Thursday, February 16, 2006
Federal Court allows Pembina Chippewa damages claims to go forward:
The U.S. Court of Federal Claims, in its fifty-five (55) page opinion dated January 26, 2006, in the case of Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boys Reservation, Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and the White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa Indians, et al. v. United States, announced a stunning victory for these four tribes, who are also known as the "Pembina Chippewa Tribes." It comes almost fourteen years after the case was filed by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) on behalf of the Pembina Chippewa Tribes. It rejects four major arguments by the United States to get the case dismissed or substantially reduced. It allows the case to go forward to determine whether the United States breached its trust responsibilities to the Pembina Chippewas with respect to their trust funds, and to determine an amount of damages for which the United States is liable for those breaches.
The U.S. Federal Court of Claims ruled that statutes of limitation do not bar the suit because a full accounting by the U.S. has not yet occurred, that federal statutes mandate that the federal government pay money damages for any breach of trust under the statutes, and that the Court need not determine whether the rules governing class actions are satisfied in this case because a special federal statute, which allows "a group of Indians" to bring suit before the Claims Court, covers all of the judgment fund beneficiaries in the Pembina Chippewa's case.
NARF is hopeful that in light of this opinion that is so favorable to the Pembina Chippewas, meaningful negotiations between the parties on this case will resume. It is likely, however, the government will try to bring at least a few more issues to the Court before it seriously considers settlement of the case. Nevertheless, after years of representing the Pembina Chippewas in this case, NARF is extremely pleased with this opinion of the Court which allows the case to go forward as it originally was filed for money damages on behalf of all of the beneficiaries to the Pembina Judgement Fund 1964 and 1980 Awards. Having cleared many potential hurdles, NARF now looks forward to getting to the merits of the underlying issue in the case how much money should there have been in the Pembina Judgement Fund to distribute to the beneficiaries had the trustee properly and timely accounted for and invested the Pembina Judgement Fund.
Read a copy of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims decision: Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation v. United States