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Metlakatla Indian Community v. Egan, 363 U.S. 555 (1960)

Metlakatla Indian Community v. Egan

No. 326

Argued May 18, 1960

Decided June 20,1960*

363 U.S. 555


After Alaska achieved statehood, these suits to enjoin enforcement of a statute of the State on the ground that it conflicted with applicable federal law were instituted in the District Court for Alaska, which, by the Constitution of the new State, and by state and federal statutes, was designated the successor of the former Territorial District Court in the interim until the organization of the new state courts and the Federal District Court for the District of Alaska. The District Court for Alaska held the statute constitutional and entered orders denying the injunctions and dismissing the complaints. Notices of direct appeals to this Court were filed after the Justices of the new Alaska Supreme Court had been designated, but before that Court was in actual operation.


1. The District Court for Alaska was the "highest court of a State in which a decision could be had," and the appeals are within the jurisdiction of this Court under 28 U.S. C. § 1257(2). Pp. 363 U. S. 557-560.

2. Since the question of the constitutionality of the Alaska statute raises the issue of its justification under the so-called police power and is entangled with questions of state law which the Supreme Court of Alaska might construe so as to avoid conflict with federal law, this Court refrains at this stage from deciding the issues presented on the merits of these appeals so as to afford the Supreme Court of Alaska an opportunity to rule on the questions presented. Pp. 363 U. S. 561-562.

3. The cases are retained on the docket of this Court pending further proceedings or a further appeal after the decision of the Supreme Court of Alaska, and the stays granted are continued until final disposition of the cases. Pp. 363 U. S. 562-563.

18 Alaska ___, 174 F. Supp. 500, decision reserved and appeals held on docket pending consideration by the Supreme Court of Alaska.

Page 363 U. S. 556

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