2019-20 Term
Supreme Court Cases Related to Indian Law

Last Updated: 9/04/19

Cert Granted

One case from the 2018-2019 term was slated for reargument in the 2019-2020 term. Zero petitions for certiorari have been granted in Indian law-related cases.

Cert Pending

Petitions for certiorari are pending in three Indian law-related cases.

Cert Denied

Petition for certiorari has been denied in zero Indian law-related cases.

Cert Granted

Carpenter v. Murphy
Briefs, Pleadings and Oral Argument
Docket No. 17-1107

Questions Presented: Whether the 1866 territorial boundaries of the Creek Nation within the former Indian Territory of eastern Oklahoma constitute an “Indian reservation” today under 18 U.S.C. § 1151(a).

History: Petition was filed on 2/6/18. Petition was granted on 5/21/18. Case was restored to the calendar for reargument in the 2019-2020 term.

Ruling below: Murphy v. Royal, 866 F.3d 1164. The Court of Appeals, Matheson, Circuit Judge, held that: 1) prisoner's claim was governed by clearly established federal law; 2) Oklahoma state appellate court rendered merits decision on prisoner's claim that state court lacked jurisdiction because crime occurred on Indian land; 3) Oklahoma state appellate court's decision was contrary to clearly established federal law; and 4 )Congress did not disestablish Indian reservation, and thus Oklahoma state court lacked jurisdiction to prosecute defendant for murder that occurred on reservation. Reversed and remanded

Related News Stories: Attorneys respond to Supreme Court's questions about Murphy case (The Journal Record) 12/28/18, Casinos on every corner? No! How Carpenter v. Murphy affects tribal sovereignty (Indian Country Today) 12/20/18, On fear, parades of horribles, and emotionally potent oversimplifications in tribal rights litigation (Turtle Talk) 12/18/1, Could half of Oklahoma end up under Native American jurisidiction? (VOA) 12/10/18, Tribal officials discuss ramifications of Murphy case (Tahlequah Daily Press) 11/30/18, Supreme Court decision could restore millions of acres to Muscogee Creek Nation (The Norman Transcript) 11/23/18, Supreme Court opens new term with major Indian law cases on docket (Indianz) 10/1/18, Muscogee Nation clashes with state in reservation boundary dispute (Indianz) 5/21/18, Trump administration sides with industry in reservation boundary case (Indianz) 4/3/18, Appeals court won't revist historic decision in Muscogee Nation boundary case (Indianz) 11/9/17.


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Cert Pending

California Trout v. Hoopa Valley Tribe
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 19-257

Questions Presented: Do states waive their authority under section 401 of the Clean Water Act if they do not approve or deny a certification request within one year, even when an applicant withdraws and resubmits the request before that one year ends?

History: Petition was filed on 8/26/19.

Ruling Below: Hoopa Valley Tribe v. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 2019 WL 3958147. The Court of Appeals, Sentelle, Senior Circuit Judge, held that: (1) California and Oregon had not waived their water quality certification authority under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act, and (2) PacifiCorp had diligently prosecuted its relicensing application for the Klamath Hydroelectric Project. Rehearing en banc denied.

Oglala Sioux Tribe, et al. v. Fleming
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 18-1245

Questions Presented: Whether the Eighth Circuit erred in holding, in conflict with decisions of this Court and three other courts of appeals, that the possibility of filing a separate mandamus action was in and of itself “sufficient” to provide an “adequate opportunity” requiring Younger abstention, where plaintiffs had no opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the preliminary hearing procedure in the course of the state’s abuse and neglect proceedings? Whether the court of appeals erred in holding, in conflict with three courts of appeals, that the “extraordinary circumstances” exception to Younger abstention applies only to flagrantly and patently unconstitutional statutes, but not to flagrantly and patently unconstitutional policies, and in concluding that separating children from their parents for sixty days with no notice or opportunity to be heard inflicted no irreparable harm?

History: Petition was filed on 3/4/19.

Ruling below: Oglala Sioux Tribe v. Fleming. 904 F.3d 603.The Court of Appeals, Colloton, Circuit Judge, held that: 1) Younger abstention was warranted, and 2) exception to Younger abstention for patently unconstitutional actions did not apply. Vacated and remanded.

Buchwald Capital Advisors LLC v. Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians
Briefs and Pleadings
Docket No. 18-1218

Question Presented: Whether the Bankruptcy Code abrogates the sovereign immunity of Indian tribes.

History: Petition was filed on 3/19/19.

Ruling below: In re Greektown Holdings, LLC. 917 F.3d 451. The Court of Appeals, Clay, Circuit Judge, held that: 1) Congress did not unequivocally express intent to abrogate Indian tribe's sovereign immunity from cause of action by litigation trustee in strong-arm capacity to set aside allegedly fraudulent prepetition transfers made by Chapter 11 debtor to tribe; 2) while tribal sovereign immunity could be waived by litigation conduct, it could not be waived by the litigation conduct, not of tribe, but of tribe’s alleged alter ego or agent; and 3) litigation conduct of filing bankruptcy petition does not waive tribal sovereign immunity as to a separate, adversarial fraudulent transfer avoidance claim. Affirmed.

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Cert Denied


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