Tuesday, September 10, 2013

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issues opinion in Klamath Claims Committee v. United States


On August 23, 2013, a federal court of appeals agreed with a brief submitted by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in Klamath Claims Committee v. United States and affirmed that it is the Klamath Tribes and not the Klamath Claims Committee (KCC) that determines what claims will be brought on behalf of the Klamath Tribes and its members. In this case, the KCC had appealed the dismissal of its claims by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the United States sought affirmance of that dismissal on the grounds that the KCC’s claims are really claims of the Klamath Tribes and the Tribes is a sovereign that cannot be joined or sued without its consent. NARF Staff Attorney Melody McCoy represented the Klamath Tribes of Oregon as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in support of the United States.

In affirming the dismissal of KCC's case, the Court of Appeals also rejected KCC’s claim that money in a trust account held by the United States for the benefit of the Tribes should be paid to KCC’s attorneys. The Court of Appeals made clear that it is “axiomatic that the sovereign Tribes may choose which of its branches and agents can bring suit on its behalf to vindicate its rights or the rights of its members. If certain members of the Tribes disagree with that choice, they should seek relief in tribal court or through the Tribal Council.”

For a copy of the opinion, click here.