Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
March 10, 2015, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; April 1, 2015, Filed
Plaintiff Quechan Tribe alleges that the United States violated statutory, common law, and constitutional duties that it owes the Tribe when it provided inadequate medical care at the Fort Yuma Service Unit of the Indian Health Service ("IHS"). According to the complaint, the Unit's facilities are the oldest in the IHS system, are in a condition of disrepair, and create unsafe conditions for tribal members seeking care. The district court granted the government's motion to dismiss. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and we affirm.
Plaintiff alleges that the United States has a duty to meet a specific standard of adequate medical care based on (1) the federal-tribal trust relationship, and (2) two federal statutes, the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act. However, the federal-tribal trust relationship does not, in itself, create a judicially enforceable duty. Rather, "trust obligations of the United States to the Indian tribes are established and governed by statute [**3] rather than the common law, and in fulfilling its statutory duties, the Government acts not as a private trustee but pursuant to its sovereign interest in the execution of federal law." United States v. Jicarilla Apache Nation, 131 S. Ct. 2313, 2318, 180 L. Ed. 2d 187 (2011). Neither the Snyder Act nor the Indian Health Care Improvement Act contains sufficient trust-creating language on which to base a judicially enforceable duty. Both statutes "speak about Indian health only in general terms," Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 194, 113 S. Ct. 2024, 124 L. Ed. 2d 101 (1993), and neither requires the United States to provide a specific standard of medical care. See 25 U.S.C. § 13; 25 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq.
The Tribe also argues that this court should issue an order compelling IHS to maintain and operate the Fort Yuma Service Unit safely, and to allocate additional available funds to the Unit. This court cannot compel IHS to maintain the Unit because there is no specific, unequivocal statutory command requiring IHS to do so. See Hells Canyon Pres. Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 593 F.3d 923, 932 (9th Cir. 2010). This court also cannot compel IHS to allocate greater funding to the Unit, because IHS's allocation of the lump-sum appropriation for Indian health care is committed to its discretion. Lincoln, 508 U.S. at 190—92.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
599 Fed. Appx. 698 *; 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 5258 **; 2015 WL 1471774
QUECHAN TRIBE OF THE FORT YUMA INDIAN RESERVATION, a federally recognized Indian Tribe, on its own behalf and as Parens Patriae on behalf of its members, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA; U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES; SYLVIA MATHEWS BURWELL1, Secretary of Health and Human Services; INDIAN HEALTH SERVICE; ROBERT G. McSWAIN, Acting Director, Indian Health Service; ROSE WEAHKEE, Acting Director, Indian Health Service, Phoenix Area Office; FORT YUMA SERVICE UNIT; DARYL MELVIN, Chief Executive Officer, Fort Yuma Service Unit, Defendants - Appellees.
Notice: PLEASE REFER TO FEDERAL RULES OF APPELLATE PROCEDURE RULE 32.1 GOVERNING THE CITATION TO UNPUBLISHED OPINIONS.
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. D.C. No. 2:10-cv-02261-FJM. Frederick J. Martone, Senior District Judge, Presiding.
Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation v. United States, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36778 (D. Ariz., Mar. 31, 2011)
Tribe, medical care, healthcare, funding, trust relationship, common law, Improvement Act, Snyder Act, federal-tribal, conditions, facilities, allocate, ensuring, alleges, safe