indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Government files first brief in Navajo trust case
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Filed Under: Law | Trust

The outgoing Bush administration filed its first brief in the contentious Navajo Nation trust case last week, raising a new claim about the handling of a botched coal lease.

Solicitor General Gregory Garre, a Bush nominee, told the U.S. Supreme Court that the tribe engaged in the same type of behavior at the center of the long-running dispute. The government's brief said the tribe learned through ex parte, or one-sided, communications that the lease dispute was likely being resolved in its favor.

The tribe had accused Reagan administration officials of ex parte contacts with a lobbyist for Peabody Energy, the world's largest coal company. The tribe said it was forced into signing a bad deal with Peabody as a result of such behavior.

But now the Department of Justice says information developed more recently in the case shows the tribe spoke with government attorneys and officials and believed Peabody would have been ordered to pay a higher royalty rate on a valuable coal deposit in northeastern Arizona.

"The tribe's attorney learned from the Interior Department that Interior's internal legal review of the appeal had been completed and that a technical review would be finished within days, and he concluded from the tone of their conversation 'that [the tribe] will prevail on the legal issues' in Peabody's appeal," the government's November 26 brief stated.

The appeal never came out of Washington, D.C., because then-Interior secretary Donald P. Hodel suppressed it after meeting behind closed doors with a Peabody lobbyist who happened to be a close friend. The eventual discovery of the ex parte talks formed the basis of the tribe's claim that it was cheated out of $600 million.

Despite the conduct, the Supreme Court in March 2003 said the contacts weren't prohibited by law. By a 6-3 vote, the justices said the tribe failed to demonstrate how the government's actions violated the trust relationship.

But the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals revived the case, leading to a ruling in September 2007 that stated the tribe was owed damages for the botched lease. The decision was based on common trust law, as well as a "network" of laws and regulations that weren't considered by the Supreme Court back in March 2003.

"[I]t is undisputed that Secretary Hodel refused to make this royalty adjustment permanent after meeting with Peabody's representative, whom the government conceded was 'a former aide and friend of Secretary Hodel,'" the Federal Circuit said.

The Supreme Court -- with two new conservative-leaning justices on the bench -- will now tackle the issue all over again when it hears the Bush administration's appeal sometime next year. A hearing date hasn't been set for a case that's being closely watched throughout Indian Country.

The Navajo Nation's response to the government's brief is due January 9, 2009, shortly before president-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated. Among other nominees, Obama will get to choose a new Solicitor General, the official in charge of all Supreme Court litigation for the government.

"Barack Obama is committed to tribal nation building and enforcing the federal government’s obligations," the incoming president said in his campaign platform.

The new administration isn't likely to change course in the case, however. But a Supreme Court decision that goes against the tribe's favor could result in a potential settlement or other action. Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. and dozens of Navajo leaders endorsed Obama.

Supreme Court Documents:
Docket Sheet: No. 07-1410 | Brief for the U.S. | NCAI-NARF Tribal Supreme Court Project

Federal Circuit Decision:
Navajo Nation v. US (September 13, 2007)

March 2003 Supreme Court Decision in US v. Navajo Nation:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Dissent [Souter]

Related Stories:
Navajo Nation trust case on Supreme Court docket again (10/02)
Supreme Court to hear Navajo Nation trust case (10/1)
Supreme Court considers Indian law cases (9/30)
SCOTUSBlog: Supreme Court petitions to watch (09/19)
Bush seeks review of long-running Navajo trust case (5/19)
Court: Navajo Nation owed money for bungled lease (9/14)
Peabody takes coal lease dispute to high court (12/01)
Peabody loses another round in Navajo coal lease fight (6/16)
Judge won't dismiss Navajo Nation suit against Peabody (04/27)
Peabody continues top-level access at Interior (3/17)
Court opens window for Navajo Nation trust suit (10/27)
Court appears ready to toss Peabody appeal (04/15)
Supreme Court's trust rulings criticized (4/14)
Navajo Nation back in court over Peabody lease (4/8)
Effects of Supreme Court decision debated (03/07)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)
A mixed bag for Indian trust (3/5)



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: Deadly storm hits Crow Creek Sioux Reservation (7/3)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud youth hold suicide awareness walk (7/3)
Delphine Red Shirt: Speak the Lakota language to carry on culture (7/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee schedules trust reform hearing (7/3)
Chumash Tribe wins dismissal of suit over status of reservation (7/3)
Four groups in Oklahoma seeking federal recognition through BIA (7/3)
Little Shell Chippewa Tribe welcomes federal recognition reforms (7/3)
Leader of Duwamish Tribe calls denial of recognition 'devastating' (7/3)
Editorial: Other tribes in Virginia deserve federal recognition too (7/3)
Ojibwe hockey star excited for transfer to team in nation's capital (7/3)
Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe wants sacred rock on national register (7/3)
Rosebud Sioux Tribe won't give up on wind energy despite delays (7/3)
Catawba Nation fought against British during Revolutionary War (7/3)
Kootenai Tribe of Idaho revives powwow after 15-year absence (7/3)
Taos Pueblo man sentenced to seven years in prison for stabbing (7/3)
Disputed leader of Chukchansi Tribe sentenced for clash at casino (7/3)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe starts work on Class II gaming facility (7/3)
Tohono O'odham Nation faces state in court in new casino lawsuit (7/3)
Cherokee Nation to open hotel at $80M casino near Arkansas in fall (7/3)
Brian Pierson: Tribal labor sovereignty could land in Supreme Court (7/3)
Pierre Bergeron: Judges split on federal labor law at tribal casinos (7/3)
Native Sun News: Lakota riders complete journey to Little Bighorn (7/2)
Lakota Country Times: Newspaper takes home top honors at NAJA (7/2)
Brandon Ecoffey: Delivering stories that matter to Indian Country (7/2)
Ivan Star: Creating a culturally appropriate economy at Pine Ridge (7/2)
Elizabeth Hawksworth: Being patriotic and being Native in Canada (7/2)
Micah A: Blood quantum does not make me any less of an Indian (7/2)
David Shorter: Learning not to speak on behalf of Native peoples (7/2)
Marc Simmons: Legend of Catholic priest saved by grateful tribe (7/2)
Sen. McCain deemed responsible for land swap at sacred Oak Flat (7/2)
A Tribe Called Red releases free remix of Buffy Sainte-Marie track (7/2)
Pamunkey Tribe wins final federal recognition decision from BIA (7/2)
Duwamish Tribe rejected for federal recognition for a third time (7/2)
BIA accused of blocking road access on New Mexico reservation (7/2)
Chippewa Cree Tribe elects Ken St. Marks as chair for fourth time (7/2)
Mississippi Choctaw leader comes out on top in unofficial results (7/2)
Bois Forte Band grows economy with second Tim Hortons Cafe (7/2)
Chickasaw Nation hails selection of permanent Indian law chair (7/2)
Editorial: Gila River Indian Community to blame for highway path (7/2)
Cow Creek Band continues to oppose new Coquille Tribe casino (7/2)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes renovate casino resort (7/2)
Four more tribes in New Mexico enter Class III gaming compact (7/2)
Editorial: Pojoaque Pueblo gets pass on illegal gaming operation (7/2)
Save Oak Flat caravan plans journey to DC to protect sacred site (7/1)
Court reluctantly backs NLRB in Saginaw Chippewa Tribe dispute (7/1)
Native Sun News: Opposition grows to delisting of grizzly bears (7/1)
Lakota Country Times: Reservation counties rank as deadliest (7/1)
Steve Russell: Professor outed as Cherokee fraud once again (7/1)
Harlan McKosato: Indian people survive despite mistreatment (7/1)
Marshall Matz: Fight for $380M in Keepseagle funds continues (7/1)
BIA acquires former military site in trust for Ho-Chunk Nation (7/1)
Appropriations bill adds $10M for tribal courts in PL280 states (7/1)
Sen. Murkowski questions definition of 'Indian' for health care (7/1)
South Dakota board won't back name change for sacred peak (7/1)
Fort Peck Tribes take on cost for homes promised by Brad Pitt (7/1)
Hoopa Valley Tribe orders water restrictions as tanks run dry (7/1)
Cherokee Nation certifies results of election for top positions (7/1)
Secretary Sally Jewell reaffirms opposition to racist mascots (7/1)
Virginia tribes hindered by racist policies created by one man (7/1)
Column: Native Code Talkers defended nation with languages (7/1)
Guilty plea for stabbing of BIA superintendent in South Dakota (7/1)
Opposition group rallies over Miccosukee Tribe land-into-trust (7/1)
Pojoaque Pueblo keeps casino open after gaming deal expires (7/1)
Court allows lawsuit for incident at Tonto Apache Tribe casino (7/1)
Navajo Nation Council approves bill to share gaming revenue (7/1)
Soboba Band celebrates 20th anniversary for gaming facility (7/1)
Mashantucket Tribe extends agreement for $1.7B casino debt (7/1)
BIA adopts new policy regarding federal recognition process (6/30)
Supreme Court agrees to resolve another Indian law dispute (6/30)
Patrick Murphy: Star Trek's William Shatner visits Navajoland (6/30)
Yvette Roubideaux: Making progress at Indian Health Service (6/30)
Native Sun News: Wambli Ska group shares culture with youth (6/30)
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.