Judicial nominee defends tribal law record in low-key Senate hearingBy Daniel Perle
cronkitenews.azpbs.org WASHINGTON – Federal appeals court nominee Eric Miller tried to dispel concerns last week about his record on tribal law, telling a Senate committee that his previous work on behalf of clients did not reflect how he would rule as a judge. Miller told the Senate Judiciary Committee that while he has argued against tribes as a private attorney, he understands that tribal sovereignty “pre-exists the Constitution” and he would be impartial if confirmed to a judgeship on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “It’s a foundational principle of Indian law that tribes have an independent sovereignty that pre-exists the Constitution,” Miller told the sparsely attended hearing. “They are separate and independent sovereigns and when the United States has signed treaties with them … those treaties have to be honored and indeed have to be interpreted as the tribes would have understood them.” His previous advocacy drew opposition to his appointment from tribal groups, including the National Congress of American Indians and the Native American Rights Fund, which wrote committee leaders citing cases in which Miller was aligned with what they called anti-tribal interests. “Our concern is that (Miller) chose to build a law practice on mounting repeated challenges to tribal sovereignty, lands, religious freedom, and the core attribute of federal recognition of tribal existence,” the letter said.
Miller began his testimony by thanking his home state senators, Washington Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell – even though neither has endorsed his nomination. Under Senate tradition, judicial nominations will not move forward unless the senators from a judge’s home state give their approval by returning what is known as a “blue slip.” As of late last week, Cantwell had not returned a blue slip on Miller and Murray was defiantly refusing to do so as of Tuesday. “I am not going to be complicit in this latest rushed process to load the courts with Trump nominees in the lame duck session and I will not be returning the blue slip that signals my approval of this process,” Murray said in a statement on Tuesday. For more stories from Cronkite News, visit cronkitenews.azpbs.org. This story originally appeared on Cronkite News and is published via a Creative Commons license. Cronkite News is produced by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
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