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Supreme Court Docket: 2002-2003

Keeping cases out of the Supreme Court has been a primary goal of tribal leaders and Indian advocates. That changed this week with the decision to accept an appeal affecting state jurisdiction over tribal governments.

The dispute isn't the only one before the high court, though. A few other Indian law-related appeals have been lodged in the past couple of months. Here's a look at a few of them.

Non-Indian interests
A non-Indian company was rebuffed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year in an attempt to keep its hog farm operation on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation of South Dakota alive. Sun Prairie of Nebraska wants the Supreme Court to reverse the decision.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs had approved a lease for the hog farm. But former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover revoked it after he determined environmental studies weren't conducted properly.

Sun Prairie filed its petition for writ of certiorari on November 12. A response from the BIA is due December 15.

Outgoing Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb is a named defendant. The tribe was on the company's side up until recently and the current administration opposes the hog farm.

Decision Below:
ROSEBUD SIOUX TRIBE v. MCDIVITT, No. 00-2468 (8th Cir. April 05, 2002)

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 02-751

Relevant Links:
Rosebud Sioux Tribe -

Selected Stories:
Hog farm battle reaches Supreme Court (11/19)

Health care and sovereignty
Tribal nations were shut out of the 1998 $200 billion multi-state master settlement agreement (MSA) with tobacco companies. But with high rates of smoking and cancer among Indian people, tribes have sought their share, or a separate pot of funds, to combat the problem. None have been successful so far.

The latest is the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas, which has challenged America Tobacco Co. on a number of claims, including fraud, product liability negligence. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has issued a series of negative rulings against Texas tribes, denied the suit and the tribe has asked for a reversal.

The tribe filed a petition for writ of certiorari on November 12. A response from the company is due by December 14.

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 02-746

Selected Stories:
Tribal tobacco challenges dismissed (9/5)
Tribal challenge to big tobacco dismissed (7/17)

Environmental rights
The Bush administration is supporting an $8 billion plan to cleanup the Florida Everglades. But the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida and environmentalists say local managers are actually trying to pump polluted water into the treasured resource.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in February 2002 sided with the tribe and said the South Florida Water Management District has to comply with federal clean water law. The district says it doesn't have to obtain a federal permit and has asked the Supreme Court to reverse.

The district's petition for certiorari was filed on October 21. The Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative organization that has sided against tribes in other disputes, has filed an amicus brief urging reversal, as have other groups.

Decision Below:
MICCOSUKEE TRIBE OF INDIANS OF FLORIDA v. S. FLORIDA WATER MGMT. DIST., No. 00-15703 (11th Cir. February 01, 2002)

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 02-626

Relevant Links:
Miccosukee Tribe -

Selected Stories:
Fla. tribe happy with court ruling (2/5)
Fla. tribe wins Everglades suit (2/4)

Land claims
The United States is backing the Fort Mohave Tribe on a land claim affected by the Colorado River.

The tribe's reservation spans Arizona, California and Nevada. A portion is in dispute because the river has changed course and private landowners are now affected.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year said the U.S. and the tribe were entitled to another review of the lands. The decision reversed a federal judge who said the landowners had undisputed title.

A group of the landowners filed a petition for writ of certiorari on October 11 to reverse the 9th Circuit. Solicitor General waived a right to file a response brief and the case has been distributed for review on December 13, after which the Supreme Court will announce whether it will take the case or not.

Decision Below:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA v. BYRNE, No. 00-16008 (9th Cir. May 29, 2002)

Relevant Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 02-604

Relevant Links:
U.S. Supreme Court -

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