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Maniilaq Ass'n v. Burwell

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

March 22, 2016, Decided

Civil Action No. 15-152 (JDB)



For more than twenty years, the Secretary of Health and Human Services has allocated $30,921 a year in federal funds toward renting health clinic space in the Native American village of Kivalina, Alaska. Maniilaq Association, a regional health corporation that now owns and operates the clinic in Kivalina, believes that amount is insufficient to assure adequate healthcare in that community. In an attempt to remedy the Kivalina clinic's chronic underfunding, Maniilaq submitted a lease proposal based on section 105(l) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act. That section, Maniilaq argues, requires the Secretary to rent its Kivalina clinic space and pay it compensation, [**2]  based on the clinic's operating costs, of $249,842 a year. But the Secretary declined Maniilaq's proposal, arguing that it must pay Maniilaq no more than the $30,921 it has provided previously. Maniilaq sued, and cross-motions for summary judgment are now pending before the Court.1 The Court will grant summary judgment for Maniilaq, and direct the parties to enter into discussions regarding Maniilaq's Kivalina lease proposal consistent with this opinion.


Under Title V of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (the Act), qualifying tribes or inter-tribal consortia may enter self-governance compacts to administer health services ordinarily provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (the Secretary). In 1994, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Secretary entered the Alaska Tribal Health Compact (the Compact). See Ex. A to Pl.'s Mem. [ECF No. 10-2] (Compact). Maniilaq Association, a non-profit association that provides health care services to twelve member tribes, is one co-signer [**3]  of the Compact. Each compacting tribe or inter-tribal consortium must also enter into a written funding agreement with the Secretary. See 25 U.S.C. § 458aaa-4(a); see also 25 U.S.C. § 458aaa-4(b) (definition of Indian tribe). These funding agreements should identify the programs to be administered by the tribe, see id. § 458aaa-4(d)(1), and "authorize the Indian tribe to plan, conduct, consolidate, administer, and receive full tribal share funding" for the included programs, see id. § 458aaa-4(b)(1).

The statute dictates the minimum amount of tribal funding. "The Secretary shall provide funds under a funding agreement . . . in an amount equal to the amount that the Indian tribe would have been entitled to receive under self-determination contracts under [Title I of the Act]." Id. § 458aaa-7(c); see also Compact Art. II, § 3 ("Subject only to the appropriation of funds by the Congress of the United States and in accordance with [25 U.S.C. § 458aaa-7], the Secretary shall provide the total amounts specified in the Funding Agreements."). Title I, in turn, requires the Secretary to provide "not . . . less than" the amount that she "would have otherwise provided for the operation of the programs" administered by the tribal organization; contract support costs; and, in the first year of a contract, [**4]  start-up  [*245]  costs.2 Id. § 450j-1(a) (often referred to as section 106(a) of the Act). "At the option of an Indian tribe, a funding agreement may provide for a stable base budget specifying the recurring funds (including, for purposes of this provision, funds available under [section 106(a)]" to be transferred to the compacting tribal organization. Id. § 458aaa-4(g).

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170 F. Supp. 3d 243 *; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36605 **; 2016 WL 1118256

MANIILAQ ASSOCIATION, Plaintiff, v. SYLVIA M. BURWELL, in her official capacity as Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, et al., Defendants.

Prior History: Maniilaq Ass'n v. Burwell, 72 F. Supp. 3d 227, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 117084 (D.D.C., 2014)


lease, clinic, funding, regulations, tribe, tribal, Compact, space, funding agreement, declination, costs, tribal organization, ambiguous, reasonable expenses, summary judgment, entitles, village, implement regulations, programs, funding level, final offer, determines, allowable costs, self-determination, compactors, compensate, grounds, parties, marks, amount of compensation

Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, De Novo Standard of Review, Governments, Native Americans, Indian Self-Determination & Education Assistance Act, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Evidentiary Considerations, Legislation, Interpretation