A lawsuit initiated by the Lower Brule Tribe against Lyman County in South Dakota could be complicated by a recent case on the U.S. Supreme Court’s emergency docket. Also referred to as the “shadow docket,” it allows justices to resolve an issue temporarily until a case can have a full hearing.
In early 2022, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote an explanation for why he sided with the majority to stay a lower court ruling in an Alabama voting rights case. In his writing, he raised the bar for plaintiffs claiming violations of the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan each wrote a dissent.
One of the lawyers for Lower Brule says the authority of these writings is a debate for legal scholars, but she says even under Kavanaugh’s more stringent test for a voting rights challenge, the tribe is on solid ground.
Victoria Wicks is following developments in South Dakota and has this report.
Samantha Kelty is a staff attorney with the Native American Rights Fund. She represents Lower Brule in its attempt to get Lyman County to change its districting in time for the November 2022 election.
Kelty says Justice Kavanaugh’s decision demands that voting rights plaintiffs seeking an injunction must be able to prove that the merits are clear-cut in their favor.
What’s not clear is whether that demand has standing to replace the previous standard, that plaintiffs prove they’re likely to succeed on the merits.
Kelty says she is thankful that Federal District Judge Roberto Lange confirmed in his August 11th order that the Lower Brule Tribe meets those stricter standards.
In his order, Judge Lange gave Lyman County seven days to come up with a more equitable districting plan to be put in place by November, rather than relying on the old single-district plan that dilutes the vote of tribal members.
Samantha Kelty says it’s not unreasonable to expect the county to implement the two-district plan it proposed as a compromise and that has, at least for now, been approved by the tribe.
“And the reason for that was because the county had already drawn up the two-district plan, they had already finalized the maps, you know, they had already voted on it and decided that that was a plan that they liked.”
Lyman County officials testified at a hearing last month that they wouldn’t be able to adjust voting software and confirm tribal addresses in time to redistrict and print ballots. But Judge Lange said in his order that using the previous single-district plan violates federal law.
Navajo Nation officials recently declared a state of emergency following heavy flooding.
As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it was triggered by monsoon rains that impacted homes and washed out roads on the reservation.
The Navajo Commission on Emergency Management recently made the declaration after flash flooding impacted homes and roadways.
According to Navajo President Jonathan Nez’s office, the move activates emergency plans and will allow local chapters to access additional resources for recovery.
Nez says emergency response personnel have been out in communities seven days a week and health workers have been going door-to-door providing support for elderly residents and those with health conditions. It wasn’t immediately clear exactly how many residents had been impacted.
In addition, the Navajo Division of Transportation is continuing to repair roads that were damaged in the flooding. July and August are some of the wettest months in the Southwest and for the 27,000-square-mile reservation that covers parts of northern Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather for the abuse she faced at the 45th Academy Awards.
Littlefeather stood on stage at the 1973 awards, refusing the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando in recognition of the mistreatment and misrepresentation of Native Americans by the film industry.
In a statement of reconciliation in June, the academy apologized and acknowledged the emotional burden she faced and the cost to her career.
Get National Native News delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up for our newsletter today.