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
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Court opens window for Navajo Nation trust suit
Monday, October 27, 2003

A federal appeals court on Friday gave the Navajo Nation another chance to prove its $600 million breach of trust claim against the federal government.

In a 5-4 ruling this past March, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the tribe's case, which stems from a coal mining agreement approved during the Reagan administration. Pitting tribal self-determination against the federal trust responsibility, the majority said the laws at issue did not create a fiduciary relationship that gives rise to money damages if breached by the United States.

But the tribe argued that the decision left open the possibility that a "network" of other laws, regulations and treaties could establish that relationship. A three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, rejecting the government's opposition to reopening the long-running case.

The tribe has some hurdles to overcome before proceeding, however. First, the judges said the Court of Federal Claims must determine whether the tribe waived its claim with respect to the network of other laws, as the government contends.

Second, the majority imposed a limit on the network of laws the tribe can cite in the lower court. Two judges excluded the Indian Mineral Leasing Act (IMLA) and the Indian Mineral Development Act (IMDA) because they said the Supreme Court addressed both in its March 3 decision.

But in a dissent, one judge disagreed with this line of thinking. "This restriction is neither implicit in the court's decision, nor supportable as a matter of objective analysis," wrote Judge Pauline Newman. She said the tribe should be allowed to use "all sources" on information in the case.

Finally, the tribe still has to show that its claim satisfies Supreme Court precedents in breach of trust cases. The Mitchell I and Mitchell II cases set up the framework by which laws, regulations and treaties are examined to determine whether the federal government has "full responsibility to manage Indian resources and land for the benefit of the Indians."

In ruling against the Navajo Nation in March, the Supreme Court found that the IMLA and IMDA did not impose judicially-enforceable duties upon the Department of Interior. Instead, the majority said the laws placed the tribe in control of its resources.

The decision rocked the tribe's dispute over a mineral development lease with Peabody Energy, the largest coal company in the world. Tribal leaders signed the deal in 1987 under financial pressure, and have always contended that it was not in their best interests because Reagan administration officials rejected their bid for a higher royalty rate on the coal deposit, considered one of the most valuable in the nation.

The tribe had won the backing of a Bureau of Indian Affairs subordinate for a 20 percent royalty rate. But mysteriously, then-Interior Secretary Don Hodel told the tribe to continue negotiations with Peabody.

Only through litigation did the tribe discover that Hodel's directive came days after he met secretly with a Peabody lobbyist who happened to be a close friend. The BIA had already drafted a decision affirming the 20 percent rate, but this was also kept from the tribe, whose leaders eventually settled for a 12.5 percent royalty rate.

As a result of the lower rate, the tribe claims it lost at least $600 million. The exact amount would be decided by the courts.

Separately, the tribe is pursuing a federal racketeering case against Peabody for allegedly conspiring with the Reagan administration to deny the higher royalty rate. The case is in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. Peabody has tried numerous times to delay or dismiss the case but the attempts have been rejected.

Bush administration officials currently in charge of Indian trust have been involved in the case. Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles oversaw the now-defunct mining division that supported the tribe's stance on the scientific facts before it was rejected by the political appointees. Special Trustee Ross Swimmer, as former head of the BIA, ended up approving the 1987 lease without conducting an economic analysis.

Get the Decision:
Navajo Nation v. U.S. (October 24, 2003)

Relevant Links:
The Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
Peabody Energy - http://www.peabodyenergy.com

Related Stories:
Peabody seeks to dismiss Navajo Nation claim (06/18)
Court appears ready to toss Peabody appeal (04/15)
Supreme Court's trust rulings criticized (4/14)
Navajo Nation back in court over Peabody lease (4/8)
Effects of Supreme Court decision debated (03/07)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)
A mixed bag for Indian trust (3/5)
Supreme Court issues trust decisions (3/4)
Swimmer can't recall Navajo involvement (02/13)
Panel predicts Apache victory (12/4)
Navajo 'deception' gets Supreme Court hearing (12/03)
Peabody sides with Bush administration on trust (09/04)
Legal tactics land Peabody in hot seat (7/22)
Navajo royalty case accepted (6/4)
Don Hodel's Navajo Folly (6/4)
Supreme Court accepts Navajo trust case (6/3)
Navajo royalty case up for review (5/30)
Supreme Court considers 'deception' of trust (5/22)
Action due on Navajo trust case (5/20)
Bush wants Navajo ruling reversed (3/27)
Court rules Navajo Nation owed money (8/14)

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:
Gathering scheduled in June at site of former BIA insane asylum (4/29)
Native Sun News: Tribal college student overcomes challenges (4/29)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Ancestors are gone but language lives on (4/29)
Mike Rounds: Eliminate 'hateful' and 'paternalistic' federal laws (4/29)
Harlan McKosato: White privilege fuels Donald Trump's fanbase (4/29)
Indian Health Service faulted for lengthy waits for patient care (4/29)
Mescalero Apache woman to compete for Miss United States (4/29)
Environmental Protection Agency pays little to tribes for spill (4/29)
Measure to declare bison as official mammal ready for Obama (4/29)
John Wayne's negative views about tribes resurface in debate (4/29)
Chumash Tribe picks Kenneth Kahn as first new leader in years (4/29)
Mille Lacs Band announces upgrades as casino marks 25 years (4/29)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees warmer reception to casino bid (4/29)
Florida racks up legal bills in gaming fight with Seminole Tribe (4/29)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe sues Indian Health Service over shutdown (4/28)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee approves eight bills at meeting (4/28)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe to debut justice center (4/28)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne official fired from tribal job (4/28)
Native Sun News: Comments sought on Black Hills mine cleanup (4/28)
Editorial: Native Sun News endorses Hillary Clinton for president (4/28)
Cronkite News: EPA slammed for response to Gold King Mine spill (4/28)
Steve Russell: Donald Trump advisor accuses tribes of terror plot (4/28)
Alex Jacobs: Hillary Clinton must answer to role in Honduras coup (4/28)
Northwest tribes inch closer to reburial of Kennewick Man remains (4/28)
Santee Sioux Tribe hosts task force to address substance abuse (4/28)
Huge crowds flock to New Mexico for annual Gathering of Nations (4/28)
Muckleshoot Tribe to host $50K 'Gold Cup' for Indian relay racing (4/28)
Member of Puyallup Tribe develops 'Teepee' tribal directory app (4/28)
Man in long fight with Shingle Springs Band faces longer sentence (4/28)
Tunica-Biloxi Tribe enters gaming agreement with Mohegan Tribe (4/28)
Timbisha Shoshone Tribe sees casino as a path to self-sufficiency (4/28)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe announces another hire at casino (4/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe welcomes rejection of rival casino bid (4/28)
Senate passes measure to include Indian Country in tourism plans (4/27)
Amanda Blackhorse to deliver commencement speech at Haskell (4/27)
Native Sun News: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe aims to stop pipeline (4/27)
Lakota Country Times: Pine Ridge artist gains national recognition (4/27)
Brandon Ecoffey: 'Bull Dawg' represents the Oglala Lakota Nation (4/27)
Mark Trahant: Tribes endorse Native candidates for US Congress (4/27)
John Thune: Tribal citizens suffer with Indian Health Service care (4/27)
Cronkite News: Tribes support more protections at Grand Canyon (4/27)
Gabe Galanda: A moral responsibility to stop tribal disenrollment (4/27)
Vernice Moncooyea Willis: Bernie Sanders deserves our support (4/27)
Jennifer Denetdale: University must stop celebrating genocide (4/27)
Eastern Cherokee group hails Tribal Marijuana Sovereignty Act (4/27)
Leader of Fort Peck Tribes blames baby's death on drug abuse (4/27)
Chippewa Cree Tribe and FBI investigate theft of drugs at clinic (4/27)
Former comptroller of Crow Tribe accused of embezzling $28K (4/27)
Congress set to pass bill to declare bison as national mammal (4/27)
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moving closer to nominations (4/27)
Fond du Lac Band won't confirm plan for site adjacent to casino (4/27)
Graton Rancheria on track to complete $175M casino expansion (4/27)
Pokagon Band to debut casino expansion project by end of year (4/27)
Connecticut tribes delay decision on potential casino until 2017 (4/27)
Oregon Lottery official fired as Lewis and Clark ads come down (4/27)
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.