By Jim Kent
The Nebraska Supreme Court says it will hear an appeal by four Whiteclay liquor stores forced to close by the state’s Liquor Control Commission. The Omaha World Herald reports the decision means the ultimate ruling over the closures will come sooner rather than later. It’s the latest in a back-and-forth legal battle playing out even as the stores in the tiny town on the edge of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were forced to clear their shelves over the weekend.
The commission voted April 19 to deny liquor license renewals for the four stores in the tiny town. Then, a district court judge voided the decision and ordered that the stores be permitted to sell beer pending an appeal. Just hours later the tables were turned again when the state Attorney General challenged the judge’s ruling. Noting that Nebraska law places lower court decisions on hold for up to 6 months when an appeal is in process, the Attorney General overrode the judge’s decision.
As a result beer sales halted over the weekend and supplies were removed from the stores on Monday in the next chapter of a battle to stop Whiteclay alcohol sales that’s been ongoing since 1998.
“I saw the pictures of them loading the beer up too and the trucks moving out…which seemed so odd because you always saw the trucks arriving and dropping off beer not picking it up and leaving with it,” said Nebraska state Senator Tom Brewer who is an Oglala Sioux tribal member and was among those who pushed to close down the stores. “For me I think it’s a good day for Whiteclay. We’ve gone to a lot of expense and time to start the process of cleaning up Whiteclay.”
Brewer said a meeting of the Whiteclay Task Force later this month will bring together Nebraska legislators, medical specialists and economic development experts to chart a new path for the town. He believes the legal appeal to reinstate the liquor licenses is compromised because of charges—including alleged bootlegging—pending against the stores.
Meanwhile, the lawyer for the four stores says he’s considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against the state’s governor. The Omaha World Herald reports attorney Andy Snyder accuses Gov. Pete Ricketts of political meddling that ultimately forced the stores to close their doors. Snyder also filed a motion this week to dismiss nearly two dozen citations against the stores by the attorney general.