Law | Trust

Supreme Court hearing in Jicarilla Apache trust case on April 20

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear US v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, a fiduciary trust case, on Wednesday, April 20.

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 appealed and the justices agreed to hear the case.

Justice Elena Kagan, the newest member of the Supreme Court, has not taken part in the proceedings. She served as Solicitor General at the Department of Justice when the case was in the lower courts.

In the event of a 4-4 split among the remaining justices, the Federal Circuit decision will stand.

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)

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