Justia U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Contracts
Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Salazar
Pursuant to the Indian Self-determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA), the United States enters into contracts with Indian tribes and tribal organizations for âthe planning, conduct and administration of programs or services which are otherwise provided to Indian tribes and their members pursuant to Federal law.â These agreements (Contract Support Cost contracts, or CSCs) include costs which are used for the running of essential tribal services, such as law enforcement, economic development and natural resource management. Congress mandated all CSCs be provided with full funding, but then failed to appropriate funds sufficient to pay all CSCs. Instead Congress capped appropriations at a level well below the sum total of CSCs. Several tribes sued seeking to collect the promised-but-unappropriated CSC money. The government argued that the phrase âsubject to the availability of appropriationsâ relieves it of the obligation to pay if the Congress doesnât appropriate the funds. The tribes argued that only Congressional funding decisionsânot the discretionary allocation decisions made by the Department of the Interiorâcan render an appropriation âunavailable.â The Tenth Circuit concluded that Plaintiffsâ interpretation is âreasonable,â and it reversed the district courtâs grant of summary judgment in favor of the government. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.