indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Keystone XL Pipeline foes headed to DC (4/21)
Native Sun News: Shoni Schimmel is a role model for youth (4/21)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on energy (4/21)
Bryan Brewer: Supreme Court discriminates against tribes (4/21)
Michell Hicks: Eastern Cherokees return to gardening roots (4/21)
Lisa Charleyboy: Still looking for love under the Indian Act (4/21)
Kiara Imani Williams: Tribal ID dismissed in nation's capital (4/21)
DOI looks to spend $2.55M on Makah Nation land buy-back (4/21)
Pascua Yaqui Tribe faces a test of jurisdiction under VAWA (4/21)
State Department needs more time to review Keystone XL (4/21)
Lens Blog: An Indian from India meets Indians from the US (4/21)
Los Coyotes Band praises action on off-reservation casino (4/21)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe cites ruling in gaming lawsuit (4/21)
Mohegan Tribe reports decline in casino revenue and profit (4/21)
Column: Cowlitz Tribe casino a bad gamble for community (4/21)
MGM Resorts moves quickly on casino near Washington DC (4/21)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe battles uranium mine (4/18)
Clara Caufield: BIA audits Northern Cheyenne police force (4/18)
10th Circuit affirms conviction for murder of Arapaho man (4/18)
Jay Daniels: Cobell settlement was flawed from beginning (4/18)
Dwanna Robertson: Muscogee Nation returns to homeland (4/18)
Peter d'Errico: Washington team makes colonial invasion (4/18)
Northern Arapaho Tribe receives $157M trust settlement (4/18)
Agua Caliente Band leaseholders seek $7M in tax refunds (4/18)
Oneida Nation sends $11M to county as part of settlement (4/18)
JPR: Klamath Tribes want Congress to approve water deal (4/18)
Judge dismisses Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe election suit (4/18)
ASU News: Navajo students enjoy learning their language (4/18)
Former NFL player jailed for DUI on Salt River Reservation (4/18)
BIA advances off-reservation casino projects in California (4/18)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe reportedly operating casino at net loss (4/18)
Cherokee Nation to break ground on new hotel with casino (4/18)
Shoshone-Bannock Tribes not planing to offer poker games (4/18)
Arizona tribes close to $1B mark in gaming revenue sharing (4/18)
Group opposes Catawba Nation casino bid in North Carolina (4/18)
Native Sun News: Guilty verdict in death of Lower Brule boy (4/17)
Native Sun News: Paper brings home four first place awards (4/17)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Governor carries on divisive tactics (4/17)
Navajo president criticizes NIGA for withdrawing from event (4/17)
Crystal Willcuts: NFL trickster speaks with a crooked tongue (4/17)
Opinion: NFL team owner flashes money to defend racial slur (4/17)
Ten reservations account for biggest share of Cobell buyback (4/17)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe opposes megaloads through reservation (4/17)
Indian artists seek more control over popular annual market (4/17)
Panel to look into death of pregnant Indian woman in Mexico (4/17)
Lynn Valbuena returns to chairman post at San Manuel Band (4/17)
Yale University museum accused of stealing Tlingit artifacts (4/17)
Navajo Nation Council speaker still on leave amid court fight (4/17)
BIA asked to invalidate Shinnecock Nation's new constitution (4/17)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | 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.