U.S. Supreme Court to make decision on Osage Reservation status case today

Today the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to decide whether to hear the Osage Reservation status case against the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

The Supreme Court has set a conference date for today (June 23) to consider whether the nine justices will hear the Nation’s 11-year-old lawsuit against the Oklahoma Tax Commission.

This will be the second time the High Court will decide whether to hear the case. The nine Supreme Court justices first considered the case Feb. 18, but instead invited the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office to opine on the case first.

Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal filed an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”) brief on May 27 advising the Supreme Court to not hear the case. Attorneys for the Nation and Tax Commission have since filed response briefs with the court and those have been distributed to the justices for their review, according to the court docket. 

The case is titled: Osage Nation v. Constance Irby, Secretary, Member of the Oklahoma Tax Commission, et al. The Osage News will report on the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case once it’s known.

Representing the Nation in this case is Washington, D.C.-based attorney Patricia Millett. Litigation bills for defending the case received approval from the Second ON Congress, which met for two concurrent Special Sessions June 13-20.

Congress unanimously passed ONCA 11-86, which appropriates $135,000 for the legal bills to defend the Nation in the reservation status case. 

“I think they’ve done an excellent job up to this point considering the fact where this case is at,” Principal Chief John Red Eagle said of Millett’s office defending the Nation in the case. He addressed the ON Congress at the start of the special sessions June 13.

The case began 11 years ago when the Nation sued the Oklahoma Tax Commission for taxing Osage tribal members on land that the Nation claimed was still, and had always been, Reservation land, also known as the boundaries of Osage County. Since that time the case has been to the 10th Circuit Court of Federal Appeals twice, in which the federal court denied to hear a rehearing of the Nation’s case.

The Nation appealed to the Supreme Court in October of last year. The Nation makes the argument that because of existing conflicts in opinions from circuit and state courts, the Supreme Court needs to make a defining rule to determine whether Native American Reservations were intended to be disestablished by the U.S. Congress when allotment-era legislation did not specifically say so.