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Federal Indian Law: Judicial Developments in the October 2018 Supreme Court Term

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Each term, the Supreme Court typically hears arguments in one or more cases concerning the rights and status of Indian tribes and their members. Prominent issues addressed by the Supreme Court in recent terms have included (1) tribes' civil jurisdiction over nonmembers, (2) the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, and (3) termination of Indian parents' rights in adoption ca Each term, the Supreme Court typically hears arguments in one or more cases concerning the rights and status of Indian tribes and their members. Prominent issues addressed by the Supreme Court in recent terms have included (1) tribes' civil jurisdiction over nonmembers, (2) the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, and (3) termination of Indian parents' rights in adoption cases. The October 2018 term likewise featured several Indian law issues: the Court heard arguments in three significant cases, each of which implicated the complex relationships among tribal, state, and federal laws. In Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, the Court upheld a Washington Supreme Court decision permitting a tribe to import fuel without paying state fuel taxes. The right to travel on public highways guaranteed by an 1855 treaty, the Court ruled, included the right to transport goods for sale on the reservation without paying additional taxes to do so. In Herrera v. Wyoming, the Court determined that neither Wyoming's admission into the Union nor the designation of the Bighorn National Forest abrogated an earlier treaty preserving tribal hunting rights. Thus, a tribe member's conviction for exercising those hunting rights in violation of Wyoming state law could not stand. Finally, in Carpenter v. Murphy, the Court reviewed whether Congress disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) reservation more than a century ago, with potential consequences for Oklahoma's ability to prosecute major crimes in the eastern half of the state. However, the eight Justices considering this case have not yet reached a decision, and the case is scheduled to be reargued in the October 2019 Supreme Court term.


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Each term, the Supreme Court typically hears arguments in one or more cases concerning the rights and status of Indian tribes and their members. Prominent issues addressed by the Supreme Court in recent terms have included (1) tribes' civil jurisdiction over nonmembers, (2) the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, and (3) termination of Indian parents' rights in adoption ca Each term, the Supreme Court typically hears arguments in one or more cases concerning the rights and status of Indian tribes and their members. Prominent issues addressed by the Supreme Court in recent terms have included (1) tribes' civil jurisdiction over nonmembers, (2) the scope of tribal sovereign immunity, and (3) termination of Indian parents' rights in adoption cases. The October 2018 term likewise featured several Indian law issues: the Court heard arguments in three significant cases, each of which implicated the complex relationships among tribal, state, and federal laws. In Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, the Court upheld a Washington Supreme Court decision permitting a tribe to import fuel without paying state fuel taxes. The right to travel on public highways guaranteed by an 1855 treaty, the Court ruled, included the right to transport goods for sale on the reservation without paying additional taxes to do so. In Herrera v. Wyoming, the Court determined that neither Wyoming's admission into the Union nor the designation of the Bighorn National Forest abrogated an earlier treaty preserving tribal hunting rights. Thus, a tribe member's conviction for exercising those hunting rights in violation of Wyoming state law could not stand. Finally, in Carpenter v. Murphy, the Court reviewed whether Congress disestablished the Muscogee (Creek) reservation more than a century ago, with potential consequences for Oklahoma's ability to prosecute major crimes in the eastern half of the state. However, the eight Justices considering this case have not yet reached a decision, and the case is scheduled to be reargued in the October 2019 Supreme Court term.

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