SCOTUS IC Decisions

CaseDate
Herrera v. WyomingMay 20, 2019

Summary:

Holding: Wyoming’s statehood did not abrogate the Crow Tribe’s 1868 federal treaty right to hunt on the “unoccupied lands of the United States”; the lands of the Bighorn National Forest did not become categorically “occupied” when the forest was created.
JudgmentVacated and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor on May 20, 2019. Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Kavanaugh joined.

CaseDate
Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc. March 19, 2019

Summary:

Holding: The Supreme Court of Washington’s judgment — that the “right to travel” provision of the 1855 Treaty Between the United States and the Yakama Nation of Indians pre-empts the state’s fuel tax as applied to Cougar Den’s importation of fuel by public highway for sale within the reservation — is affirmed.
JudgmentAffirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Breyer on March 19, 2019. Justice Breyer announced the judgment of the court and delivered an opinion, in which Justices Sotomayor and Kagan joined. Justice Gorsuch filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Ginsburg joined. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh joined. Justice Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined.

CaseDate
Washington v. U.S. June 11, 2018

Summary:

Issues: (1) Whether a treaty “right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations … in common with all citizens” guaranteed “that the number of fish would always be sufficient to provide a ‘moderate living’ to the tribes”; (2) whether the district court erred in dismissing the state’s equitable defenses against the federal government where the federal government signed these treaties in the 1850’s, for decades told the state to design culverts a particular way, and then filed suit in 2001 claiming that the culvert design it provided violates the treaties it signed; and (3) whether the district court’s injunction violates federalism and comity principles by requiring Washington to replace hundreds of culverts, at a cost of several billion dollars, when many of the replacements will have no impact on salmon, and plaintiffs showed no clear connection between culvert replacement and tribal fisheries.
JudgmentAffirmed by an equally divided court in a per curiam opinion on June 11, 2018.

CaseDate
Upper Skagit Indian Tribe v. Lundgren May 21, 2018

Summary:

HoldingCounty of Yakima v. Confederated Tribes and Bands of Yakima Nation, 502 U. S. 251, addressed only a question of statutory interpretation of the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887, not the question whether Indian tribes have sovereign immunity in in rem lawsuits. The Lundgrens now ask the Supreme Court to affirm on an alternative, common-law ground: that the tribe cannot assert sovereign immunity because this suit relates to immovable property located in Washington state, purchased by the tribe in the same manner as a private individual. Because this alternative argument did not emerge until late in this case, the Washington Supreme Court should address it in the first instance.
JudgmentVacated and remanded, 7-2, in an opinion by Justice Gorsuch on May 21, 2018. Chief Justice Roberts filed a concurring opinion, in which Justice Kennedy joined. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Alito joined.

CaseDate
Patchak v. Zinke February 27, 2018

Summary:

Holding: David Patchak filed suit challenging the authority of the secretary of the Interior Department to take into trust a property (Bradley Property) on which Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians wished to build a casino. In an earlier appeal in the case, the Supreme Court held that the secretary lacked sovereign immunity and that Patchak had standing, and it remanded the case for further proceedings. Congress subsequently enacted the Gun Lake Act, which “reaffirmed as trust land” the Bradley Property, Section 2(a), and provided that “an action . . . relating to [that] land shall not be filed or maintained in a Federal court and shall be promptly dismissed,” Section 2(b). The court of appeals properly affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Patchak’s lawsuit pursuant to that statute.
JudgmentAffirmed, 6-3, in an opinion by Justice Thomas on February 27, 2018. Justice Thomas, joined by Justices Breyer, Alito and Kagan, concluded that Section 2(b) of the Gun Lake Act does not violate Article III of the Constitution. Justice Breyer filed a concurring opinion. Justice Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Sotomayor joined, concluding that Congress acted effectively to displace the Administrative Procedure Act’s waiver of immunity for suits against the United States — which enabled Patchak to launch this litigation — with a contrary command applicable to the Bradley Property. Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, concluding that that Section 2(b) of the Gun Lake Act is most naturally read as having restored the Federal Government’s sovereign immunity from Patchak’s suit challenging the trust status of the Bradley Property. Chief Justice Roberts filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Kennedy and Gorsuch joined.

CaseDate
Upstate Citizens for Equality, Inc. V. United States November 27, 2017

Issues: (1) Whether, in the exercise of its Article I powers, Congress can infringe, reduce or diminish the territorial integrity of a state without its prior consent; (2) whether Congress possesses plenary power over Indian affairs and, if so, whether the plenary power expands the Indian commerce clause to authorize the displacement of state rights to territorial integrity; (3) whether the land acquisition in this case via the mechanism of 25 U.S.C. § 465 (now 25 U.S.C. § 5108) represents a violation of the limits inherently expressed in the Indian commerce clause that limits Congress’ power to “regulate” “commerce”; and (4) whether the 300,000-acre ancient Oneida Indian reservation in New York still exists.
Petition DENIED Justice Thomas, dissenting from the denials of certiorari. 

CaseDate
Matal v. TamJune 19, 2017

Summary:

Holding: The disparagement clause of the Lanham Act violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
JudgmentAffirmed, 8-0, in an opinion by Justice Alito on June 19, 2017. Justice Alito announced the judgment of the Supreme Court and delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court with respect to Parts I, II and III-A, in which all the justices joined except that Justice Thomas did not join Part II; Justice Alito also delivered an opinion with respect to Parts III-B, III-C and IV, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Breyer joined. Justice Kennedy filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan joined. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

CaseDate
Lewis v. ClarkeApril 25, 2017

Summary:

Holding: (1) In a suit brought against a Tribal employee in his individual capacity, the employee, not the Tribal Nation, is the real party in interest and the tribe’s sovereign immunity is not implicated; and (2) an indemnification provision cannot, as a matter of law, extend sovereign immunity to individual employees who would otherwise not be protected.
JudgmentReversed and remanded, 8-0, in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor on April 25, 2017. Justices Thomas and Ginsburg filed opinions concurring in the judgment. Justice Gorsuch took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

CaseDate
Dollar General Corp. v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians June 23, 2016

Summary:

Issue: Whether Indian Tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against nonmembers, including as a means of regulating the conduct of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with a Tribal Nation or its members. CVSG: 5/12/2015.
JudgmentAffirmed by an equally divided Court in a per curiam opinion on June 23, 2016.

CaseDate
U.S. v. BryantJune 13, 2016

Summary:

Holding: The use of Tribal-court convictions as predicate offenses in a subsequent prosecution does not violate the Constitution when the Tribal-court convictions occurred in proceedings that complied with the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 and were therefore valid when entered.
JudgmentReversed and remanded, 8-0, in an opinion by Justice Ginsburg on June 13, 2016. Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion.

CaseDate
Nebraska v. ParkerMarch 22, 2016

Summary:

Holding: An 1882 law that authorized the Secretary of the Interior to survey, appraise, and sell roughly 50,000 acres of reservation land did not diminish the Omaha Indian Reservation.
JudgmentAffirmed, 8-0, in an opinion by Justice Thomas on March 22, 2016.

CaseDate
Sturgeon v. FrostMarch 22, 2016

Summary:

Holding: The Ninth Circuit’s interpretation of Section 103(c) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, which addresses the scope of the National Park Service’s authority over lands within the boundaries of conservation system units in Alaska, to ban hovercrafts on state-owned waters flowing through federally managed preservation areas, is inconsistent with both the act’s text and context.
JudgmentVacated and remanded, 8-0, in an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts on March 22, 2016.

CaseDate
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. U.S. January 25, 2016

Summary:

Holding: Equitable tolling is not available to preserve contract claims that were not timely presented to a federal contracting officer because there were no extraordinary circumstances beyond the tribe’s control: the tribe had unilateral authority to present its claims in a timely manner, and its claimed obstacles – a mistaken reliance on a putative class action and a belief that presentment was futile – were not outside the tribe’s control.
JudgmentAffirmed, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Alito on January 25, 2016.

CaseDate
Knight v. ThompsonJanuary 26, 2015

Summary:

GVR stands for “grant vacate remand.” It usually means, as I believe it does here, that the Supreme Court has decided a matter that will affect the disposition of another matter pending before the Court at the time. Here, the Court granted cert to review Holt v. Hobbs. and decided that matter last week. Also pending was a cert petition in Knight v. Thompson involving a challenge by a Native prisoner to his warden’s order to cut his hair. The Court held the Native petition while it decided the other petition, which involved a Muslim man’s challenge to his warden’s order to shave his beard. Now the Knight case will return to the Eleventh Circuit where the court will review the case in light of the decision in Holt.

https://turtletalk.blog/2015/01/26/scotus-gvrs-knight-v-thompson-a-native-prisoner-matter-in-light-of-holt-v-hobbs/

CaseDate
Michigan v. Bay Mills Indian Community May 27, 2014

SUMMARY:

Holding: Michigan’s suit against the Bay Mills Indian Community to enjoin the tribe from operating a gaming facility on non-Indian lands is barred by tribal sovereign immunity.
JudgmentAffirmed and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Kagan on May 27, 2014. Justice Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Scalia, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Alito joined. Justice Ginsburg filed a dissenting opinion.

CaseDate
Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl June 25, 2013

SUMMARY:

Holding: Assuming for the sake of argument that the biological father in this case is a “parent” for purposes of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the act still does not bar termination of the biological father’s paternal rights.
JudgmentReversed and remanded, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Alito on June 25, 2013. Justice Breyer and Justice Thomas filed concurring opinions. Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Ginsburg and Justice Kagan joined, and in which Justice Scalia joined in part.

CaseDate
U.S. v. Samish Indian NationOctober 9, 2012

SUMMARY:

Issue: (1) Whether the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1), or Indian Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1505, grants the Court of Federal Claims subject-matter jurisdiction over an Indian tribe’s claim for money damages against the United States, based on the United States’ purported violation of sources of law that do not themselves mandate a damages remedy for their violation; and (2) whether the United States may be required to pay damages for failing to provide an Indian tribe with a statutorily defined portion of a statutory fund, where Congress enacted limited appropriations for that fund and those appropriations were exhausted over a decade before the tribe filed its action for money damages.
JudgmentThe case is granted, the judgment with respect to all matters relating to respondent’s Revenue Sharing Act claim is vacated, and the case is remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with instructions to dismiss that claim as moot (see United States v. Munsingwear, Inc.) on October 9, 2012.

CaseDate
Arctic Slope Native Ass’n, Ltd. v. Sebelius June 25, 2012

Summary:

As we guessed earlier, in light of Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter, the Supreme Court GVR’d Arctic Slope v. Sebelius this morning. The case returns to the Federal Circuit for further consideration.
https://turtletalk.blog/2012/06/25/arctic-slope-native-assn-v-sebelius-granted-vacated-and-remanded-gvr/

CaseDate
Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians v. Patchak June 18, 2012

SUMMARY:

Holding: The federal government has waived its sovereign immunity from the respondent’s suit under the Administrative Procedure Act, in which he alleges that Section 465 of the Indian Reorganization Act did not authorize the Secretary of the Interior to acquire into trust property that the Band intended to use for “gaming purposes” because the Band was not a federally recognized tribe when the Indian Reorganization Act was enacted in 1934. Moreover, the respondent has prudential standing to challenge the Secretary’s acquisition of the land in question.

Plain English Summary: In this case, the federal government took certain land into trust for an Indian Tribal Nation, which means that it took ownership of the land to allow the Tribal Nation to use it. The Tribal Nation planned to build a casino on the land. The Supreme Court held that a neighbor could sue the government to stop the casino project on the ground that the law did not permit the government to take the land into trust for this particular Tribal Nation.
JudgmentAffirmed, 8-1, in an opinion by Justice Kagan on June 18, 2012. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion.

CaseDate
Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter June 18, 2012

SUMMARY:

Holding: The federal government must pay in full each tribe’s contract support costs incurred by a tribal contractor under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, 25 U.S.C. § 450, even if Congress has failed to appropriate sufficient funds to cover all of the contract support costs owed to all tribal contractors collectively.

Plain English Summary: Every contract is a deal between two parties, and both are supposed to perform their part of the deal. That means that, if the job covered by the contract is done as it should be, then that party is entitled to be paid what has been promised. This case involved Indian tribes that sued the government because it did not pay all of the costs it had promised to cover when the two sides made their deal for the tribe to provide education and other government-like functions for their members. The Court ruled that a promise is a promise, even if the government doesn’t have immediately available enough money to pay all of the contractors it had promised to pay for their services. Congress has to locate the money to cover such a promise, the Court said.
JudgmentAffirmed, 5-4, in an opinion by Justice Sotomayor on June 18, 2012. The Chief Justice filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Alito joined.

CaseDate
U.S. v. Jicarilla Apache Nation June 13, 2011

SUMMARY:

Holding: The fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege does not apply to the general trust relationship between the United States and the Native American tribes. (Kagan, J., recused.)

Plain English Holding: In litigation with Native American tribes over the management of money that the government holds on behalf of the tribes, the federal government can refuse to turn over documents relating to communications between the government and its attorneys relating to the money and its management.
JudgmentReversed and remanded, 7-1, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito on June 13, 2011. Justice Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, which Justice Breyer joined. Justice Sotomayor filed a dissenting opinion. (Kagan, J., recused.)

CaseDate
U.S. v. Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma May 2, 2011

SUMMARY:

Opinion

On petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Petition for writ of certiorari granted. Judgment vacated, and case remanded to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit for further consideration in light of United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation, 563 U.S. ––––, 131 S.Ct. 1723, 179 L.Ed.2d 723 (2011). Westlaw

CaseDate
U.S. v. Tohono O’Odham Nation April 26, 2011

SUMMARY:

Holding: Two suits making the same claim are barred from the Court of Federal Claims if they are based on substantially the same operative facts, regardless of the relief each seeks.(Kagan, J., recused).

Plain English Holding: Plaintiffs may not bring a suit in the Court of Federal Claims if they have already brought a suit based on the same set of facts in another court, even if they ask for different relief in the two cases.
JudgmentReversed, 7-1, in an opinion by Justice Kennedy on April 26, 2011. Justice Ginsburg dissented alone. Justice Sotomayor joined in the judgment only, joined by Justice Breyer. (Kagan, J., recused).

CaseDate
Madison County, N.Y. v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York January 10, 2011

SUMMARY:

We granted certiorari, 562 U. S. ___ (2010), on the questions “whether tribal sovereign immunity from suit, to the extent it should continue to be recognized, bars taxing authorities from foreclosing to collect lawfully imposed property taxes” and “whether the ancient Oneida reservation in New York was disestablished or diminished.” Pet. for Cert. i. Counsel for respondent Oneida Indian Nation advised the Court through a letter on November 30, 2010, that the Nation had, on November 29, 2010, passed a tribal declaration and ordinance waiving “its sovereign immunity to enforcement of real property taxation through foreclosure by state, county and local governments within and throughout the United States.” Oneida Indian Nation, Ordinance No. O-10-1 (2010). Petitioners Madison and Oneida Counties responded in a December 1, 2010 letter, questioning the validity, scope, and permanence of that waiver; the Nation addressed those concerns in a December 2, 2010 letter. 

We vacate the judgment and remand the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. That court should address, in the first instance, whether to revisit its ruling on sovereign immunity in light of this new factual development, and — if necessary — proceed to address other questions in the case consistent with its sovereign immunity ruling. See Kiyemba v. Obama, 559 U. S. ___ (2010) (per curiam).
https://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/desktop/document/Madison_County_v_Oneida_Indian_Nation_of_New_York_131_S_Ct_704_17?1559076324

CaseDate
U.S. v. Navajo NationApril 6, 2009

SUMMARY:

Issue: Whether the Courts prior decision in United States v. Navajo Nation (2003) foreclosed a finding that the government breached fiduciary duties in connection with Indian coal lease amendments.
JudgmentReversed and remanded, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia on April 6, 2009.

CaseDate
Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs March 31, 2009

SUMMARY:

Issue: Whether a 1993 congressional resolution requires Hawaii to reach a political settlement with native Hawaiians before transferring some 1.2 million acres of state land.
JudgmentReversed and remanded, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito on March 31, 2009.

CaseDate
Carcieri v. Salazar February 24, 2009

SUMMARY:

Issue: Whether the Narragansett Tribe may receive benefits under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 if the Tribe was not federally recognized on the date of enactment, and whether the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act foreclosed the Tribe’s right to exercise sovereignty over land in the state.
JudgmentReversed, 6-3, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas on February 24, 2009.


*Unless indicated otherwise, summaries are from Scotusblog.