Republican President Donald Trump
is prepared to deliver another jolt to the nation with his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court
The court has been operating with just eight members following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia
in February 2016. Former president Barack Obama named a replacement
but Republicans refused to hold hearings on his pick.
Those same Republicans are now eager to confirm Trump's nominee, whoever it turns out to be. An announcement is coming Tuesday evening, the president said on Twitter, his preferred method of communication.
"I have made my decision on who I will nominate for The United States Supreme Court," Trump wrote on Monday morning
Tribes pay close attention to the nation's highest court because the decisions carry significant impacts in their communities. Up until Scalia's death, a conservative-leaning majority consistently delivered defeats on taxation, sovereignty, land-into-trust and Indian Child
issues over the last decade.
"Since 2006, under John Roberts, there's been 11 Indian cases decided by that
court and we have won only two of those cases," John Echohawk, the executive
director of the Native American Rights
, told tribal leaders shortly after Scalia's passing
last year. John Roberts
serves as chief justice of the court.
Scalia's death came at a crucial time. The justices had a record four Indian law cases on the docket and were poised to make rulings on some key issues like protections for Native women and reservation boundaries.
But even though the Supreme Court was hobbled by the lack of a full slate, the October 2015
term turned out better than expected
. Tribal interests outright won two of the four
cases and by unanimous votes
of the eight justices.
The third case wasn't a total loss because the court did not disturb its self-determination precedents
. And the one decision that was deadlocked
turned out to be a victory as well because it affirmed a lower ruling in favor of tribal jurisdiction.
The court's ongoing term only has one Indian law case
on the docket. Oral arguments in Lewis v. Clarke
took place January 9. A decision is expected before June.
Trump has vowed to nominate someone from a list of 21 names
he finalized before the November election. The list includes Allison H. Eid
, a Colorado jurist who is the wife of Troy Eid
, an attorney known for his advocacy on Indian issues
It also includes Neil Gorsuch
, a federal appeals court judge with a wide range of Indian law cases under his belt. One of his most recent works was a stinging blow to officials in Utah
who have repeatedly challenged the sovereignty of the Ute Tribe
Gorsuch also authored a decision in September 2013 that revived a historical accounting lawsuit
filed on behalf of beneficiaries of the Osage Nation
in Oklahoma. He sits on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
, which hears cases affecting tribal interests in Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.
Whoever Trump picks for the court, Democrats are promising a fight. Many were bothered by the refusal of Republicans, who
hold a majority in the Senate
, to consider Obama's choice.
"This is really a stolen Supreme Court seat,"
Sen. Patrick Leahy
(D-Vermont), the top Democrat on the Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
, said in a video posted to YouTube on Friday
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