Judge Barbara Crabb Takes Senior Status

From Chicago Tribune:

MADISON, Wis. – U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb, whose rulings helped clear the way for the resumption of Chippewa off-reservation treaty rights in northern Wisconsin, announced Thursday she is retiring.

Crabb, appointed in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, said she will retire to senior status, allowing her to continue to hear some cases and clearing the way for President Barack Obama to appoint a replacement.

Crabb, 69, said the move provides a way to tackle the court’s increasing caseload without asking Congress to create a third judgeship.

“Given the nation’s current economic straits and the immediate needs of this court, I have decided after considerable reflection that this is the best course for all concerned,” Crabb said in a statement.

The Madison-based Crabb has been the lone judge for the Western District of Wisconsin since the retirement of John Shabaz in January.

The Federal Nominating Commission is considering 13 applicants to replace Shabaz. Once the president makes an appointment, it will be subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Crabb was instrumental in allowing the resumption of Indian spearfishing on off-reservation waters in northern Wisconsin. In the ancient practice, walleyes are speared at night as they go to the shallow waters to spawn.

In 1976, U.S. District Judge James Doyle Sr. of Madison ruled against the Chippewa claim to expanded hunting, fishing and gathering rights on off-reservation lands in the northern third of Wisconsin based on 1837 and 1842 treaties.

The Lac Courte Oreilles Chippewa band appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, which ruled in 1983 that the Chippewa retained the food-gathering rights in treaties that ceded millions of acres of northern Wisconsin to the government, even though the tribes had accepted reservations.

In 1990, Crabb ruled the “harvestable natural resources” in northern Wisconsin should be equally divided between Chippewa and non-Chippewa and the tribe and state were ordered to come up with a way to do it without harming the resources.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, northern boat landings used for spring spearfishing became the scene of angry protests by treaty-rights opponents fearing that spearfishing was ruining the fishery.

The protests sometimes escalated into incidents of racial taunts and rock-throwing. No one was seriously hurt but tensions forced dozens of law enforcement officers to guard the lakes.

Some protesters carried signs critical of Crabb.

In a civil rights lawsuit filed by the most active group of spearfishers, the Lac du Flambeau band, Crabb ruled that racial hatred of Indians motivated some of protesters and she ordered one of the leaders to pay $241,000 in legal costs to the tribe.

After Crabb’s ruling, the protests essentially ended by 1992.

One thought on “Judge Barbara Crabb Takes Senior Status

  1. Mike Elzey April 16, 2010 / 12:49 pm

    After her recent decision on National Prayer Day, she should be made Chief Justice.

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