Law | Trust

Federal Circuit reinstates trust claim in Wyoming tribes' case

Two Wyoming tribes will be able to pursue another trust mismanagement claim after winning a decision from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

The Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe sued the federal government for breach of trust in 1979. The tribes have won a series of rulings throughout the lengthy litigation, which was split into three phases, the first two of which have been resolved except for one claim at issue in yesterday's decision.

Judge Emily C. Hewitt of the U.S. Court of Claims ruled that the tribes couldn't recover damages for seven oil and gas leases that were converted under the Indian Mineral Leasing Act. She said the six-year statute of limitations passed for the leases, which date to the early 1900s and were converted in the 1940s and 1950s.

On appeal, the Federal Circuit reversed. The court said the tribes have raised an ongoing trespass claim that should be considered more closely before it is dismissed.

"Because Claim II asserts a continuing trespass, the tribes can seek damages for trespasses which occurred within six years of the filing of this suit and all trespasses that occurred after the filing of this suit," the decision stated. "Before this suit can move forward, however, the tribes must establish that the Government had a duty to eject trespassers from the seven parcels."

The third phase of the litigation has not been resolved. Turtle Talk has posted briefs regarding the Claim II appeal in Wind River Shoshone v. US.

Federal Circuit Decision:
Shoshone Indian Tribe, Arapaho Indian Tribe v. US (January 9, 2012)

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