacating and partly affirming a trial court’s ruling in an Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA) case.
DENVER — Colorado prison officials could have violated an inmate’s “clearly established constitutional right” to freedom of religion when they banned Native American religious services for at least nine days and the use of tobacco at the services for 30 days, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided July 21 in affirming denial of the officials’ bid to dismiss the inmate’s lawsuit.
RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia federal judge on July 20 certified class claims against the operator of “rent-a-tribe” payday lending businesses whom customers seek to hold liable for racketeering and violation of the commonwealth’s usury law, finding that the operator’s alleged changing role in the businesses during the class period does not defeat the requirements for class certification.
SEATTLE — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 20 denied a petition for rehearing for its ruling delineating the treaty-granted fishing boundaries of a Native American tribe so a federal court can enter the correct judgment for the tribe in a long-running challenge to its Puget Sound fishing grounds by other tribes.
OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) violated federal law when it stripped Oklahoma of its jurisdiction to administer surface coal mining and reclamation programs on the Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation and took control of the programs based on the landmark ruling in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the state says in a July 16 federal court lawsuit seeking an injunction to halt the change.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American who was sentenced in federal court to 30 years in prison for sexual assault should be denied U.S. Supreme Court review because his prior conviction on a different charge in a tribal court does not amount to a double-jeopardy violation of the U.S. Constitution, the federal government tells the high court in a July 19 opposition brief filed at the request of the court.
ST. LOUIS — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on July 16 affirmed that Native Americans who challenged North Dakota voter ID regulations are entitled to have the state pay their attorney fees because even though they waited too long to request the fees, the delay was caused by “excusable neglect.”
BOSTON — Four years after a First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel found that the Penobscot Nation’s reservation does not include any of the tribe’s namesake river, an en banc majority of the court affirmed this finding in a July 8 opinion, holding that both Maine and federal Indian claims settlement acts unambiguously established that the nation controls islands within a disputed section of the river, but not the river itself.
CASPER, Wyo. — A nearly 30-year-old federal court judgment holding that the Crow Tribe of Indians’ off-reservation treaty hunting rights were extinguished upon Wyoming’s statehood stands, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the opposite since then, a Wyoming federal judge said July 1 in denying the tribe’s request to vacate the judgment.