Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma v. Leavitt

125 S. Ct. 1172 (2005)

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Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma v. Leavitt

United States Supreme Court
125 S. Ct. 1172 (2005)

  • Written by Liz Nakamura, JD

Facts

The federal government (defendant) entered into two contracts, one with the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe (plaintiff) and the other with the Cherokee Nation (plaintiff) (collectively, the Tribes), under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEA) pursuant to which (1) the Tribes would provide healthcare services to tribal members that the government would otherwise have provided under the Indian Health Service; and (2) the government would provide funding to cover the Tribes’ costs for administering the healthcare programs, including administrative costs and contract support costs. In the relevant fiscal years, Congress appropriated between $1.28 billion and $1.41 billion in unrestricted funds for the Indian Health Service to carry out ISDEA, which was far in excess of the amounts needed to cover the Tribes’ costs. Despite that, the government refused to cover the full amount of contract support costs the Tribes incurred, stating that Congress did not appropriate sufficient funds. The Tribes each separately challenged the government’s refusal to pay under the Contracts Dispute Act. In the first proceeding, the Tenth Circuit ruled against the Shoshone-Paiute Tribe and denied the Tribe’s demand for payment; however, in the second proceeding, the Federal Circuit ruled in favor of the Cherokee Nation and ordered the government to pay $8.5 million in damages. Because the Tenth Circuit and the Federal Circuit reached opposite results on identical fact patterns, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Breyer, J.)

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