All documents here. Oral arguments are on Wednesday. The Court releases a recording of the arguments which we will publish when available.
Principle Supplemental Briefs:
Amicus Briefs pro-ICWA:
Amicus Briefs anti-ICWA
Tribal Intervenor Statement here:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 7, 2019
Contact: Tania Mercado firstname.lastname@example.org
Native American Tribes Continue to Stand with Indian Children and Families Following Court Decision to Rehear Fifth Circuit Case
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., Morongo Band of Mission Indians Chairman Robert Martin, Oneida Nation Chairman Tehassi Hill and Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp issued the following statement in response to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision to rehear a challenge to the Indian Child Welfare Act en banc:
“We never want to go back to the days when Indian children were ripped away from their families and stripped of their heritage. We continue to believe that the Fifth Circuit decision affirming the constitutionality of ICWA was the right decision. While it is unfortunate that the attacks on this critical law continue, we are confident that the court will once again uphold the constitutionality of ICWA, as courts have repeatedly done over the past 40 years. ICWA provides a process for determining the best interests of Indian children in the adoption and foster care systems, which is why it is overwhelmingly supported across the political spectrum. We remain devoted in our efforts to defend ICWA because our number one priority remains fighting for the wellbeing, health and safety of children and families.”
In 2017, individual plaintiffs Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, a couple from Texas, along with the state attorneys general in Texas, Louisiana, and Indiana, sued the U.S. Department of the Interior and its now-former Secretary Ryan Zinke to challenge ICWA. The Morongo, Quinault, Oneida and Cherokee tribes intervened as defendants in the case Brackeen v. Bernhardt.
In October 2018, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas struck down much of ICWA. Defendants appealed the lower court’s decision and asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the decision. Last December, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay requested by the defendants, putting a hold on the ruling. In March 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from plaintiffs and defendants in the Brackeen case.
On August 9, 2019, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Indian Child Welfare Act is constitutional and serves the best interests of children and families. On October 1, 2019, plaintiffs in Brackeen v. Bernhardt chose to continue their attacks on Indian children and tribal families and requested an en banc rehearing before the Fifth Circuit.
There is broad, bipartisan support against this misguided attack on a law that is crucial for protecting the well-being of Indian children and Indian sovereignty. A total of 21 attorneys general, representing a broad range of states, filed an amicus brief in support of the defendants, arguing that ICWA is an appropriate exercise of Congress’s authority to legislate in the field of Indian affairs and does not violate the Tenth Amendment or equal protection laws. The Trump administration has also reiterated its support for ICWA, tribal sovereignty and the safety of Indian children.
An additional 325 tribes, 57 tribal organizations, members of Congress, Indian law and constitutional law scholars, and 30 leading child welfare organizations have also filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the defendants.
For additional information on this case and the Indian Child Welfare Act please visit: http://www.ProtectIndianKids.com.
Here is Quileute & Quinault’s response, addressing issues such as whether the Stevens treaties must be read together, the meaning of “fish” and whether U&As are species-specific, the proper use of the canons of construction, and what we know of the treaty negotiations at issue here.
Previous coverage here.
Here is the opinion in In re Tam:
Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act bars the Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) from registering scandalous, immoral, or disparaging marks. 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a). The government enacted this law—and defends it today— because it disapproves of the messages conveyed by disparaging marks. It is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment that the government may not penalize private speech merely because it disapproves of the message it conveys. That principle governs even when the government’s message-discriminatory penalty is less than a prohibition.
Courts have been slow to appreciate the expressive power of trademarks. Words—even a single word—can be powerful. Mr. Simon Shiao Tam named his band THE SLANTS to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in this country. With his band name, Mr. Tam conveys more about our society than many volumes of undisputedly protected speech. Another rejected mark, STOP THE ISLAMISATION OF AMERICA, proclaims that Islamisation is undesirable and should be stopped. Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities. But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech.
The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks. It cannot refuse to register marks because it concludes that such marks will be disparaging to others. The government regulation at issue amounts to viewpoint discrimination, and under the strict scrutiny review appropriate for government regulation of message or viewpoint, we conclude that the disparagement proscription of § 2(a) is unconstitutional. Because the government has offered no legitimate interests justifying § 2(a), we conclude that it would also be unconstitutional under the intermediate scrutiny traditionally applied to regulation of the commercial aspects of speech.
The Indian Major Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1153, makes it a federal crime for an “Indian” to commit any one of thirteen enumerated acts in “Indian country.” In this case, the en banc Ninth Circuit held that an element of the offense in prosecutions under this statute is proof that the defendant has “Indian blood,” whether or not that blood tie is to a federally recognized tribe. The question presented is:
Whether, as construed by the Ninth Circuit, Section 1153 impermissibly discriminates on the basis of race.
The Ninth Circuit agreed with the district court’s findings that at the time of first contact with Europeans, the Chugach were a culturally, ethnically and linguistically related people who had made actual and continuous use and occupancy of an area of the Outer Continental Shelf for a long time. The courts also agreed there was no evidence that others used the area, except for the periphery. Based on these showings by the Chugach, did the Ninth Circuit err in concluding that the exclusive use required to establish aboriginal title was defeated by a failure to demonstrate an ability to expel a hypothetical invader, by other groups’ use of the periphery of the Chugach territory, and by the fact that the Chugach villages were politically independent?
Lower court materials here.
Here is the opinion: Sun Bear v. United States CA8 Opinion
The court split 6-5, possibly inspiring Supreme Court review.
Here is an excerpt from the majority:
Marlon Dale Sun Bear pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of his uncle in Indian country. At sentencing, the district court departed upward three levels based upon Sun Bear’s extensive and violent criminal history, resulting in a sentencing range of 292 to 365 months in prison under the then-mandatory Sentencing Guidelines. The court further ruled that Sun Bear’s prior felony convictions for attempted escape, attempted theft of a vehicle, and attempted burglary of a commercial building were “crimes of violence” under U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2(a), resulting in a career offender enhancement that increased the guidelines range to 360 months to life. The court sentenced Sun Bear as a career offender to 360 months in prison. Sun Bear appealed, arguing that he should not have been sentenced as a career offender because his three prior felonies were not crimes of violence. We affirmed, concluding that he was properly sentenced as a career offender because, although the attempted escape offense was not proved to be a felony, the felony convictions for attempted auto theft and attempted burglary constituted two crimes of violence
warranting the career offender enhancement. United States v. Sun Bear, 307 F.3d 747, 753 (8th Cir. 2002) (Sun Bear I), cert. denied, 539 U.S. 916 (2003).