The Black Hills Lands Claim is an ongoing land dispute between the US Government and The Sioux Nation. The treaty of Fort Laramie protected the hills from white settlement, but the discovery of gold on the land led to its defacto seizure in 1874, and officially by a congressional Act in 1877. The legal struggle for the return of the lands started in

the early 1920s under tribal lawyer Richard Case where he argued that the 1877 Act of February was illegal and that the United States never made a legitimate purchase of the land. Tribal Lawyers Marvin Sonosky and Arthur Lazarus took over the case in 1956 until they won in 1980 when the case reached the supreme court (United States vs The Sioux Nation of Indians) which upheld an earlier ruling that the 1877 Act was in violation of the 5th amendment.

However in a unanimous decision the Sioux Tribal Council refused to accept the awarded Compensation with the intention of forcing the US Government to return the land.

Thus the legal struggle is roughly 90 years; is this the longest legal case in the US or elsewhere, or are there others go beyond this one?


3 Answers 3


There was a lawsuit between Frankfurt and Hanau which lasted some 212 years.

In the late 16th century, a dispute broke out between the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt and its neighbour the County of Hanau over rights to a wine tithe. The tithe was formerly owed by the farmers of Hanau to the abbess of the White Ladies Convent in Frankfurt, but the city became Lutheran during the Reformation and secularised the convent. After the last abbess passed away in 1588, both the municipal government of Frankfurt and the Count of Hanau laid claim to the tithe.

In 1594, Frankfurt and Hanau brought their dispute before the Reichskammergericht. Instituted in 1495 as the Holy Roman Empire's highest judiciary, the Reichskammergericht gained a reputation for being extremely slow in reaching a final verdict, with cases routinely taking decades to be resolved. By the time it came to an end, it had such a massive backlog that it was joked the court hung the files up, and attend to them as they fall to the ground (due to mice chewing on the strings).

Their case would remain pending in court for the next 212 years, until the Reichskammergericht was dissolved along with the Holy Roman Empire itself in 1806.


Seidl-Hohenveldern, Ignaz. "Extraterritorial Respect for State Acts." Hague Yearbook of International Law. Hague Academy of International Law. Association of Attenders and Alumni. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1988.

  • 1
    A similar (but shorter) duration had the "Erbmännerstreit" around the status of some noble families in Munster. The trigger (after a longer record) was 1557, 1573 was the first judgment of the Roman Rota, 1597 was the first action to the Reichskammergericht, after longer back and forth the Emperor decided the case in 1710 and in 1717 it had practical consequences. Formally this may be more than one case, but it was the same legal question during the whole 160 years. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – K-HB
    Sep 27, 2020 at 20:15
  • Hey, don't leave us hanging like that... How was the dispute resolved? Who can claim the tithe now??? :D
    – fgysin
    Sep 28, 2020 at 9:47
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    @fgysinreinstateMonica It wasn't lol. The case outlived both the Court and the Empire. I think it became moot though because shortly afterwards the whole area fell under French control, and Napoleon merged them into the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt. Practically speaking I believe the farmers defaulted to paying the the wine tithe to Hanau once the last abbess of the Convent died.
    – Semaphore
    Sep 28, 2020 at 10:14

The longest running that I can find is the property dispute of Raja Rajkrishna Deb, which was started in 1833 and is as far as I can find still pending after 181 years.

  • +1 but while it wasn't explicit, looking at the tags I believe the OP was asking about cases in the US
    – Juicy
    Sep 1, 2014 at 23:59
  • @Juicy - Yeah I thought that myself, but I saw the global-history tag and remembered reading about this case.
    – Comintern
    Sep 2, 2014 at 0:01
  • @juicy: I wasn't specifically asking about the US! I'll make that clearer in the question. Sep 2, 2014 at 8:54
  • @MoziburUllah Do you not find either of the answers acceptable? Perhaps you might put a 50 point bounty on this?
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 8, 2014 at 18:10
  • @CGCampbell: Thanks for reminding me that I has this left open. I've accepted one of the answers. Nov 12, 2014 at 16:12

The "pleitos colombinos" the series of suits, decisions and appeals between the Crown of Spain and Christopher Columbus and his descendants (as well as between his descendants) lasted from 1516 until (at least) 1792, when the matter was still being argued before Spanish courts. This gets the year count up to 276.


Mariano Colón de Toledo y Larreátegui, Información juridica en grado de segunda suplicación. (Madrid: 1792)

De los Pleitos de Colón. vols 7 and 8 of Colección de documentos ineditos relativos al descubrimiento, conquista y organización de las antiguas posesiones españolas de ultramar. 2. ser. Madrid, Est. tip. "Sucesores de Rivadeneyra," 1885.

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    These are not one case, right? It reads like the main cases were settled by 1536, but descendants sporadically brought new suits later on; is that the situation, or did they actually appeal the same cases for centuries?
    – Semaphore
    Feb 4, 2016 at 15:39

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