Washington in Brief

Washington in Brief

Jerry Reynolds
11/19/03

NOTICE OF APPEAL FILED IN REDSKINS TRADEMARK CASE

WASHINGTON - The plaintiffs in the Washington Redskins trademark case have filed the notice of appeal that will carry their case forward following the October ruling against them, Suzan Shown Harjo said.

The last day for filing the notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was Oct. 31. The next step will be to file a brief in the appeal.

Norm D. St. Landau, a trade-marks attorney with Drinker, Biddle and Reath in Philadelphia, will work on the appeal along with Michael Lindsay of Dorsey & Whitney, the plaintiffs' longtime attorney of record in the case. Lindsay and company won a unanimous ruling against the Redskins' trademarks from the Trial Trademark and Appeal Board in 1999. The board found the Washington Redskins' family of football trademarks disparaging to Indians. Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturned it on Oct. 1, ruling that the case had been filed too long after the trademarks' issuance in 1967 and that the board's findings were inadequate to cancel the trademark protections of the team's name, logo and related properties.

St. Landau said the appeal will respectfully disagree with Kollar-Kotelly on the legal point behind her ruling on the delay in challenging the trademarks. Such Laches cases, as they are known in legal parlance, usually turn on whether the party claiming injury had relied on the party charged with delay, St. Landau said. In the current case, he added, the trademark owners did not rely on the litigants in any way.

St. Landau comes to the case through a colleague at Dorsey & Whitney. He teaches trademark law at Cornell University, where he has made almost full-day presentations on the case for the past four years, he said. He finds it an interesting case for attorneys. "You're trying to prove what a group of people believes or does not believe."

In addition, the Indian cause is a just one in his view and he looks forward to renewing a long-standing interest in public service litigation.

MMS FINDS MISSING ROYALTIES, ORDERS PAYMENT

WASHINGTON - The Minerals Management Service has discovered approximately $2 million missing in royalties due to tribes and individual Indians, and ordered payments in that amount from several oil and gas companies.

A Nov. 5 release from MMS' parent department, Interior, did not identify the oil and gas companies. The shortfall turned up as a result of a routine audit, the release stated.

The discovery and payment order comes after a year of MMS outreach to tribes described as "the most extensive ... we've ever done" by Lucy Querques Denett, MMS associate director for minerals revenue management. The agency, established in 1982, was responding to the greatest number of inquiries it has received since it began to keep records. It claims to have settled 6,900 inquiries from individual Indians in the past year.

MMS collects, verifies and distributes mineral revenues derived from federal lands, including Indian trust lands. The BIA disburses MMS Indian revenue distributions through the tribal and Individual Indian Money trust accounts.

Mineral revenues, their collection, accounting and distribution are among the numerous revenue streams at issue in the current trust funds reform lawsuit. The court in the case has ordered a comprehensive historical accounting of the IIM trust. The Interior Department, which is implicated through the federal trust responsibility to tribes, plans to appeal the decision. Congress has legislated a one-year moratorium on the court ordered accounting. Alternative resolutions are under consideration in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

SENATE ACTION CANCELS COMMITTEE MARK-UP ON PROBATE

WASHINGTON - National judicial politics spilled over into Indian country as the Senate canceled all committee meetings, including a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs business meeting scheduled for Nov. 13.

Senate committee meetings take place on "unanimous consent" votes that are so routine the public rarely hears of them. But with 30 hours of floor debate scheduled on embattled federal judicial nominees, Democrats signaled that they would withhold their consent for the Nov. 13 meetings. The meetings were then cancelled Nov. 12 on a seldom-used scheduling technicality. All hands would be on deck for the judicial debate.

Among the Indian committee's delayed points of business is a probate reform bill, proposed amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, and "sense of the Senate" resolutions on trust funds reform and the restoration of federal recognition for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community in Oregon. The four measures had been scheduled for "markup," congressional jargon for the version of a bill that reflects the nuts and-bolts detail work that has gone into it since its introduction.

It is unclear how long Congress will remain in session before its customary recess between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Whether the SCIA business meeting can be rescheduled before the recess is also unclear; the schedule gives "near future" as a new meeting date.

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