Diane Humetewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe, is the first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge. Photo from Arizona State University

Diane Humetewa not under consideration for Supreme Court seat

President Barack Obama appeared eager on Thursday to announce his pick for the U.S. Supreme Court but a short-list that's been widely cited in the media does not include anyone from Indian Country.

More specifically, the list of five potential candidates does not include Diane Humetewa, a member of the Hopi Tribe. She is the first Native American woman to serve as a federal judge and was nominated by Obama for the district court in Arizona, her home state.

Still, Obama could make history with the other jurists reportedly under consideration. Ketanji Brown Jackson of the federal court in Washington, D.C. would be the first African American woman justice and Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals would be the first one of Indian descent if the list represents the true thinking of the White House.

Both the federal court in D.C. and the D.C. Circuit hear a significant number of Indian law cases. Jackson, for example, presided over a federal recognition lawsuit filed by the Mackinac Tribe of Michigan.

Obama, however, faces intense opposition from Republicans in the Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee held a business meeting on Thursday and its GOP members reiterated their intent to block his pick.

President Barack Obama holds a baby as he and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada greet the audience after reviewing the troops during the State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, March 10, 2016. Photo by Pete Souza / White House

"I think it’s important for me to nominate a Supreme Court nominee quickly because I think it’s important for the Supreme Court to have its full complement of justices," Obama said at a press conference in the Rose Garden, where he appeared with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday. "I don’t feel constrained in terms of the pool to draw from or that I’m having to take shortcuts in terms of the selection and vetting process."

The Supreme Court has a record four Indian law cases currently on the docket. The justices already issued a decision in Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. US, a contract support costs case, in January. The unanimous ruling went against the Menominee Nation in a dispute over contract support costs at the Indian Health Service.

A decision is pending in Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a tribal jurisdiction case whose outcome will determine whether the courts of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians can hear a lawsuit against a non-Indian who is accused of abusing a minor on the reservation. Arguments were heard on December 7, 2015, prior to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.

Also pending is Nebraska v. Parker, a reservation diminishment case involving the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska. The court heard arguments on January 20.

Both cases could be decided with just eight justices. Prior to Scalia's death, the Mississippi Choctaw case appeared to be tough to call while the Nebraska appeared to go well for the Omaha Tribe.

Oral arguments have been scheduled in US v. Bryant for April 19. The domestic violence case is being watched closely by Native women and their advocates,

Petitions are pending in 11 other Indian law cases, according to the Tribal Supreme Court Project, a joint initiative of the Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians. The court can still decide whether to accept more cases with just eight members.

Get the Story:
Obama signals Supreme Court announcement could come soon (AP 3/10)
Grassley: ‘All the spin in the world’ won’t get Supreme Court nominee confirmed (The Washington Post 3/10)
Obama Is Eager to Nominate a Justice, but Timeline Is Unclear (The New York Times 3/11)
Senate Republicans Stand by Refusal to Consider Any Supreme Court Nominee (The New York Times 3/11)

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