From the opinion, City of Pocatello v. Idaho et al.:
The City of Pocatello filed a claim in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA), asserting it had been granted a federal water right under an 1888 Congressional act. A special master in the SRBA determined that no such right existed. The district court affirmed on appeal, as does this Court.
Here is an audio file of the oral argument.
After the Supreme Court wiped out the $600 million judgment favoring the Navajo Nation against the United States in 2003, the Court remanded the case to allow the Nation to pursue the same judgment on different legal theories. So far, the Nation has been successful in the Federal Circuit, although the United States has petitioned the Federal Circuit for en banc review.
Here are the materials:
Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of claims by a class represented by Pearl Alvarado that they are entitled to membership in the Table Mountain Rancheria. The Ninth Circuit did not address the tribe’s claim of sovereign immunity, but instead ruled that the plaintiffs failed to establish subject matter jurisdiction.
The Cherokee Nation brought suit against the United States over the Arkansas River Navigation System, arguing that the government’s actions violated the “fair and honorable dealings” language of the Indian Claims Commission Act, 25 U.S.C. 70a. The Court denied the petition.
The cert pool memo in the case includes some of the most exasperated language from a clerk in any of the Indian law related cert pool memos in the Blackmun Digital Archive:
In providing for ‘claims based upon fair and honorable dealings that are not recognized by any existing rule of law or equity,’ [25 U.S.C. § 70a] Congress invited litigation on a potentially limitless class of so-called ‘moral’ claims against the govt. … But how’s a ct to tell when the govt has done something that, while permissible under law and equity, is nonetheless ‘unfair,’ ‘dishonorable,’ or ‘immoral?’ Over the years, the cts have tried to give shape to the inquiry by requiring a tribe asserting a moral claim to demonstrate a relevant ‘special relationship’ with the fed govt. Yes, as this case shows, that inquiry can be as amorphous as the one it’s supposed to clarify. Arguably, in the words of one judge, having a ‘special relationship’ w/ the govt means simply ‘that though there is no contract or treaty obligation, or formal trusteeship, honor may oblige the United States to take steps to protect Indians…. What honor requires depends on circumstances and will vary from case to case according to the conscience of the court.’ [United States v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York, 576 F.2d 870, 883 (Ct. Cl. 1978) (Nichols, J.).] Given the strangeness of the entire inquiry, one cannot easily evaluate either the merits or the certworthiness of petr’s claim.
Cert Pool Memo at 8-9, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma v. United States, 504 U.S 910 (1992) (No. 91-1354).
What’s even more interesting is the annotation added to the memo by Justice Blackmun’s clerk, who is identified as “NB”:
I would not want to see the Ct take this case. Because it is not one the Ct would handle well, it would likely declare the provision to be unenforceable. (Imagine the opn of Scalia, J.) I think in the long run your friends are best served by denying cert.
Id. at 11.