Supreme Court to Indians: Drop dead!

From Robert J. Miller’s Native America blog: The U.S. Supreme Court now finds in favor of American Indian appellants in only 20 percent of cases, compared to 58 percent before the 1986 appointment of Antonin Scalia and elevation of William Rehnquist to chief justice. Rehnquist retired in 2004, but the high court remains a tough venue for Indian appellants.

In the most recent Indian-related case (Carcieri v. Salazar [PDF]), the court found that the Secretary of Interior may only hold lands in trust for an Indian tribe if that tribe was recognized by the federal government by 1934! The justices accomplished this feat of from-the-bench legislating, which overturned the finding of two lower courts, by a pedantic reading of the Indian Reorganization Act so as to limit the scope of that FDR-era law as much as possible.

This court has found more merit in the appeals of convicts than in those coming from Indians: Criminal defendants have won 34 percent of their appeals since 1986, compared to the Indians’ 20 percent.

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