Success at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for the Indian Legal Clinic

The Indian Legal Clinic represented the appellants in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Case no. 21-35230, Newtok Village v. Andy Patrick) in an appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Alaska that involved defending tribal sovereignty from unlawful intrusion by federal courts.

On behalf of their clients, the clinic appealed an adverse permanent injunction issued by the District Court of Alaska and argued that tribal sovereignty to resolve intratribal disputes prevents federal courts from intervening on such matters and that the District Court of Alaska lacked jurisdiction. On December 22, 2021, the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed with the appellants’ arguments and vacated the district court’s orders. Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote the opinion, concluding, “Continuing to enforce the permanent injunction here risks the federal court’s impermissible involvement in interpreting the Tribe’s constitution and laws.” 

Indian Legal Clinic Director Patty Ferguson-Bohnee argued the case before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on November 9, 2021. Watch the recording of the oral argument. Vinnie Amato (3L) assisted with research, and Native Vote Fellow Torey Dolan (’19) and Jens Camp (’21) assisted in drafting the briefs before the Ninth Circuit. Jacob Broussard (3L) provided notes for the oral argument prep, and Native Vote Fellow Blair Tarman-Toner (’21) and Dolan assisted in preparing and refining Ferguson-Bohnee’s oral argument. The clinic collaborated with co-counsel James J. Davis, Jr. of the Northern Justice Project LLC in Anchorage, Alaska.