Tim Evans: Menominee Nation loses contract support costs case

A Menominee Nation ambulance in Wisconsin. Photo from Menominee Tribal Clinic

Attorney Tim Evans, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, discusses the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. US, a contract support costs case:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 25, 2016, against the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin (Tribe) in Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States, et al., 577 U.S. ___ (2016) regarding its claims that the Indian Health Service (IHS) owed the Tribe self-determination contract support costs (CSC) covering contract years 1995 through 2004.

This case raised the questions of whether a tribe may extend the usual six-year statute of limitations period to present its claims for CSC, and if so, under what "equitable tolling" circumstances. A unanimous Court held that the doctrine of equitable tolling (in which a court finds that in fairness the time period should be extended) cannot be invoked unless the doctrine's two specific requirements are met.

The Court's analysis was based on the federal Contract Disputes Act (CDA), which controls many disputes arising under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA). Under those two statutes, a tribe has to present its CSC claims for initial acceptance or denial by the agency's contracting officer within six years after the claims first arise. If the tribe fails to do so, the statute of limitations period for bringing the claims will have run, and the tribe cannot rely upon equitable tolling to lengthen that time period unless it has both diligently pursued its claims and encountered extraordinary circumstances beyond its control that prevented the timely presentation of those claims.

Get the Story:
Tim Evans: Supreme Court Clarifies Limits On Tribes' Self-Determination Contract Support Costs Claims (Mondaq.com 2/3)

Supreme Court Decision:
Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States (January 25, 2015)

Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript | Question Presented

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