Federal Jurisdiction: U.S. v. Tohono O'odham Nation LITIGATION/CONTROVERSY

WilmerHale represents the Tohono O’odham Nation before the Supreme Court in a case that concerns the scope of the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims. The Nation had filed two actions seeking to be made whole for the United States government’s breach of fiduciary duties related to the administration of the Nation’s trust: one suit in district court seeking a historical accounting to remedy the government’s breach of its duty to provide such an accounting, and one suit in the Court of Federal Claims seeking money damages to remedy the government’s mismanagement of the trust assets. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed the Nation’s damages suit, citing 28 U.S.C. § 1500, which precludes that court from hearing "any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff … has pending in any other court any suit or process against the United States.” The question presented is whether, under that provision, a suit in the Court of Federal Claims is a claim "for or in respect to” a claim pending against the United States in district court—and is therefore jurisdictionally barred—where, as here, the district court suit seeks different relief.

The jurisdictional issue in this case also has substantial implications for regulatory takings plaintiffs and others injured by the United States who, in order to be made whole, must file one suit for money damages in the Court of Federal Claims and another suit for declaratory or injunctive relief in the district court.

On November 1, 2010 Danielle Spinelli presented oral argument in the case. Also on the WilmerHale team are Seth Waxman, Catherine Carroll, Annie Owens and Sonya Lebsack.


Transcript of Oral Argument

Brief for Respondent

WilmerHale represents the Tohono O’odham Nation before the Supreme Court in a case that concerns the scope of the jurisdiction of the Court of Federal Claims. The Nation had filed two actions seeking to be made whole for the United States government’s breach of fiduciary duties related to the administration of the Nation’s trust: one suit in district court seeking a historical accounting to remedy the government’s breach of its duty to provide such an accounting, and one suit in the Court of Federal Claims seeking money damages to remedy the government’s mismanagement of the trust assets. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed the Nation’s damages suit, citing 28 U.S.C. § 1500, which precludes that court from hearing "any claim for or in respect to which the plaintiff … has pending in any other court any suit or process against the United States.” The question presented is whether, under that provision, a suit in the Court of Federal Claims is a claim "for or in respect to” a claim pending against the United States in district court—and is therefore jurisdictionally barred—where, as here, the district court suit seeks different relief.

The jurisdictional issue in this case also has substantial implications for regulatory takings plaintiffs and others injured by the United States who, in order to be made whole, must file one suit for money damages in the Court of Federal Claims and another suit for declaratory or injunctive relief in the district court.

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