Law

DC Circuit taking up long running Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit





The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments tomorrow in Vann v. Salazar, a Cherokee Freedmen case

Marilyn Vann, the president of the Descendants Of Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes, will be in Washington, D.C., for the hearing. She sued the Interior Department after the Cherokee Nation voted to deny citizenship to the Freedmen, who are the descendants of former slaves.

Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. initially ruled that the tribe could be joined in the case and could be sued under the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which outlawed slavery. But the D.C. Circuit in July 2008 said the tribe could not be joined due to sovereign immunity.

The ruling left open the possibility that tribal officials could be sued. However, Kennedy in September 2011 dismissed the case, also on immunity grounds.

The case is now back before the D.C. Circuit. Oral arguments take place at 9:30am in Courtroom 11 before Judges David S. Tatel, Merrick B. Garland and Brett M. Kavanaugh.

Separately, another Freedmen lawsuit is proceeding in federal court in Oklahoma. The Obama administration is asking a federal judge to declare that the Freedmen retain citizenship in the tribe under an 1866 treaty.

About 2,800 Freedmen descendants are currently enrolled with the tribe but no new applications for citizenship have been processed.

Get the Story:
Cherokee Freedmen Case Returns to Capitol Hill; US Circuit Court of Appeals Will Re-Hear Vann v. Salazar (Indian Country Today 10/16)

District Court Decision:
Vann v. Salazar (September 30, 2011)

Earlier D.C. Circuit Decision:
Vann v. Kempthorne (July 29, 2008)

Related Stories:
DC Circuit set to hear appeal in one Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit (7/30)
Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit appears headed toward resolution (7/17)
Cherokee Nation awaits decision in Freedmen citizenship dispute (7/3)
Freedmen attorney claims Abramoff influenced BIA position (3/14)
Opinion: Tribes in Oklahoma struggle to deal with Freedmen (3/8)
Cherokee Nation won't drop lawsuit over Freedmen citizenship (11/29)