The First Circuit issued its decision in Penobscot Nation v. Mills last Friday, affirming the District Court in declaring that the Tribe’s Reservation consisted only of the islands in the Main Stem of the River, and not any of the bed of or waters in the River. The Court vacated the District Court’s second ruling, going to where the individual Tribe members could sustenance fish, on the basis that the issue wasn’t ripe, because the State had never denied any member from exercising that right. These two positions – (1) the word “islands” defining the Reservation in the Settlement Acts means islands, not water or River; and (2) the fishing issue was not ripe – were the positions taken by the State defending itself in this action. Pierce Atwood represented a coalition of municipalities and other River users supporting the State’s position, which could have found their territorial boundaries changed and their water discharges regulated by the Tribe had the decision gone the other way .
So congratulations to AG Mills, AAGs Gerald Reid and Kimberly Patwardhan. AG Mills issued a statement after the ruling, attached, expressing the hope everyone could work together on common goals in the future. http://www.maine.gov/ag/news/article.shtml?id=759264 It’s certainly true that this type of suit doesn’t help anyone, with Maine taxpayers paying the bill three times over – to pay the Tribe’s lawyers for suing the State (the Tribe is funded to do so from Bureau of Indian Affairs dollars); to pay the salaries of the US Department of Justice lawyers (who intervened to support the Tribe); and to pay the State lawyers’ salaries, who had to defend the State against the Tribe’s Complaint.
Your tax dollars at work.