indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree
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:
Native News News: Ojibwe flautist shares message with music (3/4)
9th Circuit to consider Medicine Lake sacred site dispute again (3/4)
Winona LaDuke: Ingrid Washinawatok's vision remains strong (3/4)
Steven Newcomb: Domination doctrine and the Quinault Nation (3/4)
Stanley Heller: Help eliminate an Indian mascot in Connecticut (3/4)
Editorial: Mascot reflects history of violence and discrimination (3/4)
Column: Work with tribes in Washington on marijuana industry (3/4)
Leader of Chippewa Cree Tribe ousted from office for 3rd time (3/4)
Cowlitz Tribe still waiting for BIA to place gaming site in trust (3/4)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe hails decision in gaming dispute (3/4)
Mohegan Tribe remains interested in new casino near border (3/4)
Mashantucket Tribe joins gaming proposal in Massachusetts (3/4)
Opinion: Florida gaming expansion bill leads to less gaming (3/4)
Native Sun News: Mine proposed near Black Hills sacred site (3/3)
Native youth send video message to Obama on Keystone XL (3/3)
Lummi Nation leader moves ahead with tribal cannabis group (3/3)
BIA to award another $8M in Tribal Climate Resilience grants (3/3)
DOI to host listening session on buy-back program in Arizona (3/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee sets hearing on IRRIGATE Act (3/3)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation improves notification system (3/3)
Patty Talahongva: Native youth become Champions for Change (3/3)
Mary Pember: Bad River Band wins as massive mine put on hold (3/3)
Albert Bender: A travesty of justice in attack on Indian children (3/3)
Vince Two Eagles: Native Americans are citizens in our nations (3/3)
Column: Navajo Nation takes basketball obsession to new level (3/3)
Dozens of Native languages down to limited number of speakers (3/3)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe seeks information about drug overdose (3/3)
Man from Omaha Tribe sentenced as habitual domestic offender (3/3)
Man from Oglala Sioux Tribe charged for abusing infant daughter (3/3)
Village sues DOI over Oneida Nation land-into-trust documents (3/3)
Editorial: Navajo Nation set to choose new president on April 21 (3/3)
Yerington Paiute Tribe reports another incident at youth facility (3/3)
Mohegan Tribe names one of its own to head gaming enterprise (3/3)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe and state in court over casino plan (3/3)
Muscogee Nation set for big job far as part of casino expansion (3/3)
Seminole Tribe touts compact as lawmakers take up expansion (3/3)
Lawmakers in Nebraska table bill affecting expansion of gaming (3/3)
Just Joking: Humor from National Congress of American Indians (3/2)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne family celebrates history (3/2)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Native snipers among world's deadliest (3/2)
Omaha Tribe welcomes denial of rehearing in boundary lawsuit (3/2)
Supreme Court won't hear Stockbridge-Munsee Band land claim (3/2)
Indian tobacco company rebuffed in another dispute with state (3/2)
Jodi Gillette: Administration making progress in Indian Country (3/2)
Kevin Abourezk: Leaders of Winnebago Tribe face recall attempt (3/2)
Aaron Schutt: Alaska Native role in FCC's auction benefits public (3/2)
Steven Newcomb: NMAI should help expose Indian law's bigotry (3/2)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Native sovereignty in a race-based society (3/2)
David Wilkins: Tap into the knowledge and power of our nations (3/2)
Opinion: Native women won't feel safe without action in Canada (3/2)
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.