National Congress of American Indians and Native American Rights Fund on President Obama’s Nomination of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States


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NCAI and NARF logos“Today, President Obama took an important step by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court,” said Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI).  “Supreme Court Justices are responsible for legal decisions affecting the lives of all Americans, and we strongly urge the Senate to move quickly to fulfill its constitutional duty by holding confirmation hearings.”

“American Indian and Alaska Native sovereign Nations are affected by the federal courts to a greater degree than almost any other group in the country.  For Native people, many issues of daily life are matters of federal law.  As the confirmation process advances, tribal leaders will be doing their job and taking a close look at the record of Judge Garland.  In February, NCAI’s Executive Committee passed a resolution calling on President Obama and the U.S. Senate to move expeditiously to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court so that the important work of the Court can continue without interruption; and urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to include in its confirmation proceedings a public discussion of the U.S. Constitution and its relationship to tribal self-government.”

John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund, offered the following assessment: “Chief Judge Garland appears to have a very limited record on Indian law issues.  We do know he voted against Indian interests in San Manuel v. National Labor Relations Board, a 2007 decision by the D.C. Circuit which held that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies to tribally-owned businesses located on Indian reservations.  This decision has led to continuing litigation by the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) against Indian tribes, and the possibility of labor strikes that would cripple tribal governmental functions.  For 70 years, the NLRA had been consistently interpreted to exempt all government entities from coverage, including Indian tribes.  The San Manuel decision truly undermined the ability of Indian tribes to be politically self-governing and economically self-sufficient.”

NCAI President Cladoosby concluded: “It is critical that the next Supreme Court Justice recognize and uphold tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and the federal trust responsibility. We urge the Senate to move forward with the process, to hold hearings, and to consider the record of Judge Garland.”