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focus.xslfocusprint.xslSupreme Court docket shaping up 6/4/03

The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a number of controversial topicsas it wraps up its annual term. Decisionson affirmativeaction, gay rights and Internet pornography laws areheavily anticipated before the justices go into recess at the endof this month.

There won't be any Indian law decisions among the bunch. But thereare some cases the justices are being asked to consider inthe coming months on topics like land claims, treaty rightsand taxation. Here's a review of some of the cases pendingbefore the court.

Environmental Rights

A battle between the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida and state water managershas been in limbo for more than a year. The tribe won a decisionat the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, requiring the state to complywith federal clean water laws when pumping water into the Everglades.

The South Florida Water Management District last September asked theSupreme Court to review the case but the justices held off in orderto receive views from the U.S. They finally got it last week,when Solicitor General Ted Olson submitted a brief backing the tribe.

According to law scholars, the Department of Justice's views tendto influence the court's thinking on the case. With that in hand,the justices will soon decide whether to review the battle,one of many in the $8 billion Everglades cleanup effort.

The petition for a writ of certiorari in South Florida Water Management District v. Miccosukee Tribe , No. 02-626, was filed October 21, 2002. The tribe and Friends of the Everglades, an environmental group, responded November 25, 2002. Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative legal group that has represented non-Indian challenges to tribal authority and is involved in the Klamath River Basin litigation, has filed a friend of the court brief siding with the water district.

Miccosukee Tribe v. South Florida Water Management District, No. 00-15703 Docket Sheet: No. 02-626Judge to appoint special master in Everglades suit (6/4)DOJ brief backs tribe in Everglades cleanup suit (6/2)
Land Dispute

Who owns the land around Lake Havasu? According to the federal government,the Chemehuevi Tribe does. According to most everyone else,the federal government does.

So goes the long-running saga between the tribe and non-Indians whosay the boundaries of the Chemehuevi Reservation were wrongfully changed.At issue in the the latest dispute, which dates to the 1940s, iswhether the tribe can evict non-Indians from cabins located on landleased from the tribe.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, in an unpublished decision, tossed the suit challenging the eviction. The non-Indians filed a petition for writ of certiorari on February 21. The tribe responded April 21 and the Department of Justice, on behalf of Secretary of Interior Gale Norton, responded May 21.

Docket Sheet: No. 02-1393 Department of Justice Brief

Self-determination has been the policy of the U.S. since the Nixonera and tribes have embraced it. But tribes often complain that federalagencies don't provide enough funds to administer programs.

So the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Tribe of Nevada,supported by various other tribes in amicus briefs,are suing the Department of Health and Human Services in hopes of obtaining"direct and indirect expense" costs associated with operating the programs.But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last November ruled against the tribes andsaid it's up to the federal government to decide how much money to distribute.

The tribes filed a petition for certiorari on April 3. The Department ofJustice has been given until June 6 to respond.

Cherokee Nation v. Thompson, No. 01-7106 Docket Sheet: No. 02-1472 Court rebuffs tribes on contract funding dispute (11/27)

Last September, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Kip R. Ramsey,a member of the Yakama Nation of Washington who owns a logging company.The unanimous ruling said the IRS can impose heavy vehicle and diesel fuel taxeson tribal members, rejecting arguments that an 1855 treaty protectedthe rights of individual Indians.

Having paid nearly $500,000 in taxes to the IRS, Ramsey is challengingthe lower court ruling. He filed a petitionfor certiorari on April 22. The Department of Justice has been givenuntil June 26 to file a response.

Ramsey v. U.S., No. 01-35014 Docket Sheet: No. 02-1547 Court: Tribal members must pay federal tax (09/12)
Treaty Rights

An attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation is representinga non-Indian in a challenge to the state of Montana's huntingregulations, which prohibit non-Indians from hunting big gameon the state's reservations

After shooting and killing a whitetail buck on private propertywithin the Flathead Reservation, Sandra Shook pleaded guilty in statecourt to violating the ban. She then took her case tothe courts, charging that the state's regulations violatethe the U.S. Constitution and are unlawful.

The Montana Supreme Court last December upheld the ban in a unanimous decision.The court rejected Shook's constituional claim and said tribal treatiesauthorized the state to issue hunting regulations

Shook filed the petition for certiorari on May 9.The state of Montana has been given until July 28 to respond.

When the case was argued at the Montana Supreme Court, the FlatheadNation and theMontana-Wyoming Tribal Judges Association filed amicus briefs.

State v. Shook, No. 99-608Docket Sheet: No. 02-1658 Case Documents: State v. Shook