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Feds challenge Navajo court victory

WASHINGTON, D.C. ? A crack team of federal legal representatives are challenging a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that allowed the Navajo Nation to abrogate the Department of Interior mining agreement with Peabody Coal Company under the Indian Mineral Leasing Act (IMLA) of 1938.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson leads the Department of Justice legal team challenge that presented the question of "Whether the court of appeals properly held that the United States in liable to the Navajo Nation for up to $600 million in damages for breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the Secretary's actions concerning an Indian mineral lease, without finding that the Secretary had violated any specific statutory or regulatory pursuant to the IMLA."

If the government challenge fails, the precedent set by United States v. Navajo Nation could open the floodgates for damage suits similar to the original Navajo case against the federal government.