By Lauren Brant
Early Friday morning, the Nebraska Supreme Court announced their decision to vacate the district court’s ruling and ruled in favor of the opponents of the Whiteclay beer stores. The four beer stores’ doors will remain closed.
Within the 17-page court document, the supreme court ruled “the retailers failed to include all ‘parties of record’ in the Commission proceeding when they sought review in the district court. The district court never acquired subject matter jurisdiction, and as a result, we lack jurisdiction over this appeal. We vacate the judgment of the district court and dismiss this appeal.”
The technicality for not properly notifying the citizen protesters leaves few options for the beer store owners as a renewal is unlikely. While the ruling did not mention whether the NLCC had the authority to deny the stores’ renewals due to lack of law enforcement, Bob Batt, who heads the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission, said it would be unlikely for them to reissue Whiteclay licenses, unless law enforcement changes.
After the ruling, Attorney Dave Domina, who represents the Sheridan County citizen protesters, said, “Today’s Nebraska Supreme Court decision means that the shame of Whiteclay is over. It also means huge rocks have been removed from the road to recovery for many of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation and the Pine Ridge Reservation.”
The decision dismisses Lancaster County District Court Judge Andrew Jacobsen’s ruling. On April 19, the NLCC voted unanimously to deny the renewal of liquor licenses to the Whiteclay beer store owners. On April 27, Jacobsen vetoed the Liquor Commission’s decision to close the stores, calling the verdict “void on it’s face.” The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office appealed Jacobsen’s ruling, which closed the beer stores until the case was decided by the Nebraska Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s ruling voids Jacobsen’s ruling and denies the four beer stores licenses to sell alcohol.
Senator Tom Brewer felt the ruling upheld the state’s motto of “equality before the law.” He also said since the stores closed, the increase of alcohol-related issues in Sheridan County has not occurred and the money used for emergency services and law enforcement is a fraction of what it was before. “The court decision has given us an opportunity we must build upon,” wrote Brewer. “I’m glad the era of suffering and disgrace is over in Whiteclay.”
The Supreme Court cited that their decision was based on jurisdictional grounds and since the district court lacked jurisdiction, the appeal of that ruling was void. Nebraska Supreme Court decisions can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court or a new case between the state and beer stores could go before a lower state court.
As the appellants get a victory, the future of Whiteclay is a dream yet to be realized. People have already started planning what the future of the unincorporated village will look like from new businesses to infrastructure.