Oral argument: Apr. 18, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (May 9, 2011)
The Indian Self–Determination and Education Assistance Act (“ISDA”) allows Indian tribes to implement programs previously administered by the federal government. The government must reimburse tribes using Congressional appropriations for any reasonable implementation costs, known as contract support costs (“CSCs”). However, Congress appropriated insufficient funds to cover all of the tribes’ CSCs and the government failed to fully reimburse respondents, including the Ramah Navajo Chapter (“Ramah”). The district court determined that the government was not required to pay Ramah’s CSCs due to exhausted appropriations, but the Tenth Circuit held that a tribe can fully recover if Congress appropriated sufficient funds to cover their individual contracts. The government now appeals, arguing that the total sum of recoverable CSCs is limited to the appropriation. The Supreme Court’s decision may impact Congress’s ability to limit spending and the government’s perceived reliability as a contract partner.