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
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Judge advances suit over royalty mismanagement
Friday, October 3, 2003

The federal government has a trust responsibility to ensure the collection and payment of royalties even when tribes take greater control of their affairs, a federal judge ruled last week.

In a long-running dispute over oil and gas royalties, the Bush administration argued that its trust duties were lessened because the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe signed a cooperative audit agreement with the Minerals Management Service (MMS). "[S]omewhere along the line, the United States should be entitled to rely on obligations that the tribes assumed," government attorneys said in court papers.

On September 26, Judge Emily C. Hewitt of the U.S. Court of Claim denied the government's defense. Rejecting a summary judgment motion, she said the agreement "does not diminish the trust duty owed" to the tribes because it was meant to "enhance" and not replace the trust relationship.

"As a threshold matter, it is clear to the court that there is an obligation imposed by law on defendant to ensure the prompt and proper collection and disbursement of royalties," Hewitt wrote in the 27-page decision.

The two tribes, which share the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, filed suit in 1979. In the part of case at issue in the court's decision, they allege MMS failed to collect the full amount of royalties from a settlement between oil and gas companies. They also allege they lost out on money for other leases because MMS failed to collect data when its computers broke down.

Government attorneys responded that MMS doesn't have to ensure the tribes received all their royalties because they accepted auditing duties under a cooperative agreement with the agency. They asked to be relieved of paying damages on the settlement and on the other leases.

Citing the Supreme Court's recent decisions in U.S. v. Navajo Nation and U.S. v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, Hewitt concluded that MMS has a duty to account for the royalties even though the tribes assumed a greater role. She noted that the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act (FOGRMA), which authorized cooperative agreements, was passed because Congress recognized that the Department of Interior wasn't honoring its obligations.

"The portions of FOGRMA that allowed for cooperative agreements reflected the reality that, at the time the legislation was passed, the Secretary was not fulfilling his responsibilities to the Indian tribes," Hewitt wrote.

The ruling allows the tribes to move forward on seeking additional money from the settlement. Arco, one of the companies involved, only paid royalties on $20 million of a $39 million settlement. The tribes contend they are owed royalties on the full amount.

The tribes can also move forward on recovering money on the other leases although Hewitt limited how much damages they may be owed. She denied two breach of trust claims, concluding that they didn't satisfy the Navajo-White Mountain framework.

The Navajo and White Mountain decisions were handed down this past March. In the Navajo case, the Supreme Court said the federal government didn't owe damages for a coal lease because the tribe negotiated the terms. Interior's role as a trustee, the majority wrote, was reduced to an advisory one. The White Mountain Apache Tribe won its case because the court said the government had control over the tribe's trust asset.

Although Bush officials have played down the impact of the two decisions because breach of trust claims are fact-specific, Hewitt has cited them as precedent. Government attorneys have cited them in other trust cases in an attempt to escape liability.

MMS is responsible for collecting about $6 million in annual oil and gas revenues from federal and Indian lands.

Get the Decision:
Shoshone v. U.S. (September 26, 2003)

Earlier Decision:
Shoshone v. U.S. (June 9, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Eastern Shoshone Tribe - http://www.easternshoshone.net
Northern Arapaho Tribe - http://www.wrtsc.org/NorthernArapaho.htm
Minerals Management Service - http://www.mms.gov

Related Stories:
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 2000-2003 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:
First Lady Michelle Obama shares story of hope with Indian school (5/26)
Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama at Santa Fe Indian School (5/26)
Gary Davis of NCAIED joins Small Business Administration council (5/26)
Arne Vainio: A mother's gift carried me through many life journeys (5/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes score big in fights against energy projects (5/26)
Lakota Country Times: Education Secretary hears from Pine Ridge (5/26)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ending Whiteclay beer sales starts at home (5/26)
Vi Waln: Rosebud Sioux youth lead efforts to bring relatives home (5/26)
Gyasi Ross: Drug epidemic sweeping through Native communities (5/26)
Jacqueline Keeler: Shameful and skewed poll on racist NFL name (5/26)
Interview with Melvin Monette about Cobell scholarship program (5/26)
Auction house in France won't stop sale of sacred tribal property (5/26)
United Keetoowah Band installs new leader after impeachment (5/26)
Kewa Pueblo builds new community around historic trading post (5/26)
Eastern Cherokee elder translates 'Charlotte's Web' into Tsalagi (5/26)
Puyallup Tribe works to keep language alive for new generations (5/26)
Iowa Tribe offers free play on poker website ahead of full launch (5/26)
Alabama-Coushatta Tribe offers gaming options closer to home (5/26)
Kaw Nation receives national award for tribal gaming initiatives (5/26)
Indian Health Service reform efforts gaining steam on Capitol Hill (5/25)
Indian Health Service announces more hires at troubled hospital (5/25)
Keepseagle attorneys open application process for $38M in grants (5/25)
Three tribes enter cooperative agreements for buy-back program (5/25)
New leader selected for HUD's Office of Native American Programs (5/25)
Indian relay racers gear up for event hosted by Muckleshoot Tribe (5/25)
Cronkite News: Tribes seek return of property up for sale in France (5/25)
Native Sun News: Anti-suicide effort incorporates tribal traditions (5/25)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge youth showcase film projects (5/25)
Mark Trahant: Native vote victory for Tawna Sanchez in Oregon (5/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Lakota people come together in times of need (5/25)
Editorial: Tribes must come up with plan for return of Black Hills (5/25)
John McCoy: Disenrollment and blood quantum are not our way (5/25)
Adrian Jawort: Addressing race relations and healing in Montana (5/25)
Fort Peck Tribes oppose new directive on transgender students (5/25)
Leader of United Keetoowah Band ousted through impeachment (5/25)
Agua Caliente Band launches software development company (5/25)
Sen. Barrasso to chair platform committee for GOP convention (5/25)
Cowlitz Tribe welcomes discussions with opponent over casino (5/25)
Little Traverse Bay Bands open doors to Class II gaming facility (5/25)
Tuolumne Band celebrates 15th birthday with casino expansion (5/25)
Former Winnebago Tribe casino employee denies theft charge (5/25)
Proposed rule brings LGBT equality to tribal housing programs (5/24)
Chairman of Quapaw Tribe endorses Democrat Hillary Clinton (5/24)
Appropriations bill blocks new federal recognition regulation (5/24)
Native American Children's Safety Act clears final Hill hurdle (5/24)
9th Circuit won't rehear Tohono O'odham Nation gaming case (5/24)
Lakota Country Times: Army promises return of tribal children (5/24)
Native Sun News: New business sprouts up at Wounded Knee (5/24)
Mark Trahant: Tulalip citizen lands role in Democratic platform (5/24)
Brandon Ecoffey: Pine Ridge unites for search of missing men (5/24)
Men who went missing found dead on Pine Ridge Reservation (5/24)
Billy Mills: Flawed poll can't justify use of team's racist mascot (5/24)
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.