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Patchak v. Zinke

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20032
Nos. 16-498, (U.S., 02/27/2018)

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 2014 Gun Lake Trust Land Reaffirmation Act, which reaffirmed as trust land certain property on which a Native American tribe wished to build a casino and provided that any future or pending actions relating to that land should be dismissed. Congress enacted the Gun Lake Act after an individual filed suit challenging DOI's decision to take that land into trust. The case was then dismissed under §2(b)—the section that mandated dismissal of lawsuits concerning the land—and the Second Circuit affirmed. The Court agreed, holding that §2(b) of the Gun Lake Act does not violate Article III of the Constitution. Congress may not exercise judicial power, but the legislative power permits Congress to make laws that apply retroactively to pending lawsuits, even when it effectively ensures that one side will win. Section 2(b) is best read as a jurisdiction-stripping statute: it uses jurisdictional language, imposes jurisdictional consequences, and applies “[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law,” including the general grant of federal-question jurisdiction. When Congress strips federal courts of jurisdiction, it exercises a valid legislative power. Thomas, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which Breyer, Alito, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed a concurring opinion. Ginsburg, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Sotomayor, J., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. Roberts, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Kennedy and Gorsuch, JJ., joined.