Supreme Court Candidate
He was part of the 3-0 decision in Vann vs US Department of Interior which reversed a lower court ruling that the Cherokee Chief could NOT be sued due to tribal sovereignty. Read more about the Cherokee Freedmen
Before the Civil War, members of the Cherokee Nation had slaves. Those slaves
were freed in 1866 pursuant to a treaty negotiated between the United States and the Cherokee Nation. The Treaty guaranteed the former Cherokee slaves and their descendants – known as the Freedmen – “all the rights of native Cherokees” in perpetuity.
See Treaty with the Cherokee, art.9, July 19, 1866, 14 Stat. 799.
Those rights included the right to tribal membership and the right to vote in tribal elections. At some point, the Cherokee Nation decided that the Freedmen were no longer members of the tribe and could no longer vote in tribal elections. A group of Freedmen eventually sued in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that the Cherokee Nation had violated the 1866 Treaty.
The District Court agreed with the Cherokee Nation. The District Court concluded that the Cherokee Nation was a required party for purposes of Rule 19, that the Cherokee Nation’s interests could not be adequately represented by the Principal Chief, and that the case could not go forward
The court said:
We reverse. Applying the precedents that permit suits against government officials in their official capacities, we conclude that this suit may proceed against the Principal Chief in his official capacity, without the Cherokee Nation itself as a party.
When reached for comment, Marilyn Vann, President of the Descendents of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes stated: "He' s not a tool of big money tribes, so he' s the kind of judge we need on higher courts"