Hoopa Valley Tribe loses trust fund distribution lawsuit
The Hoopa Valley Tribe lacks standing to challenge the distribution of a trust fund to the Yurok Tribe, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday.

In 1988, Congress created a trust fund to settle a dispute between the two northern California tribes. The Hoopas took their share, about $34.5 million, while the Yuroks went to court to challenge the Hoopa-Yurok Settlement Act.

Although the Yuroks eventually lost the case, the Interior Department said the tribe was still entitled to its share of the trust fund. By 2007, the Yurok portion had grown to around $90 million, which the tribe agreed to accept.

The Hoopas challenged the distribution, saying they were entitled to a portion because the Yuroks failed to abide by the settlement act. The Federal Circuit, however, disagreed and said the Hoopas' interest in the fund ended when they accepted their share.

"The Hoopa Valley Tribe waived any claim against the government arising from the Act, received its share of the Settlement Fund, and retained no entitlement to the remainder in the Settlement Fund," the court said. "As such, at the time DOI distributed the remainder to the Yurok Tribe, the Hoopa Valley Tribe was not a beneficiary of, and had no legally protected interest in, the Settlement Fund."

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims had previously granted summary judgment in favor of the federal government. But the Federal Circuit ordered the lawsuit to be dismissed without prejudice although one judge disagreed and said the Court of Claims got it right the first time.

Federal Circuit Decision:
Hoopa Valley Tribe v. US (March 9, 2010)

Relevant Laws:
Hoopa Yurok Settlement Act of 1988 (P.L.100-580)

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Yurok Tribe debates use of $93M trust fund (9/4)
Battle over Hoopa-Yurok trust fund continues (3/27)
Hoopa Valley Tribe weighs options on trust fund (3/5)
Swimmer says $90M trust fund owed to Yurok Tribe (3/2)
Hoopa Valley, Yurok tribes at odds over $90M fund (07/17)
Calif. tribes and BIA at odds over settlement (8/2)