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Case Profile

Docket Number16-1498
Full NameWashington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc.
Short NameWashington State Dept. of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc.
PetitionerWashington State Department of Licensing
RespondentCougar Den, Inc.
Date Argued (Reargued)Oct. 30, 2018
Date DecidedMarch 19, 2019

Question Presented

An 1855 treaty between the United States and the Yakama Indian Nation provides members of the tribe "the right, in common with citizens of the United States, to travel upon all public highways." In a series of cases, the Ninth Circuit has rejected claims that this language exempts the Yakama from taxes or state fees on off-reservation commercial activities, holding instead that the language is limited to securing for tribal members a right to travel on public highways without paying a fee for that use or obtaining state approval. In this case, however, the Washington Supreme Court interpreted the treaty far more broadly, holding that it implicitly prohibits states from taxing "any trade, traveling, and importation" by the Yakama, even off-reservation, "that requires the use of public roads." The court therefore held that the treaty preempts Washington from imposing wholesale fuel taxes on Respondent Cougar Den, a Yakama-owned fuel distributor that imports millions of gallons of fuel into Washington annually for sale to the general public. The question presented is: Whether the Yakama Treaty of 1855 creates a right for tribal members to avoid state taxes on off(cid:173)reservation commercial activities that make use of public highways.

Case Events

28 2018-09-17Brief of respondent Cougar Den, Inc. filed. (Distributed)
27 2018-09-12Brief amicus curiae of Sacred Ground Legal Services filed. (Distributed)
26 2018-09-12CIRCULATED
25 2018-09-10Record requested from the Supreme Court of Washington.
24 2018-08-24Motion to extend the time to file respondent's brief on the merits granted and the time is extended to and including September 17, 2018.
23 2018-08-20SET FOR ARGUMENT on Tuesday, October 30, 2018
22 2018-08-17Motion for an extension of time to file respondent's brief on the merits filed.
21 2018-08-16Brief amicus curiae of United States filed.
20 2018-08-16Brief amici curiae of Public Health Organizations filed.
19 2018-08-16Brief amici curiae of The States of Idaho, et al. filed.
18 2018-08-16Brief amici curiae of Multistate Tax Commission and Federation of Tax Administrators filed.
17 2018-08-15Brief amici curiae of The Washington Oil Marketers Association and the Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores filed.
16 2018-08-09Joint appendix filed.
15 2018-08-09Brief of petitioner Washington State Department of Licensing filed.
14 2018-06-25Petition GRANTED.
13 2018-06-18DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 6/21/2018.
12 2018-05-30Supplemental brief of respondent Cougar Den, Inc. filed. (Distributed)
11 2018-05-29DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 6/14/2018.
10 2018-05-15Brief amicus curiae of United States filed.
9 2017-10-02The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in this case expressing the views of the United States.
8 2017-08-30DISTRIBUTED for Conference of 9/25/2017.
7 2017-08-29Reply of petitioner Washington State Department of Licensing filed. (Distributed)
6 2017-08-16Brief amicus curiae of Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation filed.
5 2017-08-16Brief of respondent Cougar Den, Inc. in opposition filed.
4 2017-07-17Brief amici curiae of Washington Oil Marketers Association, et al. filed.
3 2017-07-17Brief amici curiae of The States of Idaho, et al. filed.
2 2017-07-13Order extending time to file response to petition to and including August 16, 2017.
1 2017-06-14Petition for a writ of certiorari filed. (Response due July 17, 2017)

Case Counsels

NameParty NameDescriptionAddressPhoneType
Adam G. UnikowskyCougar Den, Inc.Counsel of RecorJenner & Block LLP1099 New York Avenue, NWSuite 900Washington, DC 20001AUnikowsky@jenner.com202-639-6041respondent
Clay R. SmithThe States of Idaho, et al.AmicusDeputy Attorney GeneralOffice of the Attorney General P.O. Box 83720-0010Boise, ID 83720-0010clay.smith@ag.idaho.gov(208) 334-2400other
Ethan Andrew JonesConfederated Tribes and Band of the Yakama NationCounsel of RecYakama Nation Office of Legal CounselP.O. Box 151, 401 Fort RoadToppenish, WA, WA 98948ethan@yakamanation-olc.org5098657268other
Helen HechtMultistate Tax Commission and Federation of Tax AdministratorsCounsel of RecordMultistate Tax Commission444 N. Capitol St., NWSte 425Washington, DC 20001hhecht@mtc.gov2026601906other
Jack Warren FianderSacred Ground Legal ServicesCounsel of RecoSacred Ground Legal Services5808A Summitview AvenueSte. 97Yakima, WA 98908towtnuklaw@msn.com5099610096other
Mark Ely GreenwoldPublic Health OrganizationsCounsel of RecCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids1400 I Street N.W., Suite 1200Washington, DC 20007mgreenwold@gmail.com2024819560other
Mathew Lane HarringtonCougar Den, Inc.AmicusStokes Lawrence, P.S.1420 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3000Seattle, WA 98101mlh@stokeslaw.com2066266000respondent
Noah Guzzo PurcellWashington State Department of LicensingCounsel of Record1125 Washington Street, SEP.O. Box 40100Olympia, WA 98504-0100noahp@atg.wa.gov360-753-2536petitioner
Noel J. FranciscoUnited StatesCounsel of RecordSolicitor GeneralUnited States Department of Justice950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NWWashington, DC 20530-0001SupremeCtBriefs@USDOJ.gov202-514-2217other
Philip Albert TalmadgeThe Washington Oil Marketers Association and the Washington Association of Neighborhood StoresCounsel of Reco2775 Harbor Avenue SWThird Floor, Suite CSeattle, WA 98126phil@tal-fitzlaw.com2065746661other
Philip Albert TalmadgeWashington Oil Marketers Association, et al.AmicusTalmadge Firzpatrick Tribe2775 Harbor Avenue, SWThird Floor, Suite CSeattle, WA 98126phil@tal-fitzlaw.com(206) 574-6661other
Steven W. StrackThe States of Idaho et alCounsel of RecordOffice of the Attorney GeneralP.O. Box 83720Boise, ID 83720-0010steve.strack@ag.idaho.gov208-334-4143other
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