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 Sun News: Violence against Native women is on the rise (10/24)
Morgan Howard: Corporate dividends confict with Tlingit values (10/24)
David Wilkins: Abandon the Doctrine of Discovery in Indian law (10/24)
Navajo Nation candidate Chris Deschene won't halt campaign (10/24)
Tribes receive $1.2M in Sovereignty in Indian Education funds (10/24)
Language preservation a top issue as AFN opens annual meet (10/24)
Rep. Don Young to speak to Alaska Natives amid controversy (10/24)
Think Progress: South Dakota county suppresses Native vote (10/24)
Opinion: Tribes turn their acumen to Internet lending industry (10/24)
Chickasaw Nation signs compact with state for license plates (10/24)
Federal judge won't be removed from Miccosukee Tribe's case (10/24)
Radio: NPS allowed destruction of tribal burial mounds in Iowa (10/24)
BIA announces intent to put Cowlitz Tribe gaming site in trust (10/24)
Feinstein opposes North Fork Rancheria off-reservation casino (10/24)
Salt River Tribe arrests man who left children in casino garage (10/24)
Closure of Chukchansi Tribe's casino could affect contributions (10/24)
Opinion: Shinnecock Nation's casino plans remain under cloud (10/24)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe heads to election season (10/23)
Al Caroll: Recognize tribal sovereignty in new US Constitution (10/23)
Michael Baines: Senate candidate battles Alaska Native rights (10/23)
President Barack Obama urges early voting for Alaska Natives (10/23)
Ho-Chunk Nation woman named president of Girl Scouts board (10/23)
3rd Circuit won't force town to repatriate Jim Thorpe's remains (10/23)
Navajo Nation's top court orders new ballots without candidate (10/23)
Alaska Federation of Natives ready to open annual convention (10/23)
Alaska governor to sign Native languages bill six months later (10/23)
Rep. Don Young blames government 'largesse' for suicide rate (10/23)
Washington player says tattoo represents Cherokee heritage (10/23)
Crow Tribe seeks renewal of Indian Coal Production Tax Credit (10/23)
Native advocates come together to combat domestic violence (10/23)
Agua Caliente Band and DOJ submit briefs in water rights case (10/23)
Former health executive from Chippewa Cree Tribe sentenced (10/23)
Final person sentenced in theft from Blackfeet Nation program (10/23)
Opinion: Tribes exploit loopholes in America's political system (10/23)
Otoe-Missouria Tribe announces plans for new gaming facility (10/23)
Rival leaders of Chukchansi Tribe to meet amid casino closure (10/23)
Navajo Nation challenges lawsuit over death of casino patron (10/23)
Law Article: Judge restricts BIA authority in Class III dispute (10/23)
Column: Election won't end North Fork off-reservation casino (10/23)
Eyapaha Today: Oneida singer follows in mother's footsteps (10/22)
Native Sun News: Candidate seeks investigation into program (10/22)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Lakota people disrespect our language (10/22)
Cedric Sunray: Standing together to fight tribal disenrollment (10/22)
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.