February 12, 2020

Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den, Inc.

This case examines whether the Yakama Treaty of 1855 allows Yakama tribal members and Yakama tribal businesses to be exempt from state-imposed taxes on the importation of motor vehicle fuel, where the conduct in question (1) occurs on land ceded by the Yakama Nation in the 1855 Yakama Treaty; (2) is performed by a tribal entity acting as agent for the Yakama Nation tribal government; (3) is performed in order to bring fuel to the Yakama Reservation; and (4) occurs along traditional trading routes used by tribal ancestors. 

Classroom Case Study

Each classroom case study provides:

  • background on the legal issues in the case;
  • facts of the case;
  • key legal definitions;
  • arguments for petitioner and respondent; and
  • focus questions for fostering classroom discussion

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The classroom case study was modified from PREVIEW of United States Supreme Court Cases. It can be used for teacher reference and provides a more detailed look at the case.

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Using Supreme Court Oral Arguments in the Classroom

Oral Argument Audio Clips: Washington State Department of Licensing v. Cougar Den

Argued on October 30, 2018
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Audio Clip 1 – Lawyer for Petitioner and Justice Kagan

1.  What concerns does Justice Kagan express in this clip?

2.  How does the lawyer for the petitioner describe the state tax? What kind of tax is it?

Audio Clip 2 – Lawyer for the Petitioner, Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Kagan,

3.  What do Justice Kavanaugh and Justice Kagan feel was promised to the Yakama in the treaty?

4.  Why might Justice Kavanaugh bring up the size of the land that the Yakama gave up in the treaty?

Audio Clip 3 – Lawyer for the Respondent, Justice Breyer and Justice Alito, 

6. What concerns does Justice Breyer express in this clip?

7. How does the lawyer for the respondent view the difference between a regulation and a tax? What interest does the state have in setting regulations?