indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Wyoming tribes win appeal of breach of trust lawsuit
Thursday, April 8, 2004

A federal appeals court on Wednesday delivered victory to two Wyoming tribes seeking millions of dollars for mismanaged trust assets on their reservation.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe sued the federal government in 1979, alleging numerous breaches of trust. In the part of the case at issue in the appeal, the tribes claim their sand and gravel resources were mishandled and that they didn't receive the best price for them.

The government responded by trying to bar the tribes from seeking money for any claims prior to 1973, citing a six-year statute of limitations based on the date the tribes sued. Government lawyers also sought to restrict the government's liability to trust funds actually collected -- rather than the funds the tribes say the government failed, or delayed, to collect under sand and gravel leases

Both defenses were rejected yesterday in a near-unanimous decision from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. A panel of three judges said it was "clear" that Congress intended to allow tribal and individual Indian beneficiaries more time to file mismanagement suits. Language in an appropriations act extends the statue of limitations until an accounting is provided, they concluded.

"This is simple logic - how can a beneficiary be aware of any claims unless and until an accounting has been rendered?" wrote Judge Arthur Gajarsa the majority.

On the issue of funds collected versus those delayed or never collected, the court also ruled for the tribes. Based on the appropriations act, the court identified three types of breaches for which the tribes could collect money, including the government's failure or delay in "(1) collecting payments under the sand and gravel contracts, (2) depositing the collected monies into the tribes' interest-bearing trust accounts, or (3) assessing penalties for late payment."

"[W]e conclude that the act covers any claims that allege the government mismanaged funds after they were collected, as well as any claims that allege the government failed to timely collect amounts due and owing to the tribes under its sand and gravel contracts," the court wrote.

And in yet another victory for the tribes, the court said the government owed the tribes interest on money they should have received under sand and gravel leases. However, one judge dissented on this part and said he did not agree that interest is warranted.

"[I]f funds have not been collected and deposited in a trust account even due to negligence, the United States is not liable for interest on the missing funds," Judge Randall R. Rader wrote. He also wrote that while he agreed with the majority on the statute of limitations issue, he did not agree with the way his colleagues described it

But on the issue of whether the tribes received the highest price for their assets, the judges were in agreement that the Supreme Court's March 2003 decision in the Navajo Nation case was applicable. Based on that decision, the judges said the government doesn't "have a fiduciary or statutory duty to maximize the prices obtained under the leases entered into between the tribes and third parties."

Yesterday's decision appears to be the first time an appeals-level court has ruled on the statute of limitations defense, which the government has raised in several cases. In the Cobell case, the Bush administration sought to limit an accounting based on the date the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit.

Citing the same precedents the Federal Circuit relied on, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth rejected the government's motion. The Bush administration is appealing that decision to the D.C. Circuit. Court papers were filed this week.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe share the Wind River Reservation. They are the only federally-recognized tribes in the state.

The Federal Court of Claims continues to hear other parts of their case. Last October, Judge Emily C. Hewitt ruled that the government has a trust responsibility to ensure the timely collection and payment of oil and gas royalties even when tribes take greater control of their affairs.

The same judge also ruled last July that the there was no trust responsibility to "maximize" oil and gas revenues.

Get the Decision:
SHOSHONE INDIAN TRIBE OF THE WIND RIVER RESERVATION v. US (March 7, 2004)

Relevant Links:
Eastern Shoshone Tribe - http://www.easternshoshone.net
Northern Arapaho Tribe - http://www.northernarapaho.com

Related Stories:
Appeals court revives Wind River royalty fraud case (4/7)
Judge advances suit over royalty mismanagement (10/03)
Osage Nation trust suit survives first test (07/31)
Judge strikes down a trust claim in royalty suit (07/03)
Audit files for Navajo lease recreated (6/11)
Navajo leaders criticize upheaval at trust fund office (05/09)
Judge upholds ongoing trust relationship (04/29)
Supreme Court upholds common law trust claim (3/5)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)
A mixed bag for Indian trust (3/5)
Bush strategy assumes no trust mismanagement (11/05)
Andersen reports cited in tribal trust cases (08/12)
Norton handed worst nightmare (7/25)
Royalty ruling impacts Indian trust (04/30)
Trust accounting looms for tribes (3/20)
Bush administration bets on accounting (3/18)
GAO: Full reconciliation impossible (2/8)

Copyright 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Obama seeks another increase for Indian Health Service budget (2/10)
Six of 12 Indian Health Service area directors in 'acting' capacity (2/10)
Lakota Country Times: Indian lawmakers oppose drug testing bill (2/10)
Vince Two Eagles: The rez of the story about treaty-making in US (2/10)
Kristi Noem: Indian Health Service remains in state of emergency (2/10)
Chase Iron Eyes: Real sovereigns don't disenroll their own people (2/10)
Gyasi Ross: African and Native Americans fought for their survival (2/10)
Albert Bender: Tribes should reclaim land from unratified treaties (2/10)
John Lavelle: Supreme Court weighs key tribal sovereignty issue (2/10)
Women take top three leadership positions at Menominee Nation (2/10)
Northern Arapaho Tribe seeking to repatriate remains of students (2/10)
White Mountain Apache Tribe considers change to blood quantum (2/10)
Blackfeet Nation citizens still talking about constitutional reforms (2/10)
Sweat lodge at Army post helps with PTSD treatment for veterans (2/10)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes welcome return of land (2/10)
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders win big in New Hampshire vote (2/10)
Prairie Island Indian Community unveils $19M gaming expansion (2/10)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community approves upgrades at casinos (2/10)
Seminole Tribe's gaming compact takes a step forward in Florida (2/10)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation insists on pursuing Connecticut casino (2/10)
National campaign launched to stop tribal disenrollment epidemic (2/9)
President Obama seeks $2.9B budget for Bureau of Indian Affairs (2/9)
Office of Special Trustee budget request remains steady at $140M (2/9)
Bureau of Reclamation emphasizes tribal water rights settlements (2/9)
Lakota Country Times: Indian health at center of Medicaid debate (2/9)
Mark Trahant: Native candidates fall behind in the big money wars (2/9)
Vi Waln: Arrogance keeps Keystone XL plans alive in South Dakota (2/9)
Charles Kader: Haudenosaunee territory will always be Indian land (2/9)
Mike Myers: Indigenous teachings still guide our ways of life today (2/9)
Albuquerque Indian Center faces closure without additional money (2/9)
Leader of Bois Forte Band promises fight against substance abuse (2/9)
Coushatta Tribe wins ruling in long-running dispute with contractor (2/9)
Pamunkey Tribe looks to a stronger future with federal recognition (2/9)
Isle de Jean Charles Band to relocate with help of $48M HUD grant (2/9)
Nambe Pueblo hopes small casino stands out in a crowded market (2/9)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe sends fewer gaming funds to communities (2/9)
Tribes in Connecticut still working on process for potential casino (2/9)
Girls basketball team proudly wears Navajo hairstyle during game (2/8)
National Indian Gaming Commission slated to get a third member (2/8)
Senate committee to host roundtable on Tribal Law and Order Act (2/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee postpones field hearing into EPA (2/8)
Senate designates National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week (2/8)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation invests in our people's wellbeing (2/8)
Kevin Washburn: Republicans punish tribe in public lands measure (2/8)
Harold Monteau: Democrats stack the deck for only one candidate (2/8)
Cutcha Risling Baldy: Don't let Leonard Peltier die in prison system (2/8)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.