Gorsuch’s Colorful Ute Tribe Decisions Offer Glimpse of Indian Law Chops

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s decisions in the Tenth Circuit’s series of cases involving the Ute Tribe offer a glimpse of how Indian law will fare before the Court -- assuming Judge Gorsuch joins it. 

Judge Gorsuch’s decision in Ute Tribe v. Myton (10th Cir. 2016) is must reading for anyone who appreciates judges who use narrative in their opinions.  Long before he was a blip on the Trump nominee list, Judge Gorsuch used of the myth of Sisyphus to kick off his description of the Ute epic.  

And before that, in Ute Tribe v. Utah (10th Cir. 2015), Judge Gorsuch used similarly bright language and narrative structure in a more substantive pro-Tribal sovereignty decision, reminding Utah and several of its counties of previous decisions on tribal sovereignty.  Judge Gorsuch wrote:

For a legal system to meet this promise, of course, both sides must accept—or, if need be, they must be made to respect—the judgments it generates. Most people know and readily assent to all this. So it's pretty surprising when a State and several of its counties need a reminder. But that's what this appeal is all about.

Much more will be written and learned about Judge Gorsuch in the coming days.  But for now, we can appreciate his writing--and familiarity with Indian law in the West. 

Anthony Broadman is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC. He can be reached at 206.321.2672, anthony@galandabroadman.com, or via www.galandabroadman.com.