indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
The Rise of Tribes and the Fall of Federal Indian Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
U.S. Supreme Court vacancy impacts tribal rights
Monday, June 20, 2005

All eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court this month for the possible resignation of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

In ailing health due to thyroid cancer, Rehnquist, 80, is widely expected to retire once the court wraps up its current term next week. The move would give President Bush an opportunity to nominate not only a replacement but a new chief justice. Both positions require Senate confirmation.

The stakes are incredibly high, especially for Indian Country. In recent years, the court has consistently ruled against tribal interests in sovereignty, taxation and other disputes. Tribes lost four out of five cases during the 2000-2001 term, viewed as one of the worst in recent memory.

That wasn't always the situation, tribes and their advocates point out. John Echohawk, the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, said the top court used to be a place where tribes could seek final justice.

"In recent years, that has changed as the U.S. Supreme Court, and the federal courts generally, have gotten a bit more conservative on us and it hasn't been as easy as it used to be to win these cases," Echohawk told attendees of the Federal Bar Association's recent Indian law conference.

With Indian law cases often decided on 5-4 or 6-3 vote, any change in the high court's makeup could make it even harder. Based on recent rulings, the justices seem deeply divided on how far tribal sovereignty goes, especially when it affects non-Indians and off-reservation interests.

"I think we are all aware of the degree to which the Supreme Court in the last quarter-century has issued jurisdictional decisions that have attempted to 'check' tribes as they have sought to revitalize their sovereignty," said Riyaz Kanji, a lawyer in private practice and former Supreme Court clerk, at the same conference.

The White House has been tightlipped about a possible vacancy on the court. But in the past, Bush has said his favorite justices are Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who almost always rule against tribes. Bush's record in nominating conservative-leaning judges for the district and appellate courts bears that out.

According to news reports, Bush is considering Supreme Court nominees along the same lines. Some of the names frequently mentioned include D.C. Circuit Court Judge John G. Roberts, 4th Circuit Court Judge J. Michael Luttig and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales.

Of the three, only Roberts has significant experience in Indian law. He represented the state of Alaska in the Venetie Supreme Court case of 1988 that held that land owned by Alaska Native villages is not Indian Country.

He also represented the state of Hawaii in the Rice v. Cayetano case of 2000. He defended the state's Native Hawaiian-only election before the high court, which ultimately struck it down as unconstitutional.

Additionally, before he joined the D.C. Circuit Court, Roberts worked on an informal basis with tribal lawyers on the NARF-NCAI joint Supreme Court project. Tribes started the project in 2001 in response to the court's negative rulings.

The effort has been successful, according to participants. Since the 2000-2001 term, tribes lost only two major cases while winning two major cases. At the same time, the court accepted only a small number of Indian law cases, rejecting many more affecting sovereignty, gaming, sacred sites and the trust relationship.

But major challenges lie ahead for the term that starts October 2005. The court is slated to hear a significant tax dispute that could affect tribes nationwide. Other petitions have been filed in high-profile sovereignty and land-into-trust cases.

Relevant Links:
NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project - http://doc.narf.org/sc/index.html

Related Stories:
High court won't take on Native Hawaiian recognition (06/14)
Appeals court to rehear tribal jurisdiction case (06/08)
Tribal authority over all Indians still unsettled question (06/23)
Myers not included in compromise on Bush judges (05/24)
Tribal sovereignty must be respected, court rules (05/13)
Supreme Court Roundup: Indian law cases rejected (04/19)
Supreme Court refuses Bush appeal of trust case (04/19)
Supreme Court takes drug case tied to peyote use (04/19)
Indian lawyer cites 'hostile' atmosphere in Washington (04/15)
Contracts still an issue despite Supreme Court win (04/14)
Oneida Nation begins land-into-trust process (04/13)
Supreme Court to weigh appeal of trust lawsuit (04/07)
BIA official calls high court ruling 'quite depressing' (03/31)
Supreme Court overturns Oneida Nation case (03/30)
Tribes win decision in contract support cost case (03/02)
Supreme Court takes on tribal-state tax dispute (03/01)
Passage of time at issue in Oneida Nation case (01/12)
Supreme Court rejects two Indian law cases (1/12)
U.S. Supreme Court decides cases without Rehnquist (12/14)
U.S. Supreme Court asked to rule on state taxation (12/02)
Peabody takes coal lease dispute to high court (12/01)
Tribal contracts pose conflict for U.S. Supreme Court (11/10)
Court to hear self-determination contract case (11/9)
Supreme Court takes action on Indian law cases (11/02)
Mille Lacs diminishment case before Supreme Court (10/22)
South Dakota challenge to tribes rejected by high court (10/19)
Supreme Court Roundup: 2003-2004 Term (07/08)
Supreme Court affirms tribal powers over all Indians (04/20)
Supreme Court to resolve self-determination dispute (03/23)
Cantwell stresses importance of judicial picks (6/17)
Tribal fears in Supreme Court case go unrealized (5/20)
Supreme Court case too close to call for some (4/1)
Supreme Court tussles with tribal sovereignty case (4/1)
Supreme Court case pits tribes against states (3/31)
Supreme Court panel's predictions mostly came true (3/19)

Copyright 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Senate committee to host roundtable on Tribal Law and Order Act (2/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee postpones field hearing into EPA (2/8)
Harold Monteau: Democrats stack the deck for only one candidate (2/8)
Apology offered to girls who were forced to change Navajo hairstyle (2/5)
Mark Trahant: Bernie Sanders campaign starts Indian policy group (2/5)
Charles Trimble: Taking responsibility for upkeep of our cemeteries (2/5)
Mary Annette Pember: Memorial to Indian genocide eyed in Russia (2/5)
Terese Marie Mailhot: I guess I'm just one of those 'crazy' Indians (2/5)
Judge weighs compromise for $380M in leftover Keepseagle funds (2/5)
Blackfeet Nation welcomes movement on water rights settlement (2/5)
Yakama Nation wins decision on cost of cleaning up contamination (2/5)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe confident of casino bid despite lawsuit (2/5)
Arizona sees 6.9 percent boost in gaming contributions from tribes (2/5)
Cowlitz Tribe close to reaching agreement with city for new casino (2/5)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation questions exclusion from casino process (2/5)
Tribal leaders question management changes at IHS in Great Plains (2/4)
IHS chief medical officer apologizes for comments about newborns (2/4)
Group sues IHS for records about water pollution on Yakama Nation (2/4)
Sen. McCain still bothered by failure to block Arizona tribe's casino (2/4)
Gun Lake Tribe announces retirement of longtime chair DK Sprague (2/4)
House Natural Resources Committee passes Indian bills at markup (2/4)
Samuel Winder: Indian defendants face harsher criminal penalties (2/4)
Charles Kader: Tribal burial grounds in Florida are being desecrated (2/4)
Roger Chelsey: Pamunkey Tribe clears last hurdle for federal status (2/4)
Reno Sparks Indian Colony mourns passing of leader William Coffey (2/4)
Native students convince school to name Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe supports move to Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
Coquille Tribe donates $100K to help college with health programs (2/4)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes help inmates reintegrate (2/4)
Little River Band hails BIA movement on off-reservation casino bid (2/4)
Lac Vieux Desert Band reopens hotel after disease scare at casino (2/4)
Eastern Cherokee council revives plan for bowling alley at casino (2/4)
Mark Trahant: Self-determination should be on table for campaign (2/3)
Bernie Sanders won Democratic precinct on Meskwaki Reservation (2/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes two water bills at meeting (2/3)
House committee approves Lytton Band bill with casino limitation (2/3)
Wounded Warriors Family Support reaches out to tribal veterans (2/3)
James Giago Davies: Only one candidate can help Indian Country (2/3)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation creates opportunity with casino (2/3)
Laura Waterman Wittstock: Horrors at facility for 'insane' Indians (2/3)
Tim Evans: Menominee Nation loses contract support costs case (2/3)
Indian Health Service makes changes ahead of big SCIA hearing (2/3)
Native man from Canada charged over death of eagle in Nevada (2/3)
Choctaw Nation plans work on $219M headquarters next month (2/3)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.