State v. Norton

In 2005, the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging a federal agency final rule implementing the mandate in a prior Alaska Native subsistence case, John v. United States. The prior case, in which NARF represented Katie John, an Alaska Native, established that the United States must protect subsistence uses of fisheries in navigable waters where the United States possesses a reserved water right. In this new lawsuit, the State challenges the Federal agencies’ implementation of the mandate by arguing that the reserved waters doctrine requires a quantification of waters necessary to fulfill specific purposes. Katie John moved for limited intervention for purposes of filing a motion to dismiss for failure to join an indispensable party. The United States’ request to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska was granted.  The case was then consolidated with John v. Norton (below). The issues in the two cases were bifurcated for briefing with the State’s claims addressed first. In 2007 the court upheld the agency’s rule making process identifying navigable waters in Alaska that fall within federal jurisdiction for purposes of federal subsistence priority.

Read More: Preserve Tribal Existence, Protect Tribal Natural Resources