Rhode Island appeals land-into-trust ruling
Friday, October 19, 2007
The state of Rhode Island is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a land-into-trust case that is being watched by tribes nationwide.
In July, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Bureau of Indian Affairs can place 31 acres in trust for the Narragansett Tribe. The tribe is like any other tribe and can follow the Indian Reorganization Act, which authorized the land-into-trust process, the court said.
As I will argue in my forthcoming article, “Factbound and Splitless: An Empirical Study of the Impact of the Certiorari Process on Federal Indian Law,” the Supreme Court is unlikely to grant cert. in this case for two important reasons. First, there is no circuit split (“splitless”). What that means is that the federal courts of appeal that have addressed the question of the constitutionality of the fee to trust process (25 U.S.C. § 465) — the 8th Circuit in South Dakota v. Kempthorne, the 10th Circuit in Utah v. Shivwits, and the 11th Circuit in Roberts v. U.S., are examples — have held (just as the 1st Circuit did here) that the statute is constitutional.
Second, this case involves the muddying aspects of the Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act and how it affects the application of § 465, rendering this case a bit messy as a factual matter (“factbound”). If this was a straight-up interpretation of § 465 without the Settlement Act’s application, the Court would be more likely to grant cert (although, without a split, not so much). In short, this case implicates a relatively small number of tribes (those Rhode Island tribes).
Carcieri v. Kempthorne (July 20, 2007)
Earlier 1st Circuit Decision:
Carcieri v. Norton (February 9, 2005)
Carcieri v. Norton Briefs, Opinions (NARF-NCAI Tribal Supreme Court Project
Rhode Island Indian Claims Settlement Act (US Code)