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United States v. Jicalrilla Apache Nation

United States Supreme Court
564 U.S. 162 (2011)


Funds from natural resources taken from the reservation of the Jicalrilla Apache Nation (Tribe) (plaintiff) were held in trust by the United States government (defendant). The Tribe brought suit against the government in the Court of Federal Claims, alleging mismanagement of these funds. During discovery, the Tribe requested certain documents containing legal advice from the United States Office of the Solicitor to the Department of Interior. The government asserted the attorney-client privilege. The Court of Federal Claims ordered the government to produce the documents, finding that because of the fiduciary relationship between the government and the Tribe, the attorney-client privilege did not apply. On petition for a writ of mandamus, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari. The government argued, among other things, that its obligations with respect to the Tribe were creatures of statute, as opposed to the common law under which the fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege was created. The statutes and regulations in question delineated the government’s disclosure obligations with respect to the Tribe’s funds. Additionally, the regulations provided that the documents the Tribe requested were “the property of the United States.”

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Alito, J.)

Dissent (Sotomayor, J.)

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