This page is dedicated to providing the interested public and the media with background information on the civil rights lawsuits filed in federal and state courts by the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation against the Acting Attorney General of New Jersey.
Below are links to relevant court pleadings, press coverage, and photos. Please direct all press inquiries to Greg Werkheiser at (703) 408-2002.
Status of the Cases
The Tribe has filed two lawsuits, one in state court alleging violations of the New Jersey Constitution, and one in federal court alleging violations of the United States Constitution. The suits allege that New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General’s unilateral attempts to undermine the Lenape Nation’s status as a state-recognized tribe, conveyed by the legislature in 1982, violates the tribe’s rights to procedural and substantive due process, and to equal protection. The Nation alleges that it has suffered and continues to suffer immediate and irreparable harm as a result of these violations.
The Acting Attorney General has filed motions attempting to dismiss both cases. The Tribe has asked the courts to expedite hearing the motion as damage to the Tribe from the Defendant’s actions continues to mount.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Federal Court Green-lights Tribe’s Civil Rights Suit Against New Jersey Attorney General
Trenton, New Jersey – October 27, 2016 – U.S. District Court Judge Renée Marie Bumb today denied New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino’s motion to dismiss a federal civil rights lawsuit against him brought by the 3,000 member Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation (the “Tribe”).
In a carefully crafted 42-page written opinion, the Court found that the Tribe had presented viable claims that racial prejudice and political gamesmanship are motivating the Attorney General to violate the U.S. Constitution’s due process and equal protection guarantees in his treatment of New Jersey’s American Indians.
Beginning in 1982 and for 34 years thereafter, New Jersey recognized three American Indian tribes within the state. As a consequence of that recognition, the tribes, among the state’s most vulnerable communities, had access to critical federal services including health care for poverty-level senior citizens, women, and children; college scholarships; jobs; and the right to sell traditional crafts labeled American-Indian made. Governors of both political parties and numerous state agencies repeatedly reaffirmed the tribes’ recognized status to the public and federal agencies.
In 2012, however, on behalf of the Christie administration, the Attorney General took the position that New Jersey has no recognized American Indian tribes. This abrupt about-face has lead to devastating economic and social consequences for the tribes as access to federal programs has been withdrawn or threatened.
In its federal lawsuit, the Tribe alleged the Attorney General’s unilateral action is motivated by an irrational, racial stereotype-driven fear that all American Indians seek to conduct gaming. The Tribe’s charter and religious tenets expressly prohibit gaming, state recognition plays no role in securing federal gaming rights, and the Tribe has never sought such rights. Yet when the Tribe attempted to resolve the matter administratively with the Attorney General’s and Governor’s offices, the politics of gaming interests, Bridgegate, and Christie’s campaign for President, became roadblocks.
The Court today agreed that the Tribe has pled extensive facts that could lead the Court to conclude that the Attorney General was, indeed, unlawfully discriminating against the tribes and violating their Constitutional right to due process and equal protection of the laws.
Tribal Co-Chief Mark Gould said, “We are relieved, grateful, and prayerful about the Court’s carefully considered decision. We are indebted to the citizens of New Jersey for their support through this ordeal. We look forward to prevailing in the trial and beginning to rebuild our relationship with the government of New Jersey.”
The bombshell decision is a reversal of fortune for the Tribe, who saw their parallel suit in state court alleging violations of the New Jersey Constitution tossed in March by New Jersey Judge William Anklowitz. The tribe has appealed Judge Anklowitz’s decision. Today’s federal court decision, considering the same facts, reached a very different conclusion, providing the Tribe substantial ammunition in its state appeal.
“Judge Bumb’s decision today reminds us that in our American system, the courts can still ensure a level playing field for the politically powerless against the whims of even the most politically powerful,” said Greg Werkheiser, counsel for the Tribe.
The Court’s decision comes one day after the Attorney General rejected final efforts by the Tribe to resolve the matter without further litigation. The case will now proceed to trial.
Photos for press use: http://www.culturalheritagepartners.com/lenni-lenape-v-nj/.
The Tribe is represented pro bono by Greg Werkheiser and Eden Burgess of Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC (www.culturalheritagepartners.com) and Frank Corrado of Barry, Corrado & Grassi, PC of Wildwood, New Jersey (www.capelegal.com). Cultural Heritage Partners is headquartered in Washington, DC and with offices in Europe, is a global law, government affairs, and strategy firm that handles issues related to cultural heritage, historic preservation, art and antiquities, and museums. Barry, Corrado & Grassi, PC is a law firm representing clients in civil rights, personal injury, real estate, criminal defense, and employment matters.
Greg Werkheiser, Founding Partner
Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC
2101 L Street, NW, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20037
Pleadings (Federal suit)
- Judge Renee Bumb’s Decision Denying Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (10/27/16)
- The Attorney General’s Brief in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (filed 5/24/16)
- The Tribe’s 2nd Amended Complaint (filed 5/6/16)
- Transcript of Oral Argument on Prior Motion to Dismiss (filed 5/12/16)
- Brief in Opposition to Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint (filed 6/6/16)
- Reply Brief in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint (6/13/16)
Pleadings (State suit)
- Complaint (filed 10/09/15)
- Brief in Support of Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss (filed 12/23/15)
- Brief in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss (filed 1/21/16)
- Appellate Brief of Plaintiff (filed 6/22/16)
- Proposed Amicus (Friend of the Court) Brief by Multiple Parties (filed 8/19/16)
The Tribe makes no representation as to the accuracy of any of the media items below.
- “Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Don’t Want to Lose What They Already Have“, NJ.Com, Albert B. Kelly, August 21, 2016.
- “NJ Tribe Says State AG Can’t Dodge Recognition Suit“, Law360, Andrew Westney, June 7, 2016.
- “Tribe in Limbo As New Jersey Does Double Take on Recognition”, Law360, Andrew Westney, February 16, 2016.
- “Tribe Says Fed. Contract Hinges on Recognition by NJ”, Law360, Andrew Westney, February 8, 2016.
- “NJ Tribes Slams State AG’s Resistance to Recognition Bid,” Law360, Andrew Westney, November 24, 2015.
- “American Indian tribe files second lawsuit against New Jersey“, NJ.com, Anna Merriman, October 23, 2015.
- “NJ moves to toss tribe’s suit over recognition,” Associated Press – The Big Story, October 23, 015. Also published in: Atlantic City News, Daily Mail, Native Times, Delaware 105.9 FM News/Talk, Findlaw, Forum News, Hamodia, News United, Poli-Ticks, Press Reader, 710KNUS News/Talk, The Daily Journal, The Denver Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post, OOYUZ, Pechanga, Vivalanka,Wupular.
- “New Jersey moves to dismiss Lenni-Lenape lawsuit over state recognition,” Press of Atlantic City, Thomas Barlas, October 23, 2015.
- “NJ Claims Immunity As Tribe Widens Recognition Bid,” Law360, Christine Powell, October 1, 2015.
- “Nanticoke Tribe Defends Suit Over NJ Recognition,” Law360, Jeannie O’Sullivan, September 28, 2015.
- “Cultural Heritage Partners: The Case Against Rescinded Identity,” VoiceAmerica – Indiana Jones: Myth, Reality and 21st Century Archaeology with Dr. Joseph Schuldenrein, (Audio) Interview with Greg Werkheiser, August 12, 2015.
- “Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe Suing NJ State Officials,” SJ Today (Video), Cara McCollum, July 31, 2015.
- “Tribe Sues New Jersey for Blocking Official Recognition,” CasinoConnection, Staff, July 27, 2015.
- “NJ Must Recognize Lenni-Lenape as Native American,” NJ.com / South Jersey Times, Editorial, Stephanie Maksin, July 24, 2015.
- “Indian Tribe Sues New Jersey For Official Recognition Denies Desire for Casino,” US Poker Sites.com, Christine Davies, July 22, 2015.
- “Native American Tribe Sues New Jersey for Recognition,” Associated Press – The Big Story, Geoff Mulvihill, July 21, 2015. Also published in: 10 On Your Side, A Breaking News, ABC 27 News, Albany Democrat Herald, Albany Times Union, Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Daily Sun, Ashbury Park Press, Auburn Citizen, Bay News 9, Beatrice Daily Sun, Beaumont Enterprises, Bismark Tribune, Bloomington Pantagraph, Bonner County Daily Bee, Bradenton Herald, Brownsville Herald, Cache Valley Daily, Carlisle Sentinel, CBS 3 News Philly, Cherokee Phoenix.org, Chico Enterprise-Record, Chron.com, Colorado Springs Gazette, Columbia Ledger-Enquirer, Coos Bay World, Corvallis Gazette Times, Courthouse News Service, CT Post, Daily American Online, Daily Herald, Daily Journal, Daily Record (Morris County), DBVnews.com, El Paso Inc, Fairfield Citizen, Fox Business, Fox5NY, Fremont Tribune, Ft. Bragg Advocate News, Gettysburg Times, Greenwich Time, Hanford Sentinel, Helena Independent Record, Hickory Daily Record, Hilton Head Island Packet, Houston Chronicle, Idaho State Journal, Imperial Valley Press, Ino.com, Jersey Tribune, Journal Review, Journal Star, KRQE News 13, KSRO, La Crosse Tribune, LancasterOnline, Lexington Herald Leader, Lincoln Journal Star, Lompoc Record, Long Beach Press Telegram, MagicValley.com, Mason City Globe Gazette, Midlund Daly News, Montana Standard, Monterey County Herald, Moutlon Advertiser, Muscatine Journal, Native Times.com, New York Times, Newsbug.info, NewsOK.com, Newsworks, North Jersey.com, Odessa American: US News, Paradise Post, Philly.com, Porterville Recorder, PostBulletin.com, Quad City Times, Rapid City Journal, Salon.com, San Antonio Express-News, San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate.com, Sioux City Journal, Star Tribune.com, Statesville.com, STLtoday.com, The Big Story, The Daily Nonpareil, The Decatur Daily, The Elkhart Truth, The Exponent Telegram, The Gazette, Colorado Springs News, The Journal Record (Oklahoma City Journal), The Missoulian, The Monitor-US News, The San Luis Obispo Tribune, The Tribune, The Washington Post, Times Daily, Town Hall, U.S. News Hub, Uniontown Herald Standard, Vallejo Times Herald, Valley Morning Star, Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, Watertown Daily Times, Winona Daily News, WRAL.com, Yakima Herald-Republic.
- “SJ Native Americans Renew Fight for State Recognition,” CBS Evening News (Philly), by David Madden and Cleve Bryan, July 21, 2015.
- “SJ Native Americans Renew Fight for State Recognition,” CBS Philly (Video/Audio), Cleve Bryan, July 21, 2015.
- “SJ Native Americans Renew Fight for State Recognition,” KYW Radio Philly (Audio), Dave Madden and Cleve Bryan, July 21, 2015.
- “New Jersey Indian Tribe Sues State Over Official Recognition,” News of Cumberland County NJ.com, Don E. Woods, July 20, 2015.
- “NJ Must Recognition Lenni-Lenape As Native American Tribe,” RoundhouseTalk.com, Editor South Jersey Times, July 27, 2015.
- “Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation Sues in New Jersey,” Indianz.com, Staff, July 21, 2015.
- “Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation Sues in New Jersey,” Native News Today, Staff, July 21, 2015.
- “Nanticoke Tribe Sues NJ to Renew Formal Recognition,” Law360, Vidya Kauri, July 21, 2015.
- “New Jersey American Indian Tribe Sues State Over Recognition,” RYOT, Alex Bauer, July 21, 2015.
- “NJ Sues Over Gambling Presumption,” Courthouse News, Nick Rummell, July 21, 2015.
- “Lenni-Lenape Tribe Sue Christie, New Jersey Over Alleged Civil Rights Violations,” Violations, Press of Atlantic City, Tyler R. Tynes, July 21, 2015.