your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Indian Law Online Master Degree - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Colorado tribe wins contract support cost dispute
Friday, June 22, 2007
Filed Under: Health | Law

Even after the U.S. Supreme Court told the Indian Health Service to live up to its promises, the agency has continued to tell tribes there isn't enough money to pay them.

But that policy is unlawful, the Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado argued. Its proposal to take control of an IHS clinic on the reservation was rejected by the agency, whose officials claimed they didn't have enough money to fulfill the agreement.

Last week, Judge William P. Johnson stepped in to resolve the dispute. He said IHS can't deny self-determination contracts based on inadequate appropriations in a 20-page ruling that was hailed by the tribe as a victory for Indian Country.

"Now we can move forward and focus on the best healthcare for our members and the local community," Southern Ute Chairman Clement J. Frost said yesterday.

Frost said the decision will help other tribes who want to take over IHS hospitals and clinics but have been told there isn't enough money to do so. Judge Johnson made it clear that IHS "can no longer stand in the way of tribal self-determination," the chairman said.

The dispute stems from the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. The landmark law authorizes tribes to assume programs -- ranging from health care to social services -- that were previously managed by federal agencies.

The self-determination policy has been a success, with hundreds of tribes entering into contracts and compacts to take control of their destinies. But IHS has never completely fulfilled its promise to pay for the costs of the programs along with additional contract support costs.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the failure to pay was unlawful. "The government does not deny that it promised to pay the relevant contract support costs. Nor does it deny that it failed to pay," Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in the 8-0 decision.

"Its sole defense consists of the argument that it is legally bound by its promises if, and only if, Congress appropriated sufficient funds, and that, in this instance, Congress failed to do so," he continued.

Relying on the decision, Judge Johnson said IHS was wrong to reject the Southern Ute Tribe's contract based on the availability of appropriations. The government's mandates under the self-determination law aren't affected by money, he concluded.

"The mere failure of Congress to appropriate funds, without further words modifying or repealing, expressly or by clear implication, the substantive law, does not in and of itself defeat a government obligation created by statute," Johnson wrote, quoting another precedent.

He also said the agency can't force the tribe to accept an agreement in which the tribe releases the IHS from paying contract support costs. Such a contract would have essentially relinquished the IHS from future lawsuits or damages claims.

At one point, the director for the Southwest area of the IHS emailed the tribe and said the contract "must include language that IHS will not pay CSC, does not promise to pay CSC, that the tribes cannot rely on any promise to pay, and tribes cannot report a failure to receive CSC as a shortfall," Johnson recounted in his June 15 ruling.

At the same time, Johnson noted that the IHS sits "between a rock and a hard place" because its discretion to reject contracts is limited by the self-determination law. But he said the agency has other options to meet its obligations, such as asking Congress for specific earmarks.

Since the Supreme Court ruling, IHS has asked for more contract support funds in its annual budget proposals. So has the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the other main agency for self-determination contracts and compacts. IHS also issued a new contract support policy in April [Indian Health Manual]

But tribes say both agencies are still failing to meet the need. A recent bill in Congress that failed to win enactment sought more than $600 million to address contract support cost shortfalls.

With victory in hand, lawyers for the Southern Ute Tribe hope to draft an order that requires IHS to approve a contract to take over the clinic. The next step in the case will assess damages, if any, to be awarded to the tribe.

Court Decision:
Southern Ute Tribe v. Leavitt (June 15, 2007)

Supreme Court Decision in Cherokee Nation v. Leavitt:
Syllabus | Opinion [Breyer] | Concurrence [Scalia]

Relevant Links:
Southern Ute Tribe -
Indian Health Service -
Contract Support Cost Litigation -
Contract Support Costs, NCAI -

Related Stories:
Nevada tribe finally paid for health services contract (4/26)
Tribes continue fight for self-determination contracts (12/16)
BIA ordered to pay for self-determination contract (09/26)
Contracts still an issue despite Supreme Court win (8/14)
Tribal contracts pose conflict for U.S. Supreme Court (11/10)
Court to hear self-determination contract case (11/9)
Supreme Court takes action on Indian law cases (11/02)
Campbell says agencies afraid of helping tribes (04/30)
Tribes ask Congress to address contract shortfalls (04/28)
Supreme Court to resolve self-determination dispute (03/23)
Supreme Court weighs self-determination dispute (03/09)
Court rules tribe owed self-determination funds (07/07)
Appeals court turns down Navajo Nation again (04/09)
Court rebuffs tribes on contract funding dispute (11/27)
Navajo Nation challenges contract policy (10/04)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribal member speaks out against fracking (11/27)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud mothers address meth issues (11/27)
Tim Giago: Walk a mile in the moccasins of Native Americans (11/27)
Vince Two Eagles: Focus on being thankful this holiday season (11/27)
Native Sun News: Keystone fighters celebrate permit's defeat (11/27)
Kevin Leecy: Tribes remain a vital segment of our community (11/27)
Steven Newcomb: Even media treats our nations as 'nothing' (11/27)
Ray Cook: Thanksgiving flies in the face of original Americans (11/27)
Terese Mailhot: Racism prevails in American popular culture (11/27)
Ilya Somin: Persistent 'myth' justified taking of Indian lands (11/27)
Ak-Chin Indian Community sued for same-sex marriage ban (11/27)
Cahuilla Band celebrates new travel center at gaming facility (11/27)
Opinion: Don't break promise to Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (11/27)
Native Sun News: Family questions FBI on reservation death (11/25)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud students earn top scholarship (11/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Making a difference for people on Pine Ridge (11/25)
Yurok Tribe: Mourning the passing of 'visionary' Troy Fletcher (11/25)
Ned Blackhawk: Supreme Court case jeopardizes tribal rights (11/25)
Steve Russell: The real origins of the world's terrorism crisis (11/25)
Ramona Peters: Sharing a Wampanoag story of Thanksgiving (11/25)
Yatibaey Evans: Let's all teach the truth about Native history (11/25)
Martie Simmons: Every Native parent dreads this time of year (11/25)
Eric Metaxas: The 'miracle' of Squanto and first Thanksgiving (11/25)
Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to late Billy Frank Jr (11/25)
Oneida Nation opens first branch location of tribal-owned bank (11/25)
Virginia tribes continue to pay tribute required by 1677 treaty (11/25)
Chukchansi Tribe reaches new agreement for shuttered casino (11/25)
Poarch Band to welcome visitors to $65M expansion at casino (11/25)
Stillaguamish Tribe debuts eatery and microbrewery at casino (11/25)
Connecticut tribes consider proposals for third gaming facilty (11/25)
Mark Pilarski: Why are games different at some tribal casinos? (11/25)
Tribes seek support for Native language instruction programs (11/24)
Rep. Mullin confirms divisions in Indian Country on Carcieri fix (11/24)
President Obama to award Medal of Freedom to Billy Frank Jr. (11/24)
Sault Tribe pushes for passage of Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (11/24)
Lakota Country Times: Charles Trimble recognized for writings (11/24)
Native Sun News Editorial: Some new names in Indian Country (11/24)
Jim Kent: South Dakota lands in the news again for corruption (11/24)
John Yellowbird Steele: Bill tries to hijack recognition process (11/24)
Albert Bender: 'The Green Inferno' hits new low in racist films (11/24)
Peter d'Errico: Anti-Indian wars continue in US Supreme Court (11/24)
Anne Keala Kelly: US government wants to steal Hawaii again (11/24)
Counties ask Supreme Court to hear Ute Tribe boundary case (11/24)
Shinnecock Nation considers entering medical marijuana field (11/24)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.