WASHINGTON, D.C. — The issue of tribal sovereign immunity is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court with the Sept. 11 filing of a petition for certiorari by a Washington state Indian tribe that used the immunity defense to an in rem adverse possession action to quiet title and lost in a split ruling by that state’s high court (Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Sharline Lundgren, et vir, No. 17-387, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 3485).
DENVER — Construction of a wind farm interfered with an Indian tribe’s reserved mineral rights because excavation work for turbine foundations for the project constituted “mineral development” and, therefore, the developer needed to procure a lease for the work, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found Sept. 18 (United States of America v. Osage Wind, LLC, et al., No. 14-cv-704, N.D. Okla.; 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132480).
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — An attorney licensed to practice before a tribal court cannot be admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana because he is not a member of the State Bar of Montana, a federal judge held Sept. 12 after finding that the local court rule requiring bar membership is constitutional because it sets reasonable standards for admission (Jerry O’Neil, et al. v. Tyler P. Gilman, et al., No. 16-84, D. Mont., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147468).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indian tribes cannot challenge a reduction in their federal housing block grant funding in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims because the statute authorizing the funding — the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 (NAHASDA) — is not money mandating, the Federal Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found Sept. 12 (Lummi Tribe of the Lummi Reservation, et al. v. United States, No. 16-2196, Fed. Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 17562).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Arizona’s two senators on Sept. 7 introduced a bill to settle water rights claims of the Hualapai Tribe (Senate Bill 1770, The Hualapai Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act).
SEATTLE — Holdover members of a partial tribal council in Washington state and the U.S. government signed a memorandum of understanding Aug. 25 under which an election will be held to fill the remaining seats on the council, with all members of the tribe eligible to vote, including about 300 members that the holdover council attempted to disenroll from the tribe (The Nooksack Indian Tribe v. Ryan K. Zinke, et al., No. 17-0219, W.D. Wash.).
SAN FRANCISCO — An Arizona Native American tribe on Aug. 17 appealed a federal district court’s dismissal of the tribe’s groundwater lawsuit against several parties after the United States apparently declined to become a party (Havasupai Tribe v. Anasazi Water Company LLC, et al., No. 17-16651, 9th Cir.).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California federal judge overseeing a groundwater dispute between two water districts and a Native American tribe on Sept. 6 denied defense requests to alter the issues in the second phase of a trial and to conduct additional discovery (Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians v. Coachella Valley Water District, et al., No. 13-883, C.D. Calif.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred in finding that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) repealed a prior statute’s grant of control over casino gaming in Massachusetts to the commonwealth, allowing an Indian tribe on Martha’s Vineyard to conduct a bingo operation on its land, the commonwealth and the town of Aquinnah, Mass, argue in separate U.S. Supreme Court petitions filed Aug. 8 (Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. The Wampanoag Tribe Of Gay Head [Aquinnah], et al., No. 17-215, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2788, and Town of Aquinnah, Massachusetts, et al. v. The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head [Aquinnah], et al., No. 17-216, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2797).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals finding that more than 800 fish-blocking road culverts in Washington state are violating Native Americans’ fishing rights is an improper expansion of treaty rights that the U.S. Supreme Court needs to rectify, the state argues in an Aug. 17 petition for writ of certiorari (State of Washington v. United States of America, et al., No. 17-269, U.S. Sup.; 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2937).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A small section of California land where a Native American tribe says the local police are illegally ticketing and targeting Indian drivers is neither part of a reservation nor within the definition of Indian country, a federal judge held Sept. 5 in awarding two officers summary judgment on the tribe’s claims (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, et al. v. John McMahon, et al., No. 5:15-cv-1538, C.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143446).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Sept. 1 announced the formation of what the Department of the Interior (DOI) is referring to as a Royalty Policy Committee (RPC), which will ostensibly “serve a critical role in advising the Secretary on policy and strategies to improve management of the multi-billion dollar, federal and American Indian mineral revenue program.”
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California federal judge on Aug. 30 dismissed all claims by Indian descendants that their tribe illegally disinterred and removed human remains from an Indian cemetery when building a casino, finding that while the tribe is an indispensable party to the suit, it cannot be sued due to its sovereign immunity (Walter Rosales, et al. v. Amy Dutschke, et al., No. 2:15-cv-01145, E.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 140181).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Minnesota Native American tribe failed to exhaust administrative remedies or seek federal recognition as a tribe, so it cannot pursue claims that the federal government has illegally refused to consult with the tribe, a District of Columbia federal judge held Sept. 1 (Mdewakanton Sioux Indians of Minnesota, et al. v. Secretary Zinke, et al., No. 16-2323, D. D.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141778).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court must decide whether generally applicable laws should be presumed to apply to sovereign Indian tribes because there is a deep divide among the federal circuit courts on what is the correct answer to the question, two tribal payday lending companies say in an Aug. 3 petition for writ of certiorari (Great Plains Lending, LLC, et al. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, No. 17-184, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2669).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Descendants of black slaves once owned by Cherokee Indians have the right to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation based on an 1866 treaty that guarantees that extant descendants of the Cherokee freedmen will have “all the rights of native Cherokees,” which includes the right to citizenship in the tribe, a District of Columbia federal judge held Aug. 30 (The Cherokee Nation v. Raymond Nash, et al., No. 13-01313, D. D.C., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139957).
SAN FRANCISCO — A panel of the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Aug. 29 upheld a district court decision to dismiss counterclaims against an Indian tribe in a tobacco tax lawsuit after finding that the counterclaims are barred by sovereign immunity (Quinault Indian Nation v. Mary Linda Pearson, No. 15-35263, 9th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16510).
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A District Court correctly relied on a man’s prior tribal court conviction for domestic violence when allowing a federal weapons charge to proceed, even though the man was represented by a lay person, and not a licensed attorney, in the tribal court proceeding, a divided Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found Aug. 29 (United States of America v. Michael Lee Long, Jr., No. 16-3397, 8th Cir., 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 16473).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A California federal judge on Aug. 28 allowed limited access to documents sealed in a tribal court child custody dispute to be used in a state court action filed by relatives of the three young girls involved in the dispute but declined to unseal the entire record out of concerns for the privacy of the children, who say they were abused by another relative after the tribal court took over guardianship of the girls (Efrim Renteria, et al. v. Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, et al., No. 2:16-cv-1685, E.D. Calif., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138164).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals erred in finding that a man who was evicted from property he had paid rent on for 10 years to an Indian tribe is estopped from arguing that the property is not on the tribe’s reservation, the evicted man says in an Aug. 2 U.S. Supreme Court petition seeking review of the ruling (Roger French v. Honorable Karla Starr, et al., No. 17-197, U.S. Sup., 2017 U.S. S. Ct. Briefs LEXIS 2698).