Justia Public Benefits Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Native American Law
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The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of relators' qui tam action alleging that the College violated the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729-3733, by knowingly providing false progress reports on students in order to keep grant monies. The panel held that the Tribe is not a "person" under the FCA. The panel remanded for further jurisdictional factfinding on whether the College was an arm of the Tribe that shares the Tribe's status for purposes of the FCA. View "United States ex rel Cain v. Salish Kootenai College, Inc." on Justia Law

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The federal government holds, in trust for three Indian communities, certain Minnesota land acquired in the late 1800s, with federal funds appropriated for a statutorily identified group of Indians. That beneficiary group and the three present-day communities that grew on the land overlapped but diverged. Many beneficiaries were part of the communities, but many were not; the communities included many outside the beneficiary group. In 1980 Congress addressed resulting land use problems by putting the land into trust for the three communities that had long occupied them. Since then, proceeds earned from the land, including profits from gaming, have gone to the three communities. Descendants of the Indians designated in the original appropriations acts allege that they, rather than the communities, are entitled to benefits. In earlier litigation the Federal Circuit rejected a claim that the appropriations acts created a trust for the benefit of statutorily designated Indians and their descendants. On remand, the Court of Federal Claims rejected several new claims, but found the government liable on a claim for pre-1980 revenues from the lands acquired under the 1888-1890 Acts. The Federal Circuit reversed in part, finding that the descendants had no valid claim. View "Wolfchild v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case involves a federal rent-subsidy program for Indian Tribes and Tribally Designated Housing Entities (TDHE) that lease housing to Indians. Fort Belknap, a TDHE, petitioned for review of HUD's decision to withhold overpayments from future program payments. The court held that 25 U.S.C. 4161(d) allows an appeal only when HUD takes action pursuant to section 4161(a). In this instance, because HUD has taken no action pursuant to section 4161(a), the court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction. View "Fort Belknap v. Office of Pub. & Indian Hous." on Justia Law

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The dispute before the Tenth Circuit in this case centered on interest earned on block grants made to Indian tribes pursuant to the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. Specifically, Appellant Muscogee (Creek) Nation's Division of Housing challenged both a regulation placing a two-year limit on the investment of grant funds and two notices issued by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development stating that any interest accrued after the expiration of this two-year period must be returned to the Department. The Nation sought declaratory relief invalidating the regulation and notices as well as an injunction to prevent HUD from recouping interest earned on grant funds. The Nation also sought recoupment of the approximately $1.3 million of earned interest it wired to HUD after HUD sent a letter threatening an enforcement action based on the Nation’s investment of grant funds for longer than two years. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that HUD’s sovereign immunity was not waived by the Administrative Procedures Act and, in the alternative, that the Nation had failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted because HUD’s interpretation of the statute was permissible. Upon review, the Tenth Circuit concluded that HUD was authorized to promulgate a regulation limiting the period for investments, and required to demand remittance of interest earned in violation of the regulation. The Nation was therefore not entitled to recouping the interest it paid to HUD pursuant to HUD's enforcement of its rules. View "Muscogee (Creek) Nation v. HUD, et al" on Justia Law

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The former governor and former financial director of the Tribe were convicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. 371), and of violations of 18 U.S.C. 287, 666 and 669, involving misuse of federal grant and tribal monies at the Passamaquoddy Tribe Indian Township Reservation in Maine. The First Circuit vacated the conviction of the financial director for making material misstatements about how grant money intended for HIV and substance abuse prevention was spent, but otherwise affirmed. The evidence that the director knew that his statements were false was insufficient. The district court had jurisdiction; several counts involved mismanagement of federal grants and contracts, which are subject to regulations that the Tribe is not free to ignore, and do not constitute internal tribal matters.