Surprise, surprise! United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was in South Dakota this past week. He is the justice assigned to the 8th U.S. Circuit, which comprises South Dakota and five other states. Here is how the Rapid City Journal wrote it up:
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and other federal judges visited Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on Wednesday and were briefed on Lakota culture and talked with tribal officials about issues facing Native Americans.
Alito and the other judges were invited to Pine Ridge by Chief Judge Karen Schreier of the U.S. District Court for South Dakota. They were hosted by Red Cloud Indian School, where they saw young powwow dancers showcase their skills and enjoyed a traditional Lakota meal.
"Our main purpose for the visit is that a lot of our judges did not come from districts that had any Indian Country issues. We're trying to educate them -- and ourselves -- on the issues Native Americans face," Schreier said.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall! I suspect that Judge Schreier was too courteous to go down this road but here are three questions I would have asked Justice Alito upon his arrival on the reservation.
1. Does the justice support the nomination of Arvo Mikkanen to a federal trial spot in Oklahoma? Mikkanen is a well-educated, experienced, popular, Native American federal prosecutor in Oklahoma City who is eminently qualified for a spot on the bench. President Barack Obama nominated him nine months ago. Yet Oklahoma's Congressional delegation seems to have killed the candidacy, in its cradle, without offering a public reason, before Mikkanen could even get to the Senate Judiciary Commitee. He would be only the third recorded Native American federal judge is U.S. history. The third.