WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider whether the state of New York owed an Indian tribe about $250 million in a dispute over the seizure of tribal land.
Justices had been asked to consider a decision by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that dismissed the Cayuga Nation's 26-year-old land claim for several reasons, including the passage of time and the tribe's long delay in seeking relief.
A federal judge ruled in 1994 that New York state illegally acquired 64,015 acres of tribal land in Seneca and Cayuga counties in the late 1700s and early 1800s by entering into invalid treaties with the Cayugas.
A jury awarded the two tribes $37 million in damages in 2000 for the land's current worth and the loss of two centuries of fair market rental value. The judge added $211 million in interest.
Solicitor General Paul Clement told justices that if the appeals court decision is not thrown out, "it will leave the United States and the affected tribes without any remedy for violations of law that, while `ancient,' were indisputably `grave."'
New York lawyers had urged justices to reject separate appeals from the Bush administration and the tribe, saying it is 200 years too late for the claims.
The cases are United States of America v. Pataki, 05-978, and Cayuga Indian Nation of New York v. Pataki, 05-982.