BILLINGS, Mont. — A Montana federal magistrate judge on March 23 turned back two requests by the individual operators of a Native American nursing home to dismiss a former employee’s claim that she was fired in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (Tammy Wilhite v. Paul Littlelight, et al., No. 1:19-cv-20, D. Mont., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51127).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to adequately respond to concerns by experts about the dangers of an oil spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), it must prepare a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) for the project, a District of Columbia federal judge held March 25 in a long-running challenge to the pipeline’s construction by four Indian tribes (Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, et al., No. 16-1534, D. D.C., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51540).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Tribal and environmental groups on March 24 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to vacate dismissal of their challenge to the federal government’s approval of coal-mining activities by an Indian company on Indian land based on tribal sovereign immunity, saying the ruling creates a conflict among courts that handle most of the Native American law disputes in the country (Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, et al. v. Bureau of Indian Affairs, et al., No. 19-1166, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior (DOI) acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it banned Indian tribes that were denied federal recognition from repetitioning the agency for recognition status, a District of Columbia federal judge held March 25 in vacating the ban and remanding the issue to the DOI in a Michigan tribe’s suit seeking federal recognition (Burt Lake Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians v. David Bernhardt, et al., No. 1:17-cv-38, D. D.C.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Indian tribes that want the owner of a Superfund site to continue to pay an annual $1.5 million use permit fee to store millions of tons of toxic waste on private land within their reservation have stretched the landmark jurisdictional ruling in Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981), too far, the property owner tells the U.S. Supreme Court in a March 16 petition for certiorari (FMC Corporation v. Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, No. 19-1143, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. solicitor general filed an amicus curiae brief on March 20 in support of Oklahoma in its Supreme Court fight over the size of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation and a motion seeking to participate in oral argument to present the federal government’s “unique perspective” on the issues in the case (Jimcy McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, U.S. Sup.).
DENVER — A 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel on March 17 denied a Native American prisoner’s request to appeal the denial of relief for his conviction via a plea agreement to “abusive sexual contact” with two children, finding in part no error in the trial court’s refusal to send the case to tribal court (Gerald Paul Headley v. United States, No. 19-8075, 10th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 8399).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government on March 18 again waived its right to respond to a U.S. Supreme Court petition challenging the fraud and racketeering convictions of a Pennsylvania man and his Delaware attorney, who partnered with Indian tribes to make short-term, high-interest loans to customers in need of quick cash in what has been called a “rent-a-tribe” scheme (Wheeler K. Neff v. United States, No. 19-1127, Charles M. Hallinan v. United States, No. 19-1087, U.S. Sup.).
TACOMA, Wash. — A Washington Indian tribe cannot seek a declaration that it is a signatory to an 1855 treaty and that its members still have the treaty-given right to hunt anywhere in the state because its treaty rights were already determined in prior litigation, a federal judge decided March 18 in dismissing the tribe’s case (Snoqualmie Indian Tribe v. Washington, No. 3:19-cv-06227, W.D. Wash., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 47160).
SAN FRANCISCO — A federal district court acted within the “wide latitude” it has when refusing to hold the government in contempt of a 1979 order by not taking land into trust for a Native American or her descendant, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled March 16 in an unpublished memorandum (Upper Lake Pomo Association, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 18-16764. 9th Cir., 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 8242).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oklahoma on March 13 urged the Supreme Court to reject the notion that the size of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s reservation has never been reduced, saying that to “conclude that Oklahoma lacks jurisdiction over Indians in the State’s entire eastern half, history would have to be ignored” (Jimcy McGirt v. Oklahoma, No. 18-9526, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. government on March 11 waived its right to respond to a U.S. Supreme Court petition challenging the fraud and racketeering conviction of a Pennsylvania man who partnered with Indian tribes to make short-term, high-interest loans to customers in need of quick cash in what has been called a “rent-a-tribe” scheme (Charles M. Hallinan v. United States, No. 19-1087, U.S. Sup.).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — An Indian woman who worked as a diversity specialist for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and says she suffered discrimination by constant exposure to the Washington Redskins name and logo has settled her District of Columbia federal court suit against the agency for $200,000, according to a news release issued March 10 by her attorneys (Jody TallBear v. Dan Brouillette, No. 1:17-cv-00025, D. D.C.).
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter issued an opinion March 9 in a dispute over Indian tribes’ gaming compacts with the state, finding that exclusivity fees the tribes are still paying under the compacts during federal court litigation to determine if the deals have expired should still be deposited for the uses designated in the compacts — mostly education, mental health and substance abuse.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The solicitor for the Department of the Interior on March 10 issued a memorandum to all of the agency’s solicitors outlining a new procedure for determining whether an Indian tribe is eligible to have land taken into trust by the government under the first definition of “Indian” in the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA).
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Several Native American descendants filed another complaint, this time exclusively against the federal government and federal officials, asserting that their tribe illegally disinterred and removed human remains from an Indian cemetery when building a casino (Walter J. Rosales, et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., No. 2:20-cv-00521, E.D. Calif.).
PHOENIX — An Arizona native American tribe on March 6 sued two state water districts in federal court, seeking an injunction against commingling “lesser quality” water with Central Arizona Project water to which the tribe is entitled by law and under contract (Ak-Chin Indian Community v. Maricopa-Stanfield Irrigation & Drainage District, et al., No. 20-489, D. Ariz.).
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A California Indian tribe sued a small, local water company on March 9, alleging that the company continues to use a pipeline that runs across the tribe’s reservation even though the easement for the pipeline expired years ago, in violation of several federal laws (Chemehuevi Indian Tribe v. Havasu Water Company, No. 5:20-cv-00471, C.D. Calif.).
TUCSON, Ariz. — An Arizona federal judge on March 5 collaterally estopped a mining company from arguing that it had not forfeited its rights under a water decree and ruled alternatively that the company forfeited its water rights by admitting to nonuse of the water for more than five years (Gila River Indian Community v. Freeport Minerals Corporation, No. 17-626, D. Ariz., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39426).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on March 9 declined to step into a dispute over a Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals holding that a section of land in California where an Indian tribe says the local police are illegally ticketing and targeting Indian drivers is part of the tribe’s reservation (John McMahon, et al. v. Chemehuevi Indian Tribe, et al., No. 19-820, U.S. Sup.).