Alaska Natives participate in the unveiling of three bronze house poles in front of the Walter Soboleff Building in Juneau, Alaska, on August 26, 2018. Photo: Alaska Governor Bill Walker

Indian law professors join campaign against Brett Kavanaugh

At least four Indian law professors -- all women -- have signed onto a massive letter calling for the rejection of controversial U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

The letter, posted by The New York Times, boasts over 1,000 names. Signatories include: Kathryn E. Fort, who serves as staff attorney for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law; Carole E. Goldberg, who teaches Indian law at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law; Wenona T. Singel, a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians who serves as a professor at the Michigan State University College of Law and as the associate director for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center; and Christine Zuni Cruz, a citizen of Isleta Pueblo who is a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law.

"We regret that we feel compelled to write to you, our Senators, to provide our views that at the Senate hearings on Sept. 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land," the letter states.

The letter of course refers to Kavanaugh's emotional and fiery appearance before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He denied sexually assaulting Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who is a professor of psychology, and accused Democrats of dredging up other allegations for solely political gain.

"The Constitution gives the Senate an important role in the confirmation process, but you have replaced advise and consent with search and destroy," Kavanaugh told the panel on what was the fifth, and final, day of his hearings. "Since my nomination in July, there has been a frenzy on the left to come up with something, anything to block my confirmation."

Republicans, however, control the committee and advanced Kavanaugh's nomination by a party-line vote on the following day. But they relented on a final vote after members of their own party called for an FBI investigation into "credible allegations" of sexual misconduct.

The FBI's report is complete and was delivered at 2:30am on Thursday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the committee, said in a statement in the morning. It will now be reviewed by members of the Senate, which is under Republican control, before an initial procedural vote that's expected to take place on Friday.

"I just filed cloture on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court," Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Republican majority leader in the chamber, said in a post on Twitter on Wednesday night. "There will be plenty of time for Members to review and be briefed on this supplemental material before a Friday cloture vote."

If at least 60 Senators support the cloture vote, the chamber can proceed to a final vote on Kavanaugh's nomination. Throughout the week, as questions swirled about the thoroughness of the FBI's supplemental and "limited" investigation, McConnell has remained confident that a majority of his colleagues will confirm a "fine man" to serve as a justice on the nation's highest court.

"I would ask any of my colleagues: How would you feel if your entire reputation had been destroyed in this mudslide? Would you be calm about it?" McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday, responding to criticism of Kavanaugh's testimony last week as angry and indicative of a lack of judicial temperament.

If Kavanaugh is indeed confirmed in the coming days, he could join the U.S. Supreme Court in time for arguments, deliberations and proceedings as soon as next week. He might, for example, participate in the resolution of Citizen Potawatomi Nation v. Oklahoma, an arbitration dispute between the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and the state of Oklahoma.

The petition stems from efforts by the state to impose taxes on the reservation. It is due to be considered at a conference on October 12, according to Docket No. 17-1624.

Kavanaugh would also be able to participate in oral arguments for Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, a treaty and taxation case affecting the Yakama Nation. The hearing is scheduled for October 30.

A week later, the justices will hear Sturgeon v. Frost, a case that impacts the subsistence rights of Alaska Natives, on November 5. Tribes, Native corporations and Alaska Natives have filed briefs in hopes of protecting their rights from a potentially damaging ruling.

"The importance of subsistence fishing to Alaska Native subsistence users cannot be overestimated," attorneys for Nora David, a daughter of the Katie John, the Native matriarch won a landmark subsistence case prior to her passing in 2013.

Two more Indian law cases are on the docket for the October 2018 term, which began on Monday. Arguments have yet to be scheduled in Herrera v. Wyoming, a treaty rights case affecting the Crow Tribe. A date for Carpenter v. Murphy, a high-profile reservation boundary dispute, hasn't been set either.

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