Despite the fact that Washington v. United States wasn’t really decided and technically only affects one state, it is still an interesting case because Washington argues the lower court decision will cost it billions of dollars. Also, this decision comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s recent grant in Murphy v. Royal. In this case the Tenth Circuit held that for the purpose of criminal prosecutions half of Oklahoma may be located on an Indian Reservation.
In Washington v. United States the Supreme Court was supposed to decide whether a “fishing clause” in a treaty guarantees “that the number of fish would always be sufficient to provide a ‘moderate living’ to the tribes.” Instead the Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit ruling by an equally divide vote. Whenever the Supreme Court deadlocks in a case the lower court decision stands but it doesn’t have precedential value. Justice Kennedy was recused in this case.