WASHINGTON, D.C. — Alaska Native corporations are not entitled to receive $162.3 million allocated to them in emergency federal coronavirus relief funding because they do not meet the definition of "Indian Tribe" as required by the funding statute, the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Sept. 25 (Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, et al. v. Steven Mnuchin, et al., Nos. 20-5204, 20-5205, 20-5209, D.C. Cir.).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California tribe waived its sovereign immunity in a dispute over a proposed casino along the San Francisco Bay shoreline by consenting to a federal court's continued jurisdiction to enforce a prior stipulated judgment, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Sept. 22 (SPRAWLDEF, et al. v. Guidiville Rancheria of California, et al., No. 19-16278, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 30236).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Supreme Court review is not needed for a divided Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals' denial of a Washington Indian tribe's challenge to its traditional fishing grounds in Puget Sound for lack of continuing jurisdiction because the court correctly applied the law of the case to the dispute, several respondent Indian tribes say in their Sept. 18 opposition brief (Muckleshoot Indian Tribe v. Tulalip Tribes, et al., No. 20-195, U.S. Sup.).
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — An Arizona federal judge on Sept. 16 turned back a request by President Donald J. Trump's re-election campaign and various Republican committees to intervene in Native Americans' lawsuit challenging a voting provision in the state requiring vote-by-mail ballots to be received before 7 p.m. on election day (Darlene Yazzie, et al. v. Katie Hobbs, No. 20-8222, D. Ariz.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental groups on Sept. 15 moved in the District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's decision to rescind the 2016 Methane Waste Prevention Rule, arguing that the EPA administrator engaged in a "transparent effort to manufacture reasons to rescind protections" designed to reduce pollution caused by the flaring of methane during oil and gas operations (Environmental Defense Fund, et al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et al., No. 20-1359, D.C. Cir.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court said Sept. 15 that it wants to hear what a man facing federal drug charges has to say about the federal government's challenge to a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling limiting an Indian police officer's jurisdiction in the case, requesting a response to the government's petition for a writ of certiorari (United States v. Joshua James Cooley, No. 19-1414, U.S. Sup.).
PHOENIX — Two water districts in Arizona are not entitled to dismissal of an Indian tribe's suit against them because the issues are not the same as those being decided in a state court water rights adjudication, but the tribe must add the United States as a defendant due to its contracts with the districts, a federal judge ruled Sept. 14 (Ak-Chin Indian Community v. Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District, et al., No. 20-489, D. Ariz., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 167852).
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — A federal judge in Virginia on Sept. 11 denied an environmental group's motion to stay implementation of an update to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that deletes the central provisions of the law and accelerates the approval process for various construction projects. The judge held that the groups did not make a clear showing that they were likely to succeed on the merits as a prerequisite to a preliminary injunction (Wild Virginia, et al. v. Council of Environmental Quality, et al., No. 20-45, W.D. Va., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166622).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A District of Columbia federal judge on Sept. 10 dismissed an Indian tribe's challenge to the federal government's partial disbursement of novel coronavirus pandemic tribal relief funding based on housing statistics, finding that the way the government allocated the money among tribes is not judicially reviewable (Shawnee Tribe v. Steven T. Mnuchin, et al., No. 20-1999, D. D.C., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 165490).
SAN FRANCISCO — Two hydraulic fracturing industry trade groups on Sept. 4 moved in California federal court to intervene in a drinking water lawsuit brought pursuant to the Clean Water Act (CWA), contending that some states have "improperly used procedural gimmicks" to prolong certification decisions the companies need to conduct fracking operations (American Rivers, et al. v. Andrew Wheeler, et al., No. 20-4636, N.D. Calif.).
BUFFALO, N.Y. — A federal judge on Sept. 3 declined to dismiss claims by a New York Indian tribe that the state violated federal law when it procured an easement from the tribe back in 1954 to build part of the New York State Thruway across tribal land (Seneca Nation v. Andrew Cuomo, et al., No. 18-429, W.D. N.Y., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161319).
SAN FRANCISCO — A California Indian tribe cannot be sued by tribal members and groups challenging the tribe's federal recognition because it has sovereign immunity that shields it from being joined as an indispensable party, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed Sept. 8 in the latest court ruling against the challengers (Jamul Action Committee, et al. v. E. Sequoyah Simermeyer, et al., No. 17-16655, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 28365).
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The United States is mostly shielded by the discretionary function exception in the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) from an Alaska Native's attempts to hold it liable for contamination of her property from toxic waste left at an abandoned Air Force radar station, though the government must face her claim that its inaction after discovering the contamination makes it liable for damages, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided Sept. 4 (Emily Nanouk v. United States, No. 19-35116, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 28216).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Washington Indian tribe on Aug. 14 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether it can seek review in federal court of its traditional fishing grounds in Puget Sound, saying a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling denying review goes against high court precedent (Muckleshoot Indian Tribe v. Tulalip Tribes, et al., No. 20-195, U.S. Sup.).
SAN FRANCISCO — California officials did not act in bad faith when trying to negotiate a new gaming compact with a Native American tribe, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals held Sept. 2 in affirming a summary judgment award to the state officials (Pauma Band of Luiseno Mission Indians of the Pauma & Yuima Reservation v. California, et al., No. 18-56457, 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 27931).
SEATTLE — Two policemen cannot be held liable for shooting and killing a pregnant, suicidal Indian woman in her bedroom, even if they were negligent in their handling of the situation, because they are shielded by Washington state's "felony bar statute," a state appeals court reluctantly ruled Aug. 31 (Rose Davis v. King County, et al., No. 79696-8-I, Wash. App., Div. 1, 2020 Wash. App. LEXIS 2410).
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah federal judge on Aug. 28 granted summary judgment to a farming operation and dismissed an Indian tribe's suit seeking affirmation of a tribal court water rights ruling in its favor, finding that the tribal court did not have the authority to adjudicate the dispute or award damages to the tribe (Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah & Ouray Reservation v. Gregory D. McKee, et al., No. 2:18-cv-314, D. Utah, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157104).
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Navajo Nation member Lezmond Mitchell was executed by lethal injection in an Indiana federal prison Aug. 26 for two murders he committed in 2001 after last-minute attempts for clemency from President Donald Trump failed.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 25 denied Navajo Nation member Lezmond Mitchell's petition for certiorari and application to stay his execution, which is scheduled to take place Aug. 26 by lethal injection in an Indiana federal prison (Lezmond Charles Mitchell v. United States, No. 20-5398, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Supreme Court review is needed for United Parcel Service Inc.'s challenge to a $98 million damages award to New York state and city for UPS's illegal shipments of untaxed cigarettes from Native American smoke shops "to resolve a circuit split and to restore the integrity of Congress's comprehensive scheme of tobacco regulation," the company argues in an Aug. 18 reply brief (United Parcel Service, Inc. v. New York, et al., No. 19-1306, U.S. Sup.).