Recap: Supreme Court arguments in US v. Tohono O'odham Nation
"On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation, No. 09-846, an important case concerning the ability of Indian tribes and a broad range of other potential plaintiffs (such as government contractors and plaintiffs challenging regulatory takings) to obtain full redress for claims they have against the United States government.

The case concerns the proper interpretation of 28 U.S.C. § 1500, a statute that strips the Court of Federal Claims (“CFC”) of jurisdiction over any claim “for or in respect to which” the plaintiff has another claim pending in federal district court. Since the CFC is, for most intents and purposes, the only court that can provide monetary relief to plaintiffs in claims against the United States, the question under the statute that this case presented is whether plaintiffs that have claims for equitable relief (here, an accounting) already pending in federal district court can then seek money damages in the CFC for the United States’ breach of its duties managing that same trust in the CFC. Anthony Yang argued the case for the Government while Danielle Spinelli argued the case for the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Unike some recent Supreme Court cases involving issues implicating tribal interests (such as Plains Commerce Bank or City of Sherrill), the Justices’ questions suggested that they found difficulties with both sides’ positions and were struggling to understand the practical implications of a ruling for either side. In particular, given some skeptical questions asked by Chief Justice Roberts, it was from clear that a majority of the Court would be willing to adopt the very broad rule sought by the Government , which would preclude CFC jurisdiction in any case in which a “related” case is pending in another court, even if it seeks different relief."

Get the Story:
Patricia Millett and James Meggesto: U.S. v. Tohono O’odham Oral Argument Recap (Turtle Talk 11/2)

Oral Argument Transcript:
US v. Tohono O'odham Nation (November 1, 2010)

Federal Circuit Decision:
Tohono O'odham Nation v US (March 16, 2009)

Related Stories:
Supreme Court to hear Tohono O'odham Nation trust case today (11/1)
Turtle Talk: Supreme Court singling out tribes for damage cases (10/14)
Supreme Court sets November 1 hearing for first Indian law case (09/29)
Supreme Court accepts Tohono O'odham trust law case (4/19)
Tribes working to keep cases away from Supreme Court (3/31)
Federal Circuit ruling in Tohono O'odham trust case (3/16)