Indian Country Media Network
Suzette Brewer, January 26, 2016
In a unanimous decision January 25, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling against the Menominee Tribe of Wisconsin in Menominee v. The United States, a case involving contract support costs against the Indian Health Service (IHS). The dispute arose over claims for the years 1996-1998 and turned on whether the tribe filed its claims in a timely fashion.
Previously, the District Court for the District of Columbia initially ruled that the tribe was barred from filing for its contract claims because it had missed the six-year statute of limitations; however, the Court of Appeals ruled that the limitations period was not jurisdictional and thus did not necessarily prevent an extension of time. Similar disagreements in the lower courts created a circuit split for the Supreme Court to make a determination, as other tribes have been involved in similar litigation against IHS.
At the Supreme Court hearing last December, none of the justices seemed compelled by the tribe’s reasoning for its delay in filing and were concerned about the tribe’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies, as well as its reliance on the potential outcome of other pending federal litigation that had not yet reached its terminal status.