Judge rejects Jicarilla Apache gas royalty lawsuit
The federal government's duty to follow its own regulations is higher than its trust duty to Indian tribes, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

The Jicarilla Apache Nation of New Mexico filed suit against the Interior Department over the calculation of gas royalties. The tribe said the Minerals Management Service acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and violated its fiduciary obligations.

In a 14-page decision, Judge Richard J. Leon, a Bush nominee, rejected both claims. He said MMS "provided a reasoned explanation" for the way it calculated royalties owed to the tribe.

Leon acknowledged the government owes a duty to act in the best interests of tribes. But he said tribes can't force Interior to go against existing laws and regulations.

"In the final analysis, Interior's duty to follow its own regulations was, and is, an even higher obligation," Leon wrote.

Get the Story:
Judge throws out Jicarilla gas royalty suit (AP 3/31)

District Court Decision:
Jicarilla Apache Nation v. Interior Department (March 31, 2009)