October 02, 2012

Judge dismisses Whiteclay lawsuit

Judge dismisses Whiteclay lawsuit

By Robyn WischA federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against some of the largest beer manufacturers in the world. The suit claimed the beer makers were contributing to chronic alcoholism on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

The suit was filed in district court in Lancaster County on behalf of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. It named major beer makers, including Anheuser Busch and Miller Coors among others, along with four liquor stores that operate in the border town of Whiteclay, Neb. Whiteclay sits a few hundred yards from the border of Pine Ridge and is home to about 11 people. But the stores sell what amounts to four million cans of beer in Whiteclay each year. So most of that alcohol is presumed to be transported over the border into Pine Ridge, which is a dry reservation.
And:U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed the suit Monday but in his ruling, he said there is “little question that alcohol sold in Whiteclay contributes significantly to tragic conditions on the reservation.” He suggested the defendants “could, or should” do more to improve those conditions before saying the matter does not belong in federal court.

White said the judge has left the door open for the tribe to pursue the case in state court, which he is advising his clients to do. Lawyers for the stores and the beer makers have declined to comment after repeated requests.
Comment:  As everyone but the Indians, perhaps, expected, the lawsuit went nowhere. But if it focused more attention on the problem, it served that purpose, at least.

For more on Whiteclay, see Pix of My South Dakota Trip and Fiasco Raps About Pine Ridge.

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