Appeals court reopens Jicarilla Apache Nation gas royalty lawsuit
The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Jicarilla Apache Nation of New Mexico can pursue a gas royalty lawsuit against the Interior Department.

The lawsuit claims DOI's method of calculating gas royalties violated its fiduciary obligation to the tribe. In April 2009, a federal judge disagreed and said the federal government's duty to follow its own regulations is higher than its Indian trust duty.

In a decision issued on Friday, the D.C. Circuit reversed. The court said DOI made a mistake when it retroactively applied regulations to the tribe's gas royalties because the regulations are prospective in nature.

The D.C. Circuit also said DOI failed to explain fully how it arrived at a key decision to calculate the royalties. The court said the government must reconsider the matter, a move that could lead to more money to the tribe.

"Jicarilla likely will receive additional revenue from its lessees" if DOI reverses the key decision, the court noted.

The court did not address the fiduciary obligation issue because it resolved the case on other grounds.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case Jicarilla Apache Nation v. DOI.

DC Circuit Decision:
Jicarilla Apache Nation v. DOI (July 16, 2010)

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Court says government must produce trust documents (1/13)
Judge rejects Jicarilla Apache gas royalty lawsuit (4/1)