445 U.S. 535 (1980), 78-1756, United States v. Mitchell

Docket Nº:No. 78-1756
Citation:445 U.S. 535, 100 S.Ct. 1349, 63 L.Ed.2d 607
Party Name:United States v. Mitchell
Case Date:April 15, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 535

445 U.S. 535 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 1349, 63 L.Ed.2d 607

United States

v.

Mitchell

No. 78-1756

United States Supreme Court

April 15, 1980

Argued December 3, 1979

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF CLAIMS

Syllabus

Section 1 of the Indian General Allotment Act of 1877 authorizes the President to allot to each Indian residing on a reservation specified acreage of agricultural and grazing land within the reservation; § 2 provides that all such allotments shall be selected by the Indians so as to include improvements made by them; and § 5 provides that the United States shall retain title to such allotted lands in trust for the benefit of the allottees. Pursuant to the Act, the Government allotted all of the Quinault Reservation's land in trust to individual Indians. Respondents, individual allottees of land in that Reservation, the Quinault Tribe, which now holds some allotments, and an association of allottees, brought actions, consolidated in the Court of Claims, to recover damages from the Government for alleged mismanagement of timber resources found on the Reservation. Denying the Government's motion to dismiss the actions on the alleged ground that it had not waived its sovereign immunity with respect to the asserted claims, the Court of Claims held that the General Allotment Act created a fiduciary duty on the United States' part to manage the timber resources properly, and constituted a waiver of sovereign immunity against a suit for money damages as compensation for breaches of that duty.

Held: The General Allotment Act cannot be read as establishing that the United States has a fiduciary responsibility for management of allotted forest lands, and thus does not provide respondents with a cause of action for the damages sought. Pp. 538-546.

(a) Neither the Tucker Act, under which the individual claimants premised jurisdiction in the Court of Claims, nor § 24 of the Indian Claims Commission Act, on which jurisdiction over the Tribe's claim was based, confers a substantive right against the United States to recover money damages. Pp. 538-540.

(b) The General Allotment Act created only a limited trust relationship between the United States and the allottee that does not impose any duty upon the Government to manage timber resources. The language of § 5 of the Act must be read in pari materia with the language of §§ 1 and 2, both of which indicate that the Indian allottee, and not a representative of the United States, is responsible for using the land for agricultural or grazing purposes. The Act's legislative history also

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indicates that the trust Congress placed on allotted lands is of limited scope, it appearing that, when Congress enacted the Act, it intended that the United States hold the lands in trust not because it wished the Government to control use of the lands and be subject to money damages for breaches of fiduciary duty, but simply because it wished to prevent alienation of the lands and to ensure that allottees would be immune from state taxation. Furthermore, certain events surrounding and following the Act's passage indicate that it should not be read as authorizing, much less requiring, the Government to manage timber resources for the benefit of Indian allottees. Pp. 540-546.

219 Ct.Cl. 95, 591 F.2d 1300, reversed and remanded.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. WHITE, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN ad STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 546. BURGER, C.J., took no part in the decision of the case.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case presents the question whether the Indian General Allotment Act of 1887 authorizes the award of money damages against the United States for alleged mismanagement of forests located on lands allotted to Indians under that Act.

I

In 1873, a Reservation was established by Executive Order in the State of Washington for the Quinault Tribe. 1 C. Kappler, Indian Affairs 923 (2d ed.1904). Much of the land within the Reservation was forested. By 1935, acting under the authority of the General Allotment Act of 1887, ch. 119, 24 Stat. 388, as amended, 25 U.S.C. § 331 [100 S.Ct. 1351] et seq., the Government had allotted all of the Reservation's land in trust

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to individual Indians. Other enactments of Congress require the Secretary of the Interior to manage these forests, sell the timber, and pay the proceeds of such sales, less administrative expenses, to the allottees.1

The respondents are 1,465 individual allottees of land contained in the Quinault Reservation, the Quinault Tribe, which now holds some allotments, and the Quinault Allottees Association, an unincorporated association formed to promote the interests of the allottees of the Quinault Reservation. In four actions consolidated in the Court of Claims, the respondents sought to recover damages from the Government for alleged mismanagement of timber resources found on the Reservation. The respondents asserted that the Government: (1) failed to obtain fair market value for timber sold; (2) failed to manage timber on a sustained-yield basis and to rehabilitate the land after logging; (3) failed to obtain payment for some merchantable timber; (4) failed to develop a proper system of roads and easements for timber operations and exacted improper charges from allottees for roads; (5) failed to pay interest on certain funds, and paid insufficient interest on other funds; and (6) exacted excessive administrative charges from allottees. The respondents contended that they were entitled to recover money damages because this alleged misconduct breached a fiduciary duty owed to them by the United States as trustee of the allotted lands under the General Allotment Act.

The United States moved to dismiss the respondents' actions on the ground that it had not waived its sovereign

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immunity with respect to the claims raised. The Court of Claims, sitting en banc, denied the Government's motion. 219 Ct.Cl. 95, 591 F.2d 1300 (1979). Reasoning that Government mismanagement of the kind alleged breaches the Government's fiduciary duty under the General Allotment Act, the court held that the Act provides Indian allottees a cause of action for money damages against the United States.

We granted certiorari, 442 U.S. 940 (1979), and now reverse and remand.

II

It is elementary that

[t]he United States, as sovereign, is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued . . . , and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court's jurisdiction to entertain the suit.

United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 586 (1941). A waiver of sovereign immunity "cannot be implied, but must be unequivocally expressed." United States v. King, 395 U.S. 1, 4 (1969). In the absence of clear congressional consent, then, "there is no jurisdiction in the Court of Claims more than in any other court to entertain suits against the United States." United States v. Sherwood, supra at 587-588.

The individual claimants in this action premised jurisdiction in the Court of Claims upon the Tucker Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1491, which gives that court jurisdiction of "any claim against the United States founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress." The Tucker Act is "only a jurisdictional statute; it does not create any substantive right enforceable against the United States for money damages." United States v. Testan, 424 U.S. 392, 398 (1976). The Act merely "confers jurisdiction upon [the Court of Claims] whenever [100 S.Ct. 1352] the substantive right exists." Ibid. The individual claimants, therefore, must look beyond the jurisdictional statute for a waiver of sovereign immunity with respect to their claims.

The same is true for the tribal claimant. Jurisdiction over

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its claims was based on § 24 of the Indian Claims Commission Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1505. That provision states:

The Court of Claims shall have jurisdiction of any claim against the United States accruing after August 13, 1946, in favor of any tribe, band, or other identifiable group of American Indians residing within the territorial limits of the United States or Alaska whenever such claim is one arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States, or Executive orders of the President, or is one which otherwise would be cognizable in the Court of Claims if the claimant were not an Indian tribe, band or group.

By enacting this statute, Congress plainly intended to give tribal claimants the same access to the Court of Claims provided to individuals by the Tucker Act. The House Committee Report stated:

As respects claims accruing after its adoption, this bill confers jurisdiction on...

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