Supreme Court Update Available


The Tribal Supreme Court Project is part of the Tribal Sovereignty Protection Initiative and is staffed by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). The Project was formed in 2001 in response to a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases that negatively affected tribal sovereignty. The purpose of the Project is to promote greater coordination and to improve strategy on litigation that may affect the rights of all Indian tribes. We encourage Indian tribes and their attorneys to contact the Project in our effort to coordinate resources, develop strategy and prepare briefs, especially at the time of the petition for a writ of certiorari, prior to the Supreme Court accepting a case for review. You can find copies of briefs and opinions on the major cases we track on the NARF website (

On April 19, 2010, the Supreme Court granted review in United States v. Tohono O’odham Nation, a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit involving claims for breach of fiduciary duties which could impact a number of other “companion” cases filed by Indian tribes against the United States in both the Court of Federal Claims and the Federal District Court. In Tohono O’odham, the Federal Circuit found that 28 U.S.C. § 1500 does not preclude jurisdiction in the Court of Federal Claims when a Indian tribe has also filed an action in Federal District Court seeking different relief (e.g. money damages versus historical accounting). Specifically, the question presented is:

Under 28 U.S.C. 1500, the Court of Federal Claims (CFC) does not have
jurisdiction over “any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff * * * has
* * * any suit or process against the United States” or its agents “pending in
any other court.” The question presented is: Whether 28 U.S.C. 1500 deprives the
CFC of jurisdiction over a claim seeking monetary relief for the government’s
alleged violation of fiduciary obligations if the plaintiff has another suit
pending in federal district court based on substantially the same operative
facts, especially when the plaintiff seeks monetary relief or other overlapping
relief in the two suits.

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