WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. Supreme Court granted 14 cases Friday night, adding an additional 12 hours of argument to its calendar.
The court did not act on some of its pending election challenges, including one sent by President Donald Trump to the justices focused on law governing mail-in ballots. Justices did however beef up their calendar with a myriad of new cases.
The U.S. and the territory of Guam will battle before the justices over the responsibility of an $160 million environmental cleanup. In 1940, the U.S. Navy created a toxic waste disposal site without any environmental safeguards. When Guam was left holding the trash bag, it sought those costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.
The D.C. Circuit said, however, that Guam’s claim was prevented by a specific section within the CERCLA, which has specific time restraints for intermediaries to file their challenges.
The court held then that section prevented Guam’s claims because of a decade-old consent decree between the countries, settling those claims under the Clean Water Act. Guam filed the lawsuit three years after that decree, so the country’s claims were prevented.
Another case that pits the city of San Antonio against Hotels.com will decide whether U.S. district courts have the ability to determine taxable costs when issuing judgments. The case involves a lawsuit by the city against Hotels.com for not paying an inordinate amount in hotel-occupancy taxes.
Two related cases over whether the government was wrong to deny federal Covid-19 relief funds to Alaska Native corporations made it onto the docket Friday.
In September, a panel for the D.C. Circuit found that Alaska Native corporations are not eligible to receive any of the $8 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding set aside for tribes under the CARES Act.
The ruling came after three separate tribes filed lawsuits contending that ANCs should not receive the aid allocated to recognized tribes because they are corporations.
The D.C. Circuit ruled that an Alaska Native corporation cannot qualify as an Indian tribe under the federal Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act unless “recognized as eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians.”
So far, none have been recognized as such by Congress.
The Alaska Native Village Corporation Association, which brought the underlying case against Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, says that Congress did not intend to leave Alaska Native corporations out of its language when drafting the recognition rules.
Still, the lower circuit courts argued it did leave them out.
“In accepting that argument, the decision below upends the long-settled legal landscape and shatters the basic infrastructure of Native life in Alaska,” wrote attorneys representing the ANCs in the case, who are with the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP.
They urge that Native corporations are essential to the tribes they service.
In a similar petition granted on Friday by the Supreme Court, Secretary Mnuchin claims that the appellate court erred in concluding that an Alaska Native regional or village corporation does not qualify as an “Indian tribe.”
“Congress incorporated the ISDA definition to ensure that urgent coronavirus relief funds are available to ANCs for the benefit of their Alaska Native shareholders and the communities ANCs serve,” Mnuchin’s petition reads.
Justices also agreed on Friday to hear a First Amendment case brought by a cheerleader who was kicked off her high school team for posting profanities on social media while off-campus.
The Pennsylvania teen, referred to by the initials B.L., didn’t make the varsity cheerleading squad for the 2017-18 school year so she expressed her anger via the photo-sharing app Snapchat.