Skip to main content

Supreme Court hears Navajo oral arguments

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Feb. 23 in a case involving coal royalty rights of the Navajo Nation.

It was the second time the justices have heard arguments over the dispute. In 2003, the court sided with the Department of the Interior, which at the request of the Peabody Energy Corporation had blocked a royalty increase to the tribe. Justices then sent the case back down to the federal circuit court.

In 2007, the lower appeals court sided once again with the tribe by ruling that the government had breached its fiduciary duty to the Navajo Nation.

The Bush administration appealed the new decision, arguing that a ruling in favor of the tribe would “encourage the filing” of other claims against the interior. Soon, the Supreme Court expressed through its certiorari process that it would hear the case again.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

A lawyer for the tribe, Carter Phillips, argued before the court that there was another statute other than the Indian Mineral Leasing Act – which the court has already said does not allow recovery on the facts in the case – that supports the tribe’s royalty claims.

After oral arguments were heard this time around, legal experts said it seemed clear that a majority of the court would likely once again reject the claims of the tribe.