Judge’s Ruling on Standing Rock Is a Chance to Return to Rule of Law—and Respect

June 15, 2017

The federal court decision could start a new chapter in the DAPL saga, beginning with dropping prosecution of water protectors.

Remember the “rule of law” invoked at Standing Rock?

That was the phrase used over and over by law enforcement from the state of North Dakota and Morton County. It was supposed to serve as a box to limit First Amendment and civil disobedience actions by water protectors opposing the Dakota Access oil pipeline crossing under the Missouri River.

But rule of law didn’t apply to treaty rights. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier told The Bismarck Tribune that was beyond his job parameters. “That cannot be worked out in Morton County,” the sheriff told the newspaper. “That has to be worked out with the federal government.”

This statement was and still is nonsense. The Constitution of the United States declares treaties to be the supreme law of the land. That’s higher than state law. And weightier than the claim of a property right on federal property. And significantly more potent than the urgency to construct an oil pipeline before the price of oil drops.