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On Monday, May 20, the Supreme Court decided in favor of an American Indian man, Clayvin Herrera, in Herrera v. Wyoming. Essentially, Herrera was found guilty of off-season hunting at Bighorn National Forest. Herrera believed he had the right to hunt there, citing the Treaty of Ft. Laramie. The treaty states that the Native Americans can "hunt on the unoccupied lands of the United States so long as game may be found thereon, and as long as peace subsists among the Whites and Indians on the borders of the hunting districts."
The lower courts in Wyoming convicted Clayvin Herrera, a Crow tribal member, for violating state hunting laws, notwithstanding the promise in an 1868 federal treaty that the tribe and its members preserved the right to hunt on "unoccupied" land. The lower courts did not accept the validity of the treaty. However, the Supreme Court overturned the lower courts, siding with Herrera and recognized the authority of the treaty despite the passage of 150 years since its signing.
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The Supreme Court is currently composed of a conservative majority: five conservative judges sitting with four liberal colleagues. The liberals, Sotomayor, Kagan, Ginsburg, and Breyer, all voted in favor of Herrera. Four of the conservatives, Roberts, Kavanaugh, Alito, and Thomas, voted against Herrera. Neil Gorsuch was the lone conservative siding with Herrera, his vote being the decisive one.
Interestingly, the Court's ruling in favor of Herrera with all the liberal judges favoring the plaintiff and all but one conservative against him seems to position the ruling in favor of Herrera as a liberal one. CNN.com's headline for the case read, "Gorsuch sides with liberals as Supreme Court rules in favor of Native American rights in Wyoming hunting case." From this headline, the reader can interpret the issue as a classic liberal versus conservative argument, like...
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