Court Denies Government’s Motion in Tribal Trust Funds Case
Categories: Trust Fund Matters
On December 19, 2007 the district court for the District of Columbia denied a motion made by the Federal Government in the Nez Perce Tribe v. Kempthorne action filed by NARF on behalf of more than two hundred tribes. The Court denied the government’s motion that this action and the thirty-six (36) other tribal trust cases before it are not properly before the Court. The Government attempted to argue that these cases should be sent back to the U.S. Department of the Interior under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) that would allow the agency an opportunity to plan for the required accountings. The Court however denied the Government’s motion. If the government does not seek interlocutory appeal of the denial of its motion, it is likely that Nez Perce Tribe v. Kempthorne and the other cases will resume proceedings.
Nez Perce Tribe v. Kempthorne was filed by NARF on December 28, 2006 in the federal district court for the District of Columbia. The action seeks full and complete accountings of tribal trust funds, which never have been provided by the federal government who is the trustee for the funds. The action also seeks a court order declaring that the Arthur Andersen reports prepared under a reconciliation project contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and provided to tribes in the 1990s are not full and complete trust fund accountings.
Twelve tribal plaintiffs are named in the action- Nez Perce Tribe; the Mescalero Apache Tribe; the Tule River Indian Tribe; the Hualapai Tribe; the Yakama Nation; the Klamath Tribes; the Yurok Tribe; the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe; the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma; the Sac and Fox Nation; the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska; and the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. However, Nez Perce Tribe v. Kempthorne was filed as a class action to protect the rights of all tribes that do not file their own actions and that choose to remain in the class. About seventy (70) tribes filed their own actions, but as many as two hundred and twenty (220) may be in the class if certification is granted. The action had to be filed by December 31, 2006 under an act of Congress that gave tribes that date as a deadline by which to challenge the accounting adequacy of the Arthur Andersen reports.