Litigation

Supreme Court takes a pass on tribal labor sovereignty dispute




The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians owns and operates the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. Photo from Facebook

The U.S. Supreme Court won't be wading into a controversial labor sovereignty dispute that affects tribal casinos nationwide.

The justices issued orders on Monday declining petitions in Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Government v. NLRB and Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort v. NLRB. That means the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe, both from Michigan, won't be able to argue that their gaming facilities should be exempt from the National Labor Relations Act.

Law professor Matthew L.M. Fletcher, the director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University, told The Mt. Pleasant Sun News that he wasn't surprised by the court's move. Had the justices accepted the cases, he predicted it could have led to a 4-4 tie.

The Supreme Court deadlocked in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a high-profile labor union case, in March due to the absence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. His vote would have tipped the case in another way.

The court also deadlocked on Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a closely-watched tribal jurisdiction case. In that situation, the tie benefited the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians because it affirmed a lower court ruling in the tribe's favor.

The same would not be true for the Michigan tribes because because the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them. A tie would merely affirm that decision although it would not set a nationwide precedent.

Get the Story:
Supreme Court won’t hear Tribe’s case (The Mt. Pleasant Morning Sun 7/1)

6th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions:
Soaring Eagle Casino v. NLRB (July 1, 2015)
NLRB v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians (June 9, 2015)

From the Indianz.Com Archive:
Tribal labor law rider killed by wide margin in House (June 27, 2005)
NCAI between 'rock and a hard place' on labor rider (September 13, 2004)
Tribal labor amendment fails in House vote (September 13, 2004)
Federal labor board expands jurisdiction over tribes (June 4, 2004)

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