American Indians and Equal Protection

This is the second in a series of posts addressing some of the most commonly asked questions regarding American Indians, Indian Tribes, and the law. The first post addressed casinos, hunting and fishing rights, and taxes. This second post, unlike the first, is devoted to just one question, namely, why doesn’t the unique legal treatment of Indian tribes or their members violate the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection?

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Answers to Some Common Questions About American Indians

This blog is written largely for the benefit of non-Indians, readers who have no affiliation with one of the hundreds of federally recognized tribes, eleven of which are found in Wisconsin.  I teach a course on federal Indian law at Marquette’s law school, and the questions that follow are just a few of the ones that I often encounter personally or hear in public discussions.

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Fleeting Indecencies and Enduring Constitutional Doctrine

[Editor’s Note: This month, faculty members will discuss upcoming judicial decisions of particular interest. This is the first post in the series.]

On June 27, 2011, near the end of its October 2010 Term, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari review in FCC v. Fox Television Stations, a case arising in 2010 out the Second Circuit Court of Appeals following a 2009 remand from the Supreme Court.

At issue, in this round of the litigation, is the FCC’s expansion of its broadcast prohibitions to include so-called “fleeting indecencies,” isolated (uncensored) utterances that “describe or depict sexual or excretory organs or activities” and, when used, are “patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium.” Perhaps the most notorious fleeting indecency in recent years was Janet Jackson’s unfortunate “wardrobe malfunction,” precipitated by Justin Timberlake, during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

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