Alaska Natives seek fair consideration of Supreme Court nominee

Native women and their supporters rallied at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 7, 2015, as the justices heard Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Photo by Indianz.Com

President Barack Obama is close to announcing his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court and Alaska Natives want to ensure his pick gets a fair shot in the Senate.

Republicans -- including Alaska's two Senators -- have vowed to block any nominee. But Julie Kitka, the president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, said the court will benefit from having a full slate of justices as soon as possible.

“It is in the country's best interest to have a working political system rather than one of gridlock,” Kitka said at a press conference on Thursday, Alaska Dispatch News reported.

Jackie Pata, an Alaska Native who serves as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, echoed a similar message. She said the court needs nine justices in order to avoid deadlocks and rehearings in critical cases.

“It would not be good for Native people and our tribal governments if the Supreme Court is caught in a 4-4 tie for the next two years," Pata said, Alaska Dispatch News reported. "If Congress doesn't even consider a nominee until after the next election, there will be a 4-4 tie for all of this year and next year's Supreme Court term, and important legal questions could be held in limbo for a long time, which creates uncertainty."

Obama is reportedly down to three choices. According to The Washington Post, he's considering Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; Sri Srinivasan, who sits on the same court; and Paul Watford of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Both the 9th Circuit and the D.C. Circuit hear a significant number of Indian law cases and all three potential picks have experience with Indian law cases. Watford, for example, was part of the panel that decided US v. Bryant, a domestic violence case that will be heard by the Supreme Court on April 19.

Garland has ruled in the Cobell trust fund case and was part of panel that decided the infamous tribal labor law case back in 2007. He's due to hear a land-into-trust case that affects the Cowlitz Tribe of Washington this Friday.

Srinivasan is newer to the D.C. Circuit so he doesn't have much of a record there. But he has Indian law experience from his days at the Department of Justice. He argued two contract support costs cases before the Supreme Court in November 2004. The federal government lost the dispute.

Get the Story:
Alaska tribal advocates want Murkowski, Sullivan to vet a Supreme Court nominee (Alaska Dispatch News 3/11)
Native leaders urge Senators to give fair hearing to Obama’s Supreme Court nominee (KBBI 3/11)
President Obama reportedly is down to three finalists for Supreme Court vacancy (The Washington Post 3/11)
For Harry Reid, the Supreme Court Vacancy Offers One Last Fight (The New York Times 3/14)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Supreme Court schedules hearing in Indian domestic violence case (3/11)
Diane Humetewa not under consideration for Supreme Court seat (3/11)
Gyasi Ross: Nominate Diane Humetewa to serve on Supreme Court (3/9)
Dollar General defends plan to open in majority Native community (03/08)
Joe Biden: Senate Republicans must act on pick for Supreme Court (03/04)
Klamath Tribes oppose Dollar General store due to court challenge (03/01)
Aaron Payment: Tribal sovereignty hangs in the balance at Supreme Court (02/29)
Steve Russell: Looking for an unbiased justice on Supreme Court (02/29)
Steven Newcomb: Justice Scalia didn't know anything about Indian law (02/26)
Updates from Day 2 of National Congress of American Indians winter session in D.C. (02/24)
Barack Obama: What I'm looking for in a Supreme Court nominee (02/24)
Senate Republicans refuse to consider Supreme Court nominee (2/24)
No Supreme Court opinions this week following Scalia's death (2/22)
Supreme Court delays work due to ceremony for Justice Scalia (2/19)
April Youpee-Roll: Supreme Court makes up Indian law decisions (2/18)
Peter d'Errico: Justice Antonin Scalia scorned tribal sovereignty (2/18)
Linda Greenhouse: A chance to reset a partisan Supreme Court (2/18)
President Obama affirms intent to fill vacancy on Supreme Court (2/17)
Matthew Fletcher: Tribes couldn't count on Justice Scalia's vote (2/17)
David Wilkins: Justice Antonin Scalia leaves an anti-tribal record (2/17)
Stakes raised as Supreme Court weighs domestic violence case (2/16) Appeals court backs tougher sentence in domestic violence case (2/16)
Steve Russell: Justice Antonin Scalia was wrong about Indian law (2/15)
Justice Antonin Scalia dies with Indian law cases on the docket (2/13)
John Lavelle: Supreme Court weighs key tribal sovereignty issue (02/10)
Supreme Court declines NAGPRA case affecting Kumeyaay Nation (01/25)
Menominee Nation loses contract support costs case at Supreme Court (01/25)
Supreme Court hears Omaha Tribe reservation boundary dispute (01/20)
Ex-US Attorney welcomes review of domestic violence case (12/17)
Supreme Court agrees to review yet another Indian law dispute (12/14)
Native women rally at Supreme Court for key tribal jurisdiction case (12/07)
Native women schedule Quilt Walk for Justice at Supreme Court (12/01)
Native women to rally at Supreme Court for upcoming case (11/11)
DOJ to help with arguments in Supreme Court jurisdiction case (11/09)
Native women defend tribal jurisdiction in Supreme Court case (10/26)
Tribes urged to bring states on board for Supreme Court case (10/20)
Cheyenne & Arapaho Tribal Tribune: Supreme Court case tests tribal jurisdiction (10/14)
Supreme Court schedules oral arguments in two Indian law cases (10/12)
States oppose tribal jurisdiction in upcoming Supreme Court case (10/07)
Supreme Court rejects petitions in four more Indian law cases (10/05)
Supreme Court agrees to hear Omaha Reservation boundary case (10/02)
Supreme Court considers petitions in slew of Indian law cases (09/22)
Bryan Newland: The racist foundation of Supreme Court rulings (09/08)
Supreme Court agrees to hear first tribal jurisdiction case in years (06/15)
Supreme Court needs more time to review tribal jurisdiction case (6/8)
SCOTUSBlog: DOJ urges denial of petition in tribal court dispute (05/20)
DOJ files brief in tribal jurisdiction case before Supreme Court (5/14)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians DC meeting (2/27)
Updates from National Congress of American Indians winter session (2/26)
Supreme Court asks DOJ for views in Mississippi Choctaw case (10/06)