Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho


5th District Judge Barry Wood once again has refused to disqualify himself from considering the tribe's water rights claims. The north-central Idaho tribe contends he has a conflict of interest. "Any perceived conflict is indirect, speculative, and de minimis in the overall scope,'' wrote Wood July 14. He presides over the sweeping water rights case that encompasses more than 150,000 claims in 38 of Idaho's 44 counties. Nez Perce motions, filed in February and again in May after initial rejection, contend Wood and two of his family members have water rights claims in direct conflict with tribal claims. Wood denied a conflict, saying family claims had been decreed or were uncontested. The state argued tribal claims would have no impact on Wood's water rights. In 1998, the tribe filed 1,886 claims seeking half the natural flow of springs and fountains on reservation lands ceded in a 1863 treaty. Claims were consolidated and delegated to a special master, but Wood has administrative responsibility. Late last year, Wood rejected tribal claims to the majority of the water of the Snake River. The Nez Perce appealed. That issue and an appeal of Wood's rejection earlier this year of the tribe's disqualification motion are pending before the Idaho Supreme Court.