Indian Law Bulletins  |  U.S. Supreme Court  |  Current 2014-2015 Term

News Related to the Current Supreme Court Term


Supreme Court cases impacting Native Americans

2014-2015 Supreme Court Term
October 2014 - July 2015)

Last Updated: 9/19/14

Please alert us to any cases we may have missed from the U.S. Supreme Court.

See also the website for the Tribal Supreme Court Project for cases related to Native American law.

A note about links used in this document

Blue links are to free materials on the internet.

Green links are to Westlaw, for the convenience of those who have a Westlaw account.

Please contact the National Indian Law Library if you need help obtaining legal documents.

The National Indian Law Library and Native American Rights Fund are not affiliated with Westlaw. See www.westlaw.com for more information about the Westlaw legal databases.

* Issues and holdings are provided under an agreement BNA, Inc. www.bna.com

See Cases by Status

Cases Decided

Currently, no Native American law cases has been decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2014-2015 term.



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Petition for certiorari granted

Currently, no pending Native American law cases have been granted review for the 2014-2015 term.


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Petition for certiorari pending

Currently, 5 petitions for writs of certiorari are pending in the 2014-2015 term.


Hicks v. Hudson Insurance Company
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 14-283

*Issues: Is an insurance company doing business with a federally recognized American Indian Tribe entitled to sovereign immunity for the acts and omissions it takes in furtherance of the business of insurance?

History: Petition was filed on 9/03/14.

*Holding Below: A writ of mandamus is issued, requiring the district court to dismiss the underlying case in its entirety. Defendant insurance company is entitled to sovereign immunity.

Dollar General Corporation v. Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-1496

*Issues: Do Indian tribal courts have jurisdiction to adjudicate civil tort claims against nonmenbers, including as a means of regulating the conduct of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with a tribe or its members?

History: Petition was filed on 6/12/14.

*Holding Below: Dolgencorp, Inc. v. the Mississippi Band of Chocktaw Indians, 746 F.3d 167. This court affirms the district court's judgment that the corporation's consensual relationship with John Doe gives rise to tribal court jurisdiction over Doe's tort claims under Montana v. United States, 450 U.S. 544 (1981). In Montana, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that a tribe may regulate the activities of nonmembers who enter into consensual relationships with the tribe or its members through commercial dealing, contracts, leases or other arrangements. It is surely within the tribe's regulatory authority to insist that a child working for a local business not be sexually assaulted by the employees of the business. The fact that the regulation takes the form of a tort duty that may be vindicated by individual tribe members in tribal court makes no difference.

Marcussen v. Burwell
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-1447

*Issues: (1) Should the Rooker-Feldman doctrine be overruled for denying all judicial relief by removing the subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear any civil action brought against federally mandated statutes enforced in state courts? (2) Does Congress have the authority to adopt laws intended to be primarily of exclusively enforced in the state courts?

History: Petition was filed on 6/04/14.

*Holding Below: The order of the district court, dismissing plaintiff attorney's case under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine as a collateral attack on a state court judgment, is affirmed. The questions raised in the appeal, attacking the doctrine and Congress's authority, are insubstantial.

Knight v. Thompson
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-955

*Issues: (from the petition for certiorari) Whether RLUIPA requires that prison officials actually consider and demonstrate a sufficient basis for rejecting widely accepted accommodations to traditional religious practices as part of their burden of proving that they have chosen the “least restrictive means” of furthering their asserted governmental interests.

History: Petition was filed on 2/06/14.

*Holding Below: Knight v. Thompson. 723 F.3d. 837. (from Westlaw) The Court of Appeals, Schlesinger, District Judge, sitting by designation, held that: 1) policy furthered compelling governmental interests in security and discipline, and 2) policy was least-restrictive means of furthering those interests.

Yowell v. Abbey
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 13-1049

*Issues: (1) Did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit err in assuming facts not in evidence and finding that Yowell's cattle grazing ranges encompassed by the 1941 proclamation regarding the South Fork Indian Reservation were subject to Bureau of Land Management grazing regulations? (2) Did the Ninth Circuit err when it concluded that the BLM regulations and management applied to the ranges encompassed by the proclamation regarding the South Fork Indian Reservation? (3) Is Yowell's Article 6 treaty guaranteed vested right a clearly established federal right? (4) Are the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unwarranted seizure of property and the Fifth and 14th Amendment guarantees of due process clearly established federal rights held by Yowell? (5) Did the Ninth Circuit err when they assumed facts not in evidence and held that the duty was discretionary and that the state defendants followed the applicable brand inspection procedures? (6) Did the Ninth Circuit err when it did not consider the factual allegations in the Yowell complaint to be true?

History: Petition was filed on 1/17/14.

*Holding Below: Yowell v. Abbey, 532 Fed.Appx. 708. The district court abused its discretion in requiring the Bureau of Land Management to withdraw its certification of Yowell's debt to the Treasury Department. The district court failed to identify and apply the correct standard for granting an injunction. The district court erred in denying the federal defendants' motion to dismiss and motion for reconsideration, because under Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), no action may lie against federal agencies like the Treasury Department, and no Bivens action may lie against federal officials for “strictly enforcing rules against trespass or conditions on grazing permits.” Qualified immunity applied here because Yowell failed to establish that the state defendants either failed to follow the applicable state law, which thereby caused him to be deprived of a clearly established federal right, or that the state law was itself “patently violative of fundamental constitutional principles.”


Petition for certiorari denied

Currently, no petitions for writs of certiorari have been denied in the 2014-2015 term.



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