An Oklahoma-based Native American tribe filed a lawsuit in its own tribal court system Friday accusing several oil companies of triggering the state's largest earthquake that caused extensive damage to some near-century-old tribal buildings.
The Pawnee Nation alleges in the suit that wastewater injected into wells operated by the defendants caused the 5.8-magnitude quake in September and is seeking physical damages to real and personal property, market value losses, as well as punitive damages.
The case will be heard in the tribe's district court with a jury composed of Pawnee Nation members.
"We are a sovereign nation and we have the rule of law here," said Andrew Knife Chief, the Pawnee Nation's executive director. "We're using our tribal laws, our tribal processes to hold these guys accountable."
Attorneys representing the 3,2 00-member tribe in north-central Oklahoma say the lawsuit is the first earthquake-related litigation filed in a tribal court. If an appeal were filed in a jury decision, it could be heard by a five-member tribal Supreme Court, and that decision would be final.
"Usually tribes have their own appellate process, and then, and this surprises a lot of people, there is no appeal from a tribal supreme court," said Lindsay Robertson, a University of Oklahoma law professor who specializes in Federal Indian Law.
A U.S. Supreme Court decision reviving a challenge to several Virginia legislative districts could send lawmakers back to the drawing board, but Republicans say they are confident the state's current electoral map will withstand further scrutiny.
The justices on Wednesday tossed out a ruling that upheld 11 districts in which African-Americans made up at least 55 percent of eligible voters and ordered the lower court to re-examine the boundaries. The lawsuit accused lawmakers of illegally packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.
Democrats say they're certain the lower court will find the districts unconstitutional and force lawmakers to redraw them. Marc Elias, an attorney for the Virginia voters who brought the case, said they will push for that to happen before the November elections.
"It's important that the people of the Commonwealth don't have to have another election using unconstitutional district lines, and we will move forward as quickly as possible to make sure we have constitutional and fair lines in place for the 2017 elections," Elias said.
The top Republican in the Virginia House, however, said he's confident that the current boundaries will stand.
The California Supreme Court on Monday said petitioners seeking to remove a subset of coho salmon from the state's endangered species list could present new evidence to argue the listing was wrong.
In a unanimous ruling, the court overturned a lower court decision that said efforts to remove the salmon and other species could only argue that the listing was no longer necessary.
The high court decision came in a lawsuit by Big Creek Lumber Co. and the Central Coast Forest Association, which includes forest landowners. They filed a petition to remove a subset of coho salmon from the state's endangered species list, arguing that the listing was wrong because the fish were not native to the area and were introduced and maintained there artificially using hatcheries.
The fight was over coho salmon in streams south of San Francisco. The Fish and Game Commission listed those salmon as endangered in 1995.
Environmental groups were keeping a close eye on the case to see whether the court would rule on the native species argument. It did not do that and instead sent the case back to the appeals court for that determination.
"We don't accept that they are not native fish just because they are hatchery raised," said Lisa Belenky, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, which filed a brief in the case.
An appeals court in Norway is considering whether the prison conditions under which mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is being held amount to a violation of his human rights.
The six-day trial ended Wednesday in a makeshift courtroom inside Skien prison in southern Norway where Breivik, 37, is serving a 21-year sentence for killing 77 people in a 2011 bomb-and-shooting rampage.
Breivik's lawyer, Oystein Storrvik, spent most of the last day seeking to show that restrictions on his client's visitors and the strict control over Breivik's mail and phone calls have led to a lack of human interaction and privacy, which amounts to a violation of his rights.
The case is "really about a person that is sitting very, very alone in a small prison within a prison" since 2012, explained Storrvik.
He dismissed the benefits of the weekly visits by a state-appointed prison confidante for Breivik, saying "it's a paid job."
Addressing the court last week, Breivik said his solitary confinement had deeply damaged him and made him even more radical in his neo-Nazi beliefs.
The Norwegian state rejected the criticism and said efforts to find a prison confidante show the authorities have "gone out of their way" to remedy the situation.
In a surprise verdict last year, the Oslo District Court sided with Breivik, finding that his isolation was "inhuman (and) degrading" and breached the European Convention on Human Rights. It ordered the government to pay his legal costs.