ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 7 affirmed a federal court’s dismissal of a Florida Indian tribe’s latest bid to avoid paying the state’s utility tax, agreeing that the tribe’s action is barred by previous rulings under the doctrine of claim preclusion (Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Leon Biegalski, No. 18-12094, 11th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 34518).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Five Native American tribes on Nov. 30 filed a joint brief in a District of Columbia federal court contending that it should allow multiple parties to file amicus curiae briefs in consolidated lawsuits brought by the Hopi Tribe and environmental groups against the Trump administration for the president’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. — The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Dec. 4 declined to revisit its decision to send Indian tribes’ and members’ civil rights claims over South Dakota’s child welfare process to state court for resolution (Oglala Sioux Tribe, et al. v. Lisa Fleming, et al., Nos. 17-1135, 17-1136, 17-1137, 8th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 34237).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A Montana federal judge should reject a request by the Keystone XL pipeline developers to amend his order shutting down the project to allow them to continue preconstruction activities because they would cause harm and affect the court-directed federal review process, a Native American group and environmentalists told the judge Dec. 5 (Indigenous Environmental Network, et al. v. U.S. Department of State, et al., No. 4:17-cv-29, D. Mont.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Certiorari is not warranted to decide whether a wind farm developer interfered with an Oklahoma Indian tribe’s mineral rights during excavation work for windmill foundations because the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals properly defined the term “mining” in ruling against the developer, the federal government argues in a Dec. 4 U.S. Supreme Court amicus curiae brief (Osage Wind, LLC, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 17-1237, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The is no conflict among the courts about tribal remedy exhaustion, and possibly not even a final judgment in the case at hand, so there is no need for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the circumstances in which state courts should defer in favor of tribal court proceedings, the U.S. government tells the high court in a Dec. 4 requested amicus curiae brief (Ryan Harvey, et al. v. Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation, et al., No. 17-1301, U.S. Sup.).
BISMARCK, N.D. — The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) erred in finding that a businessman trespassed on Indian land by mining gravel and other minerals without a valid lease from the tribal owner of the property, the businessman says in a Nov. 28 complaint filed in North Dakota federal court (Gary Grenier v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 3:18-cv-00247, D. N.D.).
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Florida federal judge on Dec. 4 remanded a personal injury action against an Indian tribe and a tribal policeman to state court after finding that the tribe and officer failed to establish federal jurisdiction (Edgar Perea v. Seminole Tribe of Florida, et al., No. 18-62136, S.D. Fla., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 204553).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A week after hearing arguments in a criminal jurisdiction dispute that hinges on the present-day size of an Indian tribe’s reservation, the U.S. Supreme Court justices on Dec. 4 told the parties, the U.S. government and the tribe to file supplemental briefs on two questions (Mike Carpenter v. Patrick Dwayne Murphy, No. 17-1107, U.S. Sup., 2018 U.S. LEXIS 7153).
MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Following a bench trial, an Oklahoma federal judge on Nov. 26 awarded parents and their son $15,066,245.20 for breaches in the standard of care during the baby’s delivery by employees at a federally owned Native American medical center. The breaches resulted in severe, irreversible brain damage and a life expectancy of 22 years (Alexis Stokes, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 17-0186, E.D. Okla.).
NEW ORLEANS — A Texas federal judge’s recent finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) violates the U.S. Constitution is stayed pending appeals filed by several Indian tribes and the U.S. government, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Dec. 3 (Chad Brackeen, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 18-11479, 5th Cir.).
MADISON, Wis. — Four Native American tribes in Wisconsin filed a complaint Nov. 30 in federal court seeking to stop the state and several municipalities from collecting property taxes on their reservations, asserting that the assessments violate an 1854 treaty and are unconstitutional (Lac Courte Oreilles Band, et al. v. Scott Walker, et al., No. 18-cv-992, W.D. Wis.).
NEW ORLEANS — Federal government defendants on Nov. 30 filed the second appeal of a Texas federal judge’s recent finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) violates the U.S. Constitution (Chad Brackeen, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 4:17-cv-868, N.D. Texas).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 3 allowed the federal government to participate in oral argument in support of an Indian tribe’s right to hunt under an 1868 treaty in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest (Clayvin B. Herrera v. Wyoming, No. 17-532, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal appeals court correctly dismissed all challenges to the U.S. government’s approval of an Indian tribe’s casino-resort project in California, and the ruling does not present a review-worthy split in authority, the government tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a Nov. 26 response brief (Stand Up For California!, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 18-61, U.S. Sup.).
PHOENIX — Having snow made with treated sewage water cover sacred Indian ground is not the kind of “special injury” required for a Native American tribe to maintain a public nuisance suit against a ski resort and city, the Arizona Supreme Court held Nov. 29 (Hopi Tribe v. Arizona Snowbowl Resort Limited Partnership, et al., No. CV-18-0057, Ariz. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) does not have to turn over a solicitor’s letter to an Indian tribe in its battle to conduct casino gaming on its land based on the attorney-client privilege, but 39 other documents submitted by the tribe can be added to the agency’s administrative record in its denial of gaming, a District of Columbia federal judge held Nov. 28 (Fort Sill Apache Tribe v. National Indian Gaming Commission, et al., No. 14-958, D. D.C., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 201089).
CINCINNATI — The Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 27 declined to revisit its affirmation of a ruling denying prejudgment interest on an $8.4 million damages award to a Michigan Indian tribe on its claim that an insurer violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act by adding hidden administrative fees to hospital bills (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, et al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, No. 17-1932, 6th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 33309).
SAN DIEGO — A California federal judge on Nov. 26 denied a law firm’s bid to dismiss breach of fiduciary duty counterclaims leveled against it by the Native American tribe that fired the firm, finding that the tribal defendants sufficiently alleged standing to bring the claims (Williams & Cochrane, LLP v. Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, et al., No. 3:17-cv-01436, S.D. Calif., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 199778).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court justices grappled Nov. 27 with the question of what will happen to 1.8 million Oklahoma residents if they wake up one day soon to find that they now live on an Indian reservation, with the state and U.S. governments predicting “earth-shattering consequences” during oral arguments, and a convicted murderer and an Indian tribe saying life will continue as it has (Mike Carpenter v. Patrick Dwayne Murphy, No. 17-1107, U.S. Sup.).