San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Continues Support for Tribal Supreme Court Project


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In 2016, the San Manuel Band of Missions Indians, located near Highland, California, awarded the Native American Rights Fund a three-year grant of $600,000 for the Tribal Supreme Court Project, which it has supported since 2005.  The generous support from the Tribe allows NARF to dedicate a full-time attorney and support staff to the Project, which continues to:

  • track cases, in state and federal appellate courts, that may impact tribal sovereignty and have the potential to reach the US Supreme Court;
  • monitor petitions and cases the Supreme Court has accepted for review that may impact tribal sovereignty; and
  • support Indian interests in Indian law cases before the US Supreme Court, develop amicus strategy and coordinate the filing of amicus briefs.

The Project has established a large network of attorneys who specialize in practice before the Supreme Court as well as attorneys and law professors who specialize in federal Indian law and other relevant areas of law. The Native American Rights Fund and the National Congress of American Indians jointly staff the Tribal Supreme Court Project.  The Project makes case documents and other materials available at its website (https://sct.narf.org/).

During the period of this three-year grant, review by the United States Supreme Court was sought in sixty-one cases involving Indian tribes or Indian law. Seven of those cases were ultimately heard and decided by the Court. The Project’s assistance included coordinating forty-one amicus briefs supporting tribal interests before the Court as well as strategic consulting and moot courts.

NARF Senior Staff Attorney Joel Williams explains, “The US Supreme Court has always had an enormous impact on Tribal Nations and their citizens. It is crucially important we have a coordinated and structured approach to Indian law cases at the US Supreme Court. NARF is honored to provide monitoring, coordination, analysis, and support for cases that have wide-reaching impacts in Indian Country. We are thankful for the San Manuel Band’s continuing support for the project and for their partnership in standing for justice.”

The work of the Tribal Supreme Court Project is to support foundational principles of Indian law and shed light on the unique challenges facing tribal governments.