Clock keeps ticking on closely-watched tribal jurisdiction dispute

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

The U.S. Supreme Court issued decisions in two cases on Monday but Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians was not one of them.

The closely-watched tribal jurisdiction dispute is the oldest on the docket without a decision. Arguments were heard 182 days ago on December 7, 2015.

The lack of a decision hints at a 4-4 tie. If the court had a full state of nine members, observers felt Dollar General, a publicly-traded company that reported $18.9 billion in net sales in 2014, would prevail against the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

The court's last tribal jurisdiction case -- Plains Commerce Bank v. Long -- was decided by a 5-4 vote so the absence of the late Antonin Scalia likely means the conservative-leaning justices do not have enough support for a clear majority. That decision, incidentally, came just 72 days after the oral argument.

But Indian Country won't know the result until the court resolves the case. It's possible a decision could come on Thursday, when more opinions are expected to be announced, according to SCOTUSBlog.

As of Monday, the justices have 22 cases to resolve before the conclusion of the October 2015 term at the end of this month. There are essentially three more weeks during which they could announce more opinions.

If the justices don't issue a decision in Dollar General this week or the next, they will come close to reaching the 210-day wait for the decision in Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community from their October 2013 term. But even if they wait until June 30, they will still fall three days short of that record.

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