Description: Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in Arizona v. Navajo Nation, a case that pertains to the Navajo Nation’s claims to water rights in the mainstem of the Colorado River and the United States’ trust obligation to assess and assert those rights under the Court’s more-than-century-old Winters doctrine. Although this current case ostensibly relates to one Tribe’s rights to one specific water source, the forthcoming Supreme Court ruling could have ripple effects for Native Nations across the United States as they seek to assert, quantify, and settle their water rights in ongoing adjudications nationwide. Join law professors Heather Whiteman Runs Him (University of Arizona), Derrick Beetso (Arizona State University), and Heather Tanana (University of Utah) for a discussion about the Arizona v. Navajo Nation oral arguments, the potentially wide-ranging implications of the case, and their work on the amicus briefs they coauthored and submitted to the Court, during this free virtual event sponsored by the ABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources’ (SEER) Native American Resources Committee and Water Resources Committee.
Whether the federal government owes the Navajo Nation an affirmative, judicially enforceable fiduciary duty to assess and address the Navajo Nation’s need for water from particular sources, in the absence of any substantive source of law that expressly establishes such a duty.
Here is the petition and the partial acquiescence by Justice in Arizona v. Navajo Nation:
I. Does the Ninth Circuit Opinion, allowing the Nation to proceed with a claim to enjoin the Secretary to develop a plan to meet the Nation’s water needs and manage the mainstream of the LBCR so as not to in- terfere with that plan, infringe upon this Court’s re- tained and exclusive jurisdiction over the allocation of water from the LBCR mainstream in Arizona v. California? II. Can the Nation state a cognizable claim for breach of trust consistent with this Court’s holding in Jicarilla based solely on unquantified implied rights to water under the Winters Doctrine?
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