indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
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...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Tribes discuss water concerns at conference (8/1)
Puyallup fashion designer survives 2nd week on Project Runway (8/1)
Report shows dip in Indian Country detention center population (8/1)
House committee passes bill to protect Gun Lake Tribe's casino (8/1)
George Rivera: Pojoaque Pueblo contributes to state with casino (8/1)
Ted Nugent: Media to blame for tribes canceling casino concerts (8/1)
Chippewa Cree Tribe takes Original American Foundation money (8/1)
Cayuga Nation welcomes 2nd Circuit decision in foreclosure suit (8/1)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee supports bills for Nevada tribes (8/1)
Support grows for trail to recognize forced march of Ponca Tribe (8/1)
Leadership flap in Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes appears settled (8/1)
Canada posts reports of salaries earned by First Nations leaders (8/1)
Montana to open satellite voting office on Blackfeet Reservation (8/1)
BIA officer involved in fatal shooting on Wind River Reservation (8/1)
Editorial: BIA fails to explain need for federal recognition reform (8/1)
Rep. Young apologizes for grabbing arm of Congressional staffer (8/1)
Chumash Tribe dispels drought concerns amid casino expansion (8/1)
Lawmakers ask DOJ to back bill to reverse online gaming opinion (8/1)
Native Sun News: Lawmakers seek distribution of Cobell checks (7/31)
2nd Circuit protects Cayuga Nation from foreclosure proceeding (7/31)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes seven bills at meeting (7/31)
David Wilkins: Finding some common ground on disenrollments (7/31)
Erik Stegman: Racist mascots continue to hurt our Native youth (7/31)
Tribes participate in 400-mile journey from Colorado to Arizona (7/31)
Sen. Tester questions void in leadership at IHS regional offices (7/31)
Matika Wilbur continues photo trip throughout Indian Country (7/31)
Proposed bill targets 'halfbreed' and 'breed' names in Montana (7/31)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe records high levels of bacteria in river (7/31)
KUOW: Tightening the screws on tribal payday loan operations (7/31)
Notah Begay to be inducted into Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame (7/31)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe fires police chief following investigation (7/31)
Opinion: Native Americans shackled in poverty by federal policy (7/31)
Fact Checker: Three Pinocchios for Washington team's new site (7/31)
Column: Revisiting Johnny Cash's classic Indian rights recording (7/31)
Column: Sen. McCain breaks promise on Tohono O'odham casino (7/31)
Survey shows support for smoke-free tribal casinos in Wisconsin (7/31)
Prairie Island Tribe arrests woman for possessing meth at casino (7/31)
Chumash Tribe hosts public meeting on $160M casino expansion (7/31)
Crews stop spread of fires that came near Barona Band's casino (7/31)
Native Sun News: Website tracks missing and murdered women (7/30)
Native Sun News: AmeriCorps expands efforts in Indian Country (7/30)
House Natural Resources Committee markup on four tribal bills (7/30)
Mark Begich: A permanent fix for tribal contract support costs (7/30)
Paul Moorehead: Let's get back to promoting self-government (7/30)
Tanya Lee: Violence against Native women a national disgrace (7/30)
Rep. Markwayne Mullin named one of 50 Most Beautiful on Hill (7/30)
Tribes criticize veto provisions in BIA federal recognition rule (7/30)
Great Plains tribes hold conference to safeguard water rights (7/30)
Yurok Tribe wraps up marijuana raids with nearly 13K plants (7/30)
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.