American Indian Law Program Wins Major Case
The law school's American Indian Law & Economic Development Program and the St. Louis firm of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal have garnered an important victory in the Eighth Circuit concerning the sovereignty of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota.
Working with attorneys in South Dakota, faculty and students in the American Indian law program and local legal counsel helped the tribe defend a federal lawsuit challenging the authority of the tribe's courts to hear a discrimination case brought by tribal members against a non-Indian bank doing business on the reservation. In 21-page opinion released on June 26, 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a 2003 discrimination verdict by a tribal jury. The original verdict awarded nearly a million dollars in damages, interest, and costs to the aggrieved tribal members.
“Discriminatory lending practices are common in Indian country, and it is critical that tribes have the power to deal with offenders,” says Steven Gunn, associate professor of law and director of the American Indian Law and Economic Development Program. “This case establishes an important precedent that tribes can use their own laws and legal systems to combat discrimination within their reservations.”