Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Tribal Law
  • Date Filed: June 30, 2015
  • Case #: 14-510
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 614 F.3d 519 (DC Cir 2010).
  • Full Text Opinion

Whether a claim under the Indian Self-Determination Act is entitled to equitable tolling.

Petitioner, the Menominee Indian Tribe, provided healthcare services to its members pursuant to a self determination contract with the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDA) authorizes Indian Tribes to administer programs on behalf of the Department of the Interior and HHS. HHS agreed to pay the cost the federal agency would have incurred plus reimburse the Tribe for “contract support costs.” Petitioner did not receive payment in full for contract support costs. Petitioner did not file a claim with the federal agencies, nor did it file suit. Instead, Petitioner relied on two nationwide class action lawsuits brought by other Indian Tribes. Petitioner received approximately $800,000 in compensation when the first case was settled. In 1999, the district court denied class certification in the second suit.

Petitioner appealed on the grounds of class-action and equitable tolling. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that the statute of limitations for Petitioner's claim did not meet the "extraordinary circumstances" requirement for equitable tolling.

Petitioner contends that from March 5, 1999 until February 9, 2001 (the date the class action was filed until the date the case was denied class certification) the six-year statute of limitations governing the claims for 1996-1998 should have been tolled pursuant to the doctrine of class-action tolling. Alternatively, the Tribe argues its claims were eligible for equitable tolling.

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