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Supreme Court won't hear complaint about Redskins name

11/17/2009, 11:28 p.m.

The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal from a group of Native Americans who think the name of the NFL's Washington Redskins football team is offensive.

The high court on Monday turned away an appeal from Suzan Shown Harjo. That ends the latest round in the 17-year court battle between the Redskins and a group of American Indians who want them to change their name.
Harjo and her fellow plaintiffs have been working since 1992 to have the Redskins trademarks declared invalid. They initially won - the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office panel canceled the trademarks in 1999. But U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly overturned the ruling in 2003 in part because the suit was filed decades after the first Redskins trademark was issued in 1967.

The U.S. Court of Appeals then sent the case back to Kollar-Kotelly, noting that the youngest of the plaintiffs was only 1 year old in 1967 and therefore could not have taken legal action at the time.

But Kollar-Kotelly rejected that argument, saying the youngest plaintiff turned 18 in 1984 and therefore "waited almost eight years" after coming of age to join the lawsuit. The Court of Appeals upheld that decision in May, and the Supreme Court now has refused to review that decision.

This doesn't end the legal battle, however. The plaintiffs have a backup plan: A group of six American Indians ranging in age from 18 to 24 filed essentially the same claim two years ago, but the new case has been on hold until this one was resolved.

None of the judges has commented on whether the Redskins name is offensive or racist, instead holding in favor of the football team on legal technicalities.

The case is Harjo v. Pro-Football, Inc., 09-326.