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.).
CHICAGO — The National Defense Authorization Act blocks a woman’s claim that she was fired from her job with an Indian housing authority in retaliation for reporting that her co-workers misappropriated a grant because the grant was awarded before the statute took effect, the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Nov. 26 (Dawn Marie Delebreau v. Cristina Danforth, et al., No. 18-2332, 7th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 33131).
SAN FRANCISCO — Seven members of a California Indian tribe are barred from seeking habeas relief in federal court in a dispute over property rights because they have not yet exhausted remedies available from the tribe, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined Nov. 21 (Ronald Napoles, et al. v. Destin Rogers, et al., No. 17-16620, 9th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 32978).
NEW ORLEANS — Four Native American tribes on Nov. 19 asked the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to stay a Texas federal judge’s recent finding that the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) violates the U.S. Constitution, seeking to preserve the status quo pending their appeal (Chad Brackeen, et al. v. Ryan Zinke, et al., No. 18-11479, 5th Cir).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Blackfeet tribal members challenging a water compact among the tribe, Montana and the United States must take their fight to the tribe’s court, a federal judge decided Nov. 16 in finding no jurisdiction over the dispute (Enrolled Members of the Blackfeet Tribe, et al. v. Thedus Crowe, et al., No. 4:15-cv-92, D. Mont., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 195939).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Environmental groups and several Native American tribes on Nov. 15 filed briefs in District of Columbia federal court, arguing that they have standing to oppose the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the size of two national monuments, and they argue that the president lacks the authority in the first place (Grand Staircase Escalante Partners, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2591, D. D.C., The Wilderness Society, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, et al., No. 17-2587, D. D.C. [consolidated]).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The solicitor general on Nov. 15 sought leave to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court in support of an Indian tribe’s right to hunt under an 1868 treaty in Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest, saying neither Wyoming’s statehood nor the creation of Bighorn trumped the tribe’s treaty right (Clayvin B. Herrera v. Wyoming, No. 17-532, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — A natural gas company cannot condemn a piece of land in Oklahoma for a pipeline easement because a Native American tribe has an undivided ownership interest in the property, making it tribal land protected by sovereign immunity, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined Nov. 15 (Enable Oklahoma Intrastate Transmission, LLC v. 25 Foot Wide Easement, et al., No. 17-6188, 10th Cir., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 32367).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Native American tribe and a drug company are taking their fight to use the tribe’s sovereign immunity to shield it from inter partes review (IPR) of patents to the U.S. Supreme Court, though the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Nov. 13 said it will not stay its opinion affirming the ruling while a certiorari petition runs its course (Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe, et al. v. Mylan Pharmaceuticals Inc., et al., Nos. 2018-1638, -1639, -1640, -1641, -1642, -1643, Fed. Cir.).
RAPID CITY, S.D. — A federal judge in South Dakota on Nov. 8 declined to shorten federal prison time for an Indian who assaulted a tribal police officer, finding that his petition for a writ of habeas corpus is barred by statute and by the primary jurisdiction doctrine (United States v. Dwight Thunder Shield, No. 17-cr-50066, D. S.D., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 191100).