Law

Long battle expected over self-determination contract support





The U.S. Supreme Court delivered an important victory for tribes in Salazar v . Ramah Navajo Chapter but it could be years before they see any of the money they are owed.

The decision affects over 300 tribes that entered into self-determination contracts with the federal government. For seven years, from 1994 to 2011, they didn't receive all the funds they were promised, the Supreme Court noted.

"The tribes fully performed," Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the majority. The federal government, however, did not.

"Between FY 1994 and 2001, appropriations covered only between 77% and 92% of tribes’ aggregate contract support costs," the decision stated.

The exact amount owed isn't known at this time. But Michael Gross, an attorney for the Ramah Navajo Chapter in New Mexico, said government attorneys referred to the situation as a "billion dollar case."

"That's their words, not mine," Gross told The Navajo Times.

Get the Story:
Ramah wins landmark case in U.S. Supreme Court (The Navajo Times 6/21)

Supreme Court Decision:
Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter (June 18, 2012)

Oral Argument Transcript:
Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Salazar (April 28, 2012)

10th Circuit Decision:
Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Salazar (May 9, 2011)

Related Stories:
Trial to begin in dispute over self-determination contract costs (6/20)
Supreme Court backs tribes in self-determination contract case (6/18)
Lloyd Miller: Supreme Court to rule in self-determination lawsuit (06/06)
SCOTUSBlog: Recap of argument in self-determination suit (04/19)
Turtle Talk: Commentary on self-determination argument (4/19)
Supreme Court transcript from self-determination case (4/18)
Supreme Court set for hearing in self-determination case (4/16)
Supreme Court agrees to take up self-determination dispute (01/09)
Supreme Court puts off action on self-determination litigation (11/28)
10th Circuit sides with tribes on self-determination contracts (5/9)