Supreme Court agrees to hear Jicarilla Apache Nation trust case

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear US v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, a fiduciary trust case.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation of New Mexico sued the federal government for breach of trust. During the litigation, the tribe asked the Interior Department to produce certain documents.

Interior refused but the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government must provide the documents because fiduciary obligation to the tribe was greater than the attorney-client privilege. The Obama administration, however, appealed and the justices accepted the petition in an order list released on Friday.

Justice Elena Kagan, the newest member of the Supreme Court, did not take part in the consideration or the decision of the petition. She served as Solicitor General at the Department of Justice when the case was in the lower courts.

In a separate ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals last July said Interior must reconsider a decision over oil and gas royalties owed to the tribe. As much as $6 million is at stake.

The Supreme Court has already heard one fiduciary trust case this term, US v. Tohono O'odham Nation. The decision will determine whether a tribe can sue for an historical accounting in a federal district court at the same time it pursues a damages claim in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Federal Circuit Decision:
In Re United States (December 30, 2009)

DC Circuit Decision:
Jicarilla Apache Nation v. DOI (July 16, 2010)

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Jicarilla Apache Nation hopes to recover $6M in royalty dispute (7/23)
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Court says government must produce trust documents (1/13)
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