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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
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 on Indian Affairs considers new round of bills (3/27)
Tim Giago: There's a smell of treason in the air in nation's capital (3/27)
Mark Trahant: The fight ahead for the future of Indian health care (3/27)
Bill John Baker: Woman play important roles in Cherokee Nation (3/27)
Brian Lightfoot Brown: One last victory for the Narragansett Tribe (3/27)
Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe questions loss of funds (3/27)
James Giago Davies: Troubled times are coming to Lakota country (3/27)
Sarah Van Gelder: Huge bank divests from Dakota Access Pipeline (3/27)
Cronkite News: Navajo Nation hails decision on aging power plant (3/27)
Tiffany Midge: There's a happy ending for Standing Rock out there (3/27)
Steven Newcomb: Getting to the true meaning of our sovereignty (3/27)
Steve Russell: Losing our status as 'domestic dependent nations' (3/27)
Mona Evans: Creek Nation fails to support Indian Child Welfare Act (3/27)
Tribes mount another fight after Trump approves another pipeline (3/24)
Native Sun News Today: Navajo elders continue long fight on land (3/24)
Editorial: Just another day of trying to keep up with the Trumps (3/24)
Elizabeth LaPensée: Video games encourage indigenous culture (3/24)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women work with youth offenders (3/24)
Tiffany Midge: Trump continues to conjure hero Andrew Jackson (3/24)
John Kane: Seneca Nation money train coming to end in New York (3/24)
Grand Ronde Tribes secure approval of school mascot agreement (3/24)
Editorial: Federal recognition for tribes in Virginia is long overdue (3/24)
Seneca Nation ends casino payments after sending $1.4B to state (3/24)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on nominee (3/23)
Internal tribal disputes continue to trip up federal court system (3/23)
Mark Trahant: Indian health care gains ignored in political debate (3/23)
Native Sun News Today: Young fighters maintain Lakota tradition (3/23)
Ivan Star Comes Out: America loses its self-respect and humanity (3/23)
Rosalyn LaPier: Why water remains sacred to indigenous peoples (3/23)
Winona LaDuke: North Dakota spreads filth about water protectors (3/23)
Harold Monteau: Tribal governments are abusing their own people (3/23)
Alex Jacobs: Donald Trump in middle of the 'deep state civil war' (3/23)
Secretary Zinke announces 'doggy days' for Interior Department (3/23)
Keystone XL Pipeline route crosses Ponca Tribe's forced removal (3/23)
Indian lawmaker resigns after being charged for child prostitution (3/23)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation buys site of long-delayed casino project (3/23)
High court pick acknowledges poor treatment of 'sovereign' tribes (3/22)
Dakota Access submits another status update entirely under seal (3/22)
Court allows claim for alleged underpayment in Cobell settlement (3/22)
South Dakota tribes continue to extend Class III gaming compacts (3/22)
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.