WASHINGTON, D.C. — Because Alaska Native corporations are considered “Indian tribes” in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, they can receive some of the $8 billion set aside for tribes in the act, and the Indian tribes challenging that decision will not be irreparably harmed by the “diminution of funding they stand to receive,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says in an April 23 response to the tribes’ bid for injunctive relief in Washington federal court (Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, et al. v. Steven Mnuchin, No. 1:20-cv-1002, D. D.C.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that a tax by South Dakota on goods and services purchased at a tribal casino by nontribal members is unlawful does not meet the standards for U.S. Supreme Court review and was the correct decision anyhow, the tribe in question tells the high court in an April 20 response brief (Kristi Noem, et al. v. Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, No. 19-1056, U.S. Sup.).
SAN DIEGO — A California federal judge on April 22 mostly denied a law firm’s bid for judgment on breach of fiduciary duty counterclaims leveled against it by the Native American tribe that fired the firm, finding that the tribal defendants’ allegations are sufficient enough to withstand the firm’s bid for judgment on the pleadings (Williams & Cochrane, LLP v. Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation, et al., No. 3:17-cv-01436, S.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70824).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on April 20 denied an attorney’s request to review his fraud and racketeering conviction for taking part in a “rent-a-tribe” scheme to shield unlawful payday lending businesses with tribal sovereign immunity, one of two petitions for certiorari filed in the case (Wheeler K. Neff v. United States, No. 19-1127, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Several federal agencies do not plan to get involved in a U.S. Supreme Court case brought by tribal and environmental groups that are challenging coal-mining activities by an Indian company on Indian land, despite being named as respondents by the petitioners, the agencies tell the high court in an April 16 letter (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Bureau of Indian Affairs, et al., No. 19-1166, U.S. Sup.).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A federal judge in Montana on April 15 ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not follow the requirements of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it reissued a permit to resume construction on the Keystone XL Pipeline (Northern Plains Resource Council, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, No. 19-44, D. Mont.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three Indian tribes in Alaska and three in the lower 48 states sued U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on April 17, seeking to enjoin him from sending any of the federal $8 billion coronavirus relief funding to for-profit Alaska Native corporations, saying the money should go only to federally recognized tribal governments (Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation, et al. v. Steven Mnuchin, No. 1:20-cv-1002, D. D.C.).
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A Navajo woman cannot receive relocation aid under the Navajo-Hopi Settlement Act of 1974 because the Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation’s decision denying her benefits is backed by ample evidence and is neither arbitrary nor capricious, an Arizona federal judge held April 14 (Millie Shaw v. Office of Navajo and Hopi Indian Relocation, No. 3:19-cv-8238, D. Ariz., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65050).
BISMARCK, N.D. — The secretary of the Interior on April 13 filed a brief in North Dakota federal court contending that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is not required to apply Native American tribal law to hydraulic fracturing wells on fee land that drill into federal and fee minerals (Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara Nation v. United States Department of the Interior, et al., No. 19-37, D. N.D.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American tribal leader called for the firing of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Assistant Secretary Tara Sweeney on April 14, accusing her of diverting desperately needed federal coronavirus relief funds intended for tribal governments to for-profit Alaska Native corporations, including one in which she is a shareholder.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American advocacy group on April 10 filed a brief in District of Columbia federal court contending that it should grant summary judgment on the issue of whether the group has standing to assert claims that President Donald J. Trump violated the Antiquities Act when he reduced the size of two national monuments (Hopi Tribe, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2590; Utah Diné Bikéyah, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2605, Natural Resources Defense Council, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2606, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Muscogee (Creek) Nation clearly has a reservation in Oklahoma that was never disestablished by Congress, despite shifting and new arguments by the state to the contrary, a convicted child sex offender tells the U.S. Supreme Court in an April 10 reply brief on the merits (Jimcy McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — The 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 13 affirmed dismissal of a bid to vacate the seven-year prison sentence of a Native American who was convicted of robbing a drive-in restaurant in New Mexico, finding that the underlying offense of robbery in Indian country is a “crime of violence” under federal law (United States v. Eddie Shirley, No. 18-2071, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 11537).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A group of California farmers and ranchers on March 13 petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, arguing that a Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling that federally guaranteed water rights for Native American tribes “upends” water law in the western United States where state law and the federal McCarren Amendment have traditionally governed water law (Lonny E. Baley, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 19-1134, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A dispute among a Native American tribe in Oklahoma, the state and a convicted child sex offender is among the cases that the U.S. Supreme Court justices will hold oral arguments for remotely via conference calls because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the court announced April 13 (Jimcy McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, U.S. Sup.).
BOSTON — The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on April 8 granted petitions for the full court to decide whether a Maine Indian tribe has the right to regulate fishing and other activities on 60 miles of a river named after the tribe (Penobscot Nation, et al. v. Aaron M. Frey, et al., Nos. 16-1424, 16-1435, 16-1474, 16-1482, 1st Cir.).
BISMARCK, N.D. — A North Dakota federal judge on April 6 dismissed tribal landowners’ trespass claims against oil companies that have operated a pipeline across reservation land since at least 2013 without renewing the easements for the line, finding that the claims are premature since the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is still working on getting the easements approved (Tex Hall, et al. v. Tesoro High Plains Pipeline Company, LLC, No. 1:18-cv-00217, D. N.D.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior (DOI) has agreed to delay acting on its decision to take away the reservation of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe and revoke the tribe’s gaming rights until a District of Columbia federal judge can rule on the tribe’s request for a restraining order, according to a court order filed April 6 (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 18-2242, D. D.C.).
SAN FRANCISCO — Tribal defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on a casino development company’s fraud and racketeering claims based on the election-of-remedies doctrine and the company’s choice to first pursue judgment on its breach of contract claim, which was successful, a California federal judge decided April 3 (JW Gaming Development, LLC v. Angela James, et al., No. 3:18-cv-02669, N.D. Calif., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60264).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A habitual domestic violence offender in Indian country fails in both his procedural attack on his latest conviction and sentence and his claim of “actual innocence,” the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled April 6, affirming a trial court’s decision on remand (Samuel Bryce Silk, Jr. v. United States, No. 18-1908, 8th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 10668).