Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: January 25, 2016
  • Case #: 14-510
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Alito, J., delivered the opinion for the unanimous Court
  • Full Text Opinion

To establish equitable tolling of a statute of limitations, the litigant must show the delay was extraordinary and beyond the litigant's control.

Petitioner, Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin, entered into a "self-determination" contract with the federal government, in which the federal government is supposed to pay any contract support costs. In 2005, Petitioners brought suit that the government did not pay the support costs on contracts for years 1995-2004. Petitioners argue that the six year statute of limitations should be tolled for the 1995-1997 contracts. The D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's decision that equitable tolling was not available.

The Supreme Court, reiterating its decision in Holland v. Florida, held litigants are entitled to equitable tolling of a statute of limitations if two elements are met: (1) litigant has been "pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance stood in his way and prevented timely filing." These "elements" are not merely factors, but a requirement. "Extraordinary circumstances" require the litigant's delay is both extraordinary and beyond the litigant's control. The Court did not find waiting for a decision in another similar case was beyond litigant's control and a reason to allow for equitable tolling. Affirmed.

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