FROM THE ARCHIVE

Supreme Court offers split victory on trust

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WEDNESDAY, MARCH 5, 2003

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled for one tribe but against another in two closely-watched breach of trust cases.

In a 6-3 ruling, the justices said the Navajo Nation failed to show the existence of a fiduciary relationship between the tribe and the federal government. The tribe said Department of Interior breached its trust responsibility by approving a coal lease with less than favorable terms. An estimated $600 million was at stake.

A 5-4 ruling upheld the White Mountain Apache Tribe's suit. The court said a 1960 law created a fiduciary relationship that, when breached, mandates money damages. As much as $14 million has been claimed.

Both cases arose from the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court had ruled 2-1 in favor of the tribes.

Get the Story:
High court rules against, for Indians (The Denver Post 3/5)
High court lets Apaches sue U.S. to fix fort (The Arizona Republic 3/5)
$600M Navajo claim rejected (Capitol Media Services 3/5)
Court Gives Tribes 'Mixed Message' (AP 3/5)
Government responsible for condition of tribal land (The Great Falls Tribune 3/5)
Justices Side With Trademark 'Copycat' [see end of article] (The Washington Post 3/5)
Ruling on Victor vs. Victoria Offers Split Victory of Sorts [see end of article] (The New York Times 3/5)
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Supreme Court Splits Tribal Rights Suits (AP 3/4)

Excerpts:
Navajo Nation | Apache Tribe

Navajo Nation:
Syllabus | Opinion [Ginsburg] | Dissent [Souter]

White Mountain Apache Tribe:
Syllabus | Opinion [Souter] | Concurrence [Ginsburg] | Dissent [Thomas]

Relevant Links:
U.S. Supreme Court - http://www.supremecourtus.gov
Navajo Nation - http://www.navajo.org
White Mountain Apache Tribe - http://www.wmat.nsn.us

Related Stories:
Supreme Court issues trust decisions (3/4)
Panel predicts Apache victory (12/4)
Court considers Navajo dispute (12/3)
U.S. pressed on trust duties (12/3)