Still no decision from Supreme Court in tribal jurisdiction case


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

Another week has passed without a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in a closely-watched tribal jurisdiction case.

The justices only issued one ruling on Tuesday and it wasn't in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. No other decisions are coming this week, SCOTUSBlog reported, which came as a surprise because the court was expected to release at least one more opinion on Wednesday.

"Maybe something just wasn't ready that appeared to be so last Friday," SCOTUSBlog reporter Lyle Denniston wrote in a liveblog this morning.

The justices heard arguments in the tribal jurisdiction case on December 7, 2015. The outcome will determine whether Dollar General, a publicly-traded company that reported $18.9 billion in net sales in 2014, must answer to a lawsuit filed in the courts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

The company believes it did not explicitly submit to tribal court jurisdiction even though it operates a store on trust land under a lease with the tribe. A federal judge and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with that argument.

Dollar General is one of the oldest pending cases on the docket. According to the SCOTUSBlog, only four cases that were argued in October and November are older.

In contrast, the court acted more quickly in two other Indian law cases. The decision in Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. US was issued 55 days after oral argument and the decision in Nebraska v. Parker came 62 days after argument.

Both decisions were unanimous so the absence of of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, did not affect the outcomes. But now that the court is down to eight members, it might be more difficult for them to arrive at a consensus in Dollar General.

The high court's last tribal jurisdiction case was Plains Commerce Bank v. Long from 2008. It was decided by a 5-4 vote.

"Any further delay in filling this vacancy could result in split decisions with serious implications for the nation and for Indian Country, such as with the Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians case," President Russell Begaye of the Navajo Nation said last month.

Supreme Court Documents:
Docket Sheet No. 13-1496 | Questions Presented | Oral Argument Transcript: Dollar General v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians

5th Circuit Court of Appeals Decision:
Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (March 14, 2014)
Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (March 14, 2014)

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