Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
WASHINGTON In a rare decision, the US Supreme Court on Monday sided with American Indian tribes on the matter of money owed to tribes.
In a 5-4 decision ruled tribes were owed money
Specifically, the Court ruled the Ramah Navajo Chapter and other American Indian tribes must be fully reimbursed for programs and services provided, such as law enforcement, education and environmental protection.
With its 5-4 decision, the Court sided with the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver that ruled tribes were owed money.
At issue was Congress not allocating enough money to the tribes. Congress capped the money for reimbursement for programs and services rendered. The tribes sued and now the tribes have won.
“We stressed that the government's obligation to pay contract support costs should be treated as an ordinary contract promise,”
writes Sonia Sotomayor for the majority.
“The government was obligated to pay the tribes' contract support costs in full.”
Lyle Denniston writes in the SCOTUS Blog in his Plain English summary:
"Every contract is a deal between two parties, and both are supposed to perform their part of the deal. That means that, if the job covered by the contract is done as it should be, then that party is entitled to be paid what has been promised. This case involved Indian tribes that sued the government because it did not pay all of the costs it had promised to cover when the two sides made their deal for the tribe to provide education and other government-like functions for their members. The Court ruled that a promise is a promise, even if the government doesn't have immediately available enough money to pay all of the contractors it had promised to pay for their services. Congress has to locate the money to cover such a promise, the Court said."
The exact amount of money owed to American Indian tribes is estimated to be in the millions of dollars, but no one is quite certain currently; nor is anyone predicting when the money will be forthcoming, especially since Congress must allocate the funds per this Supreme Court ruling.
posted June 20, 2012 9:20 am edt