Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement | Law | Trust

DOJ cites Supreme Court case in bid to dismiss Quapaw suit

The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in US v. Tohono O'odham Nation is being used against members of the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma who filed a trust mismanagement lawsuit.

In April, the justices ruled that tribes can't pursue trust management lawsuits in separate courts at the same time. The Department of Justice is now saying the same principle applies to individual Indians.

Since individual members of the Quapaw Tribe are already a part of the Cobell lawsuit, government attorneys say their complaint is too similar to be heard in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims at this time.

"[Quapaw] plaintiffs’ instant complaint and the [Cobell v. Salazar] class action currently pending before the District Court for the District of Columbia have asserted claims based on substantially the same operative facts," DOJ wrote in the May 26 motion to dismiss.

At least eight of the nine Quapaw plaintiffs have opted out of Cobell. But government attorneys noted that they filed their lawsuit on January 5 -- while Cobell was still "pending" in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

"The fact that many of the [Quapaw] plaintiffs have, since the complaint was filed in this case, attempted to opt-out of Cobell is of no moment," the brief states. "On January 5, 2011, when this case was filed, the Cobell amended complaint was on file in the District Court, the Cobell classes were certified, and the Cobell matter was pending. No [Quapaw] Plaintiffs had opted-out of Cobell as of January 5, 2011."

If the government's motion to dismiss is granted, the Quapaw plaintiffs could conceivably refile in the Court of Federal Claims after Cobell is cleared from the docket of the U.S. District Court. The Cobell fairness hearing will take place June 20 but there is no certain date for final approval of the $34. billion settlement in the case.

Turtle Talk has posted the government's motion in Goodeagle v. U.S.

Supreme Court Decision:
Syllabus | Opinion [Kennedy] | Concurrence [Sotomayor] | Dissent [Ginsburg]

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

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

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