(there were a few families that had slaves, around 2 to 3 percent of all the Cherokee families - there are only 2,800 decendants, so clearly very few Cherokees had slaves)
D.C. Circuit Rules Suit Against Cherokee Officers Can Go Forward
American Lawyer, The
New York, NY
Native American litigation frequently presents interesting questions. Here's a prime example: On Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a suit filed by descendants of slaves once owned by the Cherokee Nation. The slaves' descendants, who are called Cherokee Freedmen, sued the Nation and Cherokee officers in 2003, when they were denied the right to vote in a Cherokee election. The appellate court addressed whether sovereign immunity protected the Cherokee Nation and its officers against such a suit, ruling the Freedmen's case can go forward against the officers, but not against the tribe.
The Freedmen's lead lawyer, Jonathan Velie, of Velie & Velie, declared victory in the split decision. 'We don't have to sue the tribe to get the relief we wanted,' he told us. Joining Velie on the brief were Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman attorneys
Jack McKay, Alvin Dunn, Thomas Allen, and Ellen Cohen. [Full disclosure: the Litigation Daily's sister-in-law represents the Freedmen.]
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Josh Galper, an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, also declared victory. 'This opinion is a major vindication of sovereignty for the Cherokee Nation and all Indian Country,' said Galper in a statement.
'The D.C. Circuit panel unanimously upheld the Cherokee Nation's sovereign immunity and rejected every one of plaintiffs' arguments against it, dismissing the case against the Cherokee Nation. The next issue to be decided in the District Court is if the case can go forward against tribal officials without the Cherokee as a party.'
Orrick attorney Garret Rasmussen argued for the Cherokee Nation at the D.C. Circuit. On the brief he was joined by Orrick attorneys Raymond Mullady, Jr., Lanny Davis, and Adam Goldberg.