indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Kill The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Judge strikes down a trust claim in royalty suit
THURSDAY, JULY 3, 2003

The federal government doesn't have a trust responsibility to "maximize" oil and gas revenues for Indian beneficiaries, a federal judge ruled last month.

On June 9, Judge Emily C. Hewitt, a judge for the U.S. Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., ruled on a motion in a long-running case involving the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Siding with the Bush administration, she dismissed one of the tribes' breach of trust claims.

Hewitt relied in part on the Supreme Court's ruling in U.S. v. Navajo Nation, decided this past March against the Navajo Nation. Department of Justice attorneys interpret the outcome to mean that the government has no fiduciary duty to "maximize" Indian royalties without specific statutory, regulatory, or contractual obligations.

Hewitt agreed on this point, concluding that the tribes cannot force the Department of Interior "to go contrary to and beyond" existing law to maximize their revenues.

At the same time, Hewitt said the government is not off the hook for other mismanagement claims. She cited the existence of numerous statutes and regulations governing the handling of oil and gas royalties, finding a fiduciary relationship that would give rise to money damages if breached.

"The court, however, agrees with plaintiffs that the discretion afforded the Secretary here is not so wide as to protect defendant from liability," Hewitt wrote.

The tribes, which share the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, filed suit in 1979 to recover millions in missing oil and gas payments. They allege that the Minerals Management Service (MMS) failed to collect the proper amount for their trust assets.

MMS is responsible for monitoring the annual collection of $6 billion in royalties and fees for minerals produced from federal and Indian lands. It plays a significant role in Interior's role as trustee but its exact fiduciary obligations to tribes and individual Indians are sometimes in dispute.

In the ongoing Cobell trial, special trustee Ross Swimmer suggested that the agency has a limited fiduciary responsibility. When MMS collects payments from an oil company, he said last Thursday, it doesn't necessarily know that the money belongs to an Indian beneficiary. That determination lies with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Office of Special Trustee (OST, he testified.

As head of OST, Swimmer has oversight over MMS. The agency, in late 2001, finalized a "re-engineering" project as part of the Clinton administration's trust reform blueprint. Swimmer testified that he considered the effort a success.

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

Relevant Links:
Minerals Management Service - http://www.mms.gov

Related Stories:
Audit files for Navajo lease recreated (6/11)
Navajo leaders criticize upheaval at trust fund office (05/09)
Royalty ruling impacts Indian trust (04/30)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Tim Giago: An independent candidate awakens 'Party' zombies (9/22)
Mark Trahant: Huge crowd turns out for People's Climate March (9/22)
Doug George-Kanentiio: All children are gifts from the Creator (9/22)
Native Sun News: Native women take stand against violence (9/22)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe heads into election (9/22)
Navajo Nation to announce trust fund settlement this Friday (9/22)
S.E. Ruckman: A remarkable day with arrival of Cobell checks (9/22)
Jon Tester: Bill protects Special Diabetes Program for Indians (9/22)
Ron Allen: Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe keeps workers engaged (9/22)
Dante Desiderio: Working together to address tribal tax issue (9/22)
Vena A-dae Romero: Asserting sovereignty through our food (9/22)
Mark Rogers: Leadership in Native America is at a crossroads (9/22)
Dave Lundgren: BIA must take a closer look at rights-of-way (9/22)
Peter d'Errico: Video uses humor to battle racist NFL mascot (9/22)
Opinion: Racist sports mascots preserve 'imaginary' Indians (9/22)
Justice Sotomayor studied Indian law after joining top court (9/22)
House subcommittee holds hearing on bill for Hualapai Tribe (9/22)
Colville Tribes participate in repatriation ceremony in Canada (9/22)
Shinnecock Nation tightens regulation of tobacco businesses (9/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe won't share casino revenue (9/22)
Coeur d'Alene Tribe can't offer poker games pending appeal (9/22)
Lytton Band might purchase property next to gaming facility (9/22)
Nottawaseppi Huron Band reopens casino after electrical fire (9/22)
Guilty verdict in robbery of Saginaw Chippewa casino winner (9/22)
Editorial: Poarch Creek gaming deal deserves consideration (9/22)
Native Sun News: Tribes united against Keystone XL Pipeline (9/19)
Regina Brave: The earth that once was will soon be no more (9/19)
Chelsey Luger and Gyasi Ross: A conversation about suicide (9/19)
Cobell settlement checks being cashed across Indian Country (9/19)
Congress passes measure for tribal general welfare programs (9/19)
Native Sun News: US Senate candidates debate Native issues (9/18)
Cobell settlement checks landing in Indian Country mailboxes (9/18)
Sen. Walsh welcomes arrival of last Cobell settlement payout (9/18)
Rep. Daines praises House action on tribal general welfare bill (9/18)
Winnebago attorney joins BIA as a deputy assistant secretary (9/18)
NWIFC schedules briefing on 'Treaty Rights 101' on Capitol Hill (9/18)
Norbert Hill: It's past time to drop the Washington NFL mascot (9/18)
Peter d'Errico: Connecting mascots to racism and termination (9/18)
Opinion: Eliminating NFL team's racist mascot is just the start (9/18)
Student newspaper punished over refusal to print the R-word (9/18)
Officer investigated for 'drunk uneducated animals' comment (9/18)
9th Circuit rules against Chemehuevi Tribe in land deed case (9/18)
Mashable: Oglala Sioux man still pushing MazaCoin currency (9/18)
City won't allow vote on Tohono O'odham Nation casino plan (9/18)
9th Circuit poses tough questions in Big Lagoon casino case (9/18)
North Fork Rancheria banks on voter approval of casino deal (9/18)
KBIC judge dismisses lawsuit challenging plan for new casino (9/18)
Oneida Nation concerned about location of commercial casino (9/18)
Mashantucket Tribe's gaming executive to resign next month (9/18)
Column: Time for Mohegan Tribe to show its hand over casino (9/18)
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.