News Coverage of Wolfchild Cert Petition Denial

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune via Pechanga:

WASHINGTON – A bitter legal battle ended in defeat for some of the nation’s poorest Indians on Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their case for sharing the gambling wealth from the Mystic Lake and Treasure Island casinos near the Twin Cities.

The group, led by former Lower Sioux Community Chairman Sheldon Wolfchild, had petitioned the Supreme Court to review a federal appeals ruling that went against them last year.

Although some claims remain, the Supreme Court’s decision leaves intact a ruling that struck at the heart of Wolfchild’s case alleging that the federal government breached a 19th-century trust with the legitimate heirs of the Indian lands at Prior Lake and Prairie Island, where the casinos are located.

“It’s a grave injustice for the real Mdewakanton of Minnesota,” Wolfchild said.

Members of the tight-knit Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux (Dakota) Community, which runs Mystic Lake as part of a lucrative casino complex near Shakopee, have decried the lawsuit as a groundless money grab.

“This should be the end of a misguided effort to attack the three federally recognized Mdewakanton tribal governments in Minnesota,” said Shakopee Tribal Chairman Stanley Crooks, a distant relative of Wolfchild.

The case, which dates to 2003, is based on historical claims made by descendants of Mdewakanton Indians credited with helping white settlers during the 1862 Dakota rebellion in Minnesota.

Numbering more than 20,000 in the United States and Canada, the descendants laid claim to the proceeds of the lands that form part of the present-day Mystic Lake and Treasure Island casinos.

Some of those descendants, such as Wolfchild, hail from the Lower Sioux Community near Morton, Minn., site of the less profitable Jackpot Junction Casino.

Although many of Wolfchild’s backers across the nation had their eyes on the riches of the casinos near the Twin Cities, their suit sought damages from the U.S. government, not the Shakopee and Prairie Island tribal governments, which were set up in 1980.

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Supreme Court Grants Cert in United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation

This morning, the Supreme Court agreed to decide United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation (No. 09-846). The Court denied cert. in the Wolfchild/Zephier petitions. Here is the order list.

Here are the questions presented in Tohono O’odham (and the petition):

Under 28 U.S.C. 1500, the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) does not have jurisdiction over “any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff *** has *** any suit or process against the United States” or its agents “pending in any other court.” The question presented is:

Whether 28 U.S.C. 1500 deprives the CFC of jurisdiction over a claim seeking monetary relief for the government’s alleged violation of fiduciary obligations if the plaintiff has another suit pending in federal district court based on substantially the same operative facts, especially when the plaintiff seeks monetary relief or other overlapping relief in the two suits.

Government’s Cert Opposition Brief in Wolfchild/Zephier

Here: US Cert Opposition

This petition (materials in Wolfchild here, and in Zephier here) has gotten some attention based on the fact that the United States originally chose not to file a cert opp brief, but the Supreme Court called for a response, indicating at least the possibility that the Court is interested. Still fairly remote though….

Zephier v. United States Cert Petition re: Mdewakanton Sioux Claims

Here — Zephier v United States Cert Petition

Questions presented:

1. Whether the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals erred in failing to recognize the existence of a trust corpus in property and beneficiary rights for and on behalf of the lineal descendants of the Loyal Mdewakantons, from the March 3, 1863 Act and that the existing trust corpus was intended to be implemented and enhanced by the subsequent legislation found in the Appropriations Acts of 1888, 1889, 1890 and 1980.

2. Whether the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals erred in not applying the doctrine of judicial estoppel as set forth in New Hampshire v. Maine, 532 U.S. 742 (2001) and thus allowed the United States to argue the existence of a trust and obtain a favorable result in the Eighth Circuit, Cermak v. United States, 478 F.3d 953 (8th Cir. 2007) and to argue the lack of a trust and obtain a favorable result in the Federal Circuit, Wolfchild v. United States, 559 F.3d 1228 (Fed. Cir. 2009), thereby creating a split in the Circuits.

The Wolfchild cert petition is here.