Lincoln v. Vigil, No. 91-1833

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtSOUTER
PartiesMichael E. LINCOLN, Acting Director of the Indian Health Service, et al., Petitioners, v. Grover VIGIL et al
Docket NumberNo. 91-1833
Decision Date24 May 1993

508 U.S. 182
113 S.Ct. 2024
124 L.Ed.2d 101
Michael E. LINCOLN, Acting Director of the Indian Health Service, et al., Petitioners,

v.

Grover VIGIL et al.

No. 91-1833.
Argued March 3, 1993.
Decided May 24, 1993.
Syllabus *

The Indian Health Service receives yearly lump-sum appropriations from Congress, and expends the funds under authority of the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to provide health care for American Indian and Alaska Native people. Out of these appropriations the Service funded, from 1978 to 1985, the Indian Children's Program, which provided clinical services to handicapped Indian children in the Southwest. Congress never expressly authorized or appropriated funds for the Program but was apprised of its continuing operation. In 1985, the Service announced that it was discontinuing direct clinical services under the Program in order to establish a nationwide treatment program. Respondents, Indian children eligible to receive services under the Program, filed this action against petitioners (collectively, the Service), alleging, inter alia, that the decision to discontinue services violated the federal trust responsibility to Indians, the Snyder Act, the Improvement Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. In granting summary judgment for respondents, the District Court held that the Service's decision was subject to judicial review, rejecting the argument that the decision was "committed to agency discretion by law" under the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2). The court declined to address the merits of the Service's action, however, holding that the decision to discontinue the Program amounted to a "legislative rule" subject to the APA's notice-and-comment requirements, § 553, which the Service had not fulfilled. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, even though no statute or regulation mentioned the Program, the repeated references to it in the legislative history of the annual appropriations Acts, in combination with the special relationship between Indian people and the Federal Government, provided a basis for judicial review. The court also reasoned that this Court's decision in Morton v. Ruiz, 415 U.S. 199, 94 S.Ct. 1055, 39 L.Ed.2d 270, required the Service to abide by the APA's notice-and-comment procedures before cutting back on a congressionally created and funded program for Indians.

Held:

1. The Service's decision to discontinue the Program was "committed to agency discretion by law" and therefore not subject to judicial review under § 701(a)(2). Pp. ____.

(a) Section 701(a)(2) precludes review of certain categories of administrative decisions that courts traditionally have regarded as "committed to agency discretion." The allocation of funds from a lump-sum appropriation is such a decision. It is a fundamental principle of appropriations law that where Congress merely appropriates lump-sum amounts without statutory restriction, a clear inference may be drawn that it does not intend to impose legally binding restrictions, and indicia in committee reports and other legislative history as to how the funds should, or are expected to, be spent do not establish any legal requirements on the agency. As long as the agency allocates the funds to meet permissible statutory objectives, courts may not intrude under § 701(a)(2). Pp. ____.

(b) The decision to terminate the Program was committed to the Service's discretion. The appropriations Acts do not mention the Program, and both the Snyder and Improvement Acts speak only in general terms about Indian health. The Service's representations to Congress about the Program's operation do not translate through the medium of legislative history into legally binding obligations, and reallocating resources to assist handicapped Indian children nationwide clearly falls within the Service's statutory mandate. In addition, whatever its contours, the special trust relationship existing between Indian people and the Federal Government cannot limit the Service's discretion to reorder its priorities from serving a subgroup of beneficiaries to serving the class of all Indians nationwide. Pp. ____.

(c) Respondents' argument that the Program's termination violated their due process rights is left for the Court of Appeals to address on remand. While the APA contemplates that judicial review will be available for colorable constitutional claims absent a clear expression of contrary congressional intent, the record at this stage does not allow mature consideration of constitutional issues. P. ____.

2. The Service was not required to abide by § 553's notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures before terminating the Program, even assuming that the statement terminating the Program would qualify as a "rule" within the meaning of the APA. Termination of the Program might be seen as affecting the Service's organization, but § 553(b)(A) exempts "rules of agency organization" from notice-and-comment requirements. Moreover, § 553(b)(A) exempts "general statements of policy," and, whatever else that term may cover, it surely includes announcements of the sort at issue here. This analysis is confirmed by Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 91 S.Ct. 814, 28 L.Ed.2d 136, which stands for the proposition that decisions to expend otherwise unrestricted funds are not, without more, subject to § 553's notice-and-comment requirements. Finally, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Morton v. Ruiz, supra, required the Service to abide by § 553's notice-and-comment requirements. Those requirements were not at issue in Ruiz. Pp. ____.

953 F.2d 1225, (CA 10 1992) reversed and remanded.

SOUTER, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Edwin S. Kneedler, Washington, DC, for petitioners.

Joel R. Jasperse, Gallup, NM, for respondents.

Justice SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

For several years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Indian Health Service provided diagnostic and treatment services, referred to collectively as the Indian Children's Program, to handicapped Indian children in the Southwest. In 1985, the Service decided to reallocate the Program's resources to a nationwide effort to assist such children. We hold that the Service's decision to discontinue the Program was "committed to agency discretion by law" and therefore not subject to judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2), and that the Service's exercise of that discretion was not subject to the notice-and-comment rulemaking requirements imposed by § 553.

I

The Indian Health Service, an agency within the Public Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services, provides health care for some 1.5 million American Indian and Alaska Native people. Brief for Petitioners 2. The Service receives yearly lump-sum appropriations from Congress and expends the funds under authority of the Snyder Act, 25 U.S.C. § 13, and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1601 et seq. So far as it concerns us here, the Snyder Act authorizes the Service to "expend such moneys as Congress may from time to time appropriate, for the benefit, care, and assistance of the Indians," for the "relief of distress and conservation of health." 25 U.S.C. § 13.1 The Improvement Act authorizes expenditures for, inter alia, Indian mental-health care, and specifically for "therapeutic and residential treatment centers." 25 U.S.C. § 1621(a)(4)(D).

The Service employs roughly 12,000 people and operates more than 500 health-care facilities in the continental United States and Alaska. See Hearings on Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1993 before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 102d Cong., 2d Sess., pt. 4, p. 32 (1992); Brief for Petitioners 2. This case concerns a collection of related services, commonly known as the Indian Children's Program, that the Service provided from 1978 to 1985. In the words of the Court of Appeals, a "clou[d of] bureaucratic haze" obscures the history of the Program, Vigil v. Rhoades, 953 F.2d 1225, 1226 (CA10 1992), which seems to have grown out of a plan "to establish therapeutic and residential treatment centers for disturbed Indian children." H.R.Rep. No. 94-1026, pt. 1, p. 80 (1976) (prepared in conjunction with enactment of the Improvement Act). These centers were to be established under a "major cooperative care agreement" between the Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, id., at 81, and would have provided such children "with intensive care in a residential setting." Id., at 80.

Congress never expressly appropriated funds for these centers. In 1978, however, the Service allocated approximately $292,000 from its fiscal year 1978 appropriation to its office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for the planning and development of a pilot project for handicapped Indian children, which became known as the Indian Children's Program. See 953 F.2d, at 1227. The pilot project apparently convinced the Service that a building was needed, and, in 1979, the Service requested $3.5 million from Congress to construct a diagnostic and treatment center for handicapped Indian children. See id., at 1227; Hearings on Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations for 1980 before a Subcommittee of the House Committee on Appropriations, 96th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 8, p. 250 (1979) (hereinafter House Hearings (Fiscal Year 1980)). The appropriation for fiscal year 1980 did not expressly provide the requested funds, however, and legislative reports indicated only that Congress had increased the Service's funding by $300,000 for nationwide expansion and development of the Program in coordination with the Bureau. See H.R.Rep. No. 96-374, pp. 82-83 (1979); S.Rep. No. 96-363, p. 91 (1979).

Plans for a national program to be managed jointly by the Service and the Bureau were...

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441 practice notes
  • Texas v. Biden, 21-10806
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2021
    ...that "an agency's decision not to institute enforcement proceedings [is] presumptively unreviewable under § 701(a)(2)." Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 191 (1993) (citing Heckler, 470 U.S. at 831). We conclude 68 Heckler does not bar judicial review in this case. The first reason is that He......
  • U.S. v. Gaviria, Nos. 95-3124
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 27, 1997
    ...at public expense. How the executive branch spends (or wastes) taxpayer money is, however, not our concern. See Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 192, 113 S.Ct. 2024, 2031, 124 L.Ed.2d 101 (1993) (allocation of funds from lump-sum appropriation not subject to judicial Naranjo then argues that......
  • New Mexico Health Connections v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., No. CIV 16-0878 JB\JHR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • October 19, 2018
    ...correct that courts cannot substantively review an agency's choices regarding how to spend lump sum appropriations. See Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 192 (1993)("The allocation of funds from a lump-sum appropriation is another administrative decision traditionally regarded as committed to......
  • Time Warner Cable Inc. v. Fed. Commc'ns Comm'n, Docket Nos. 11–4138(L), 11–5152(Con).
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • September 4, 2013
    ...termed “ ‘legislative,’ ” rules, not to, inter alia, “ ‘rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice.’ ” Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 196, 113 S.Ct. 2024, 124 L.Ed.2d 101 (1993) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 553(b)); see Electronic Privacy Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 653 F.3......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
441 cases
  • Texas v. Biden, 21-10806
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • December 13, 2021
    ...that "an agency's decision not to institute enforcement proceedings [is] presumptively unreviewable under § 701(a)(2)." Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 191 (1993) (citing Heckler, 470 U.S. at 831). We conclude 68 Heckler does not bar judicial review in this case. The first reason is that He......
  • U.S. v. Gaviria, Nos. 95-3124
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • June 27, 1997
    ...at public expense. How the executive branch spends (or wastes) taxpayer money is, however, not our concern. See Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 192, 113 S.Ct. 2024, 2031, 124 L.Ed.2d 101 (1993) (allocation of funds from lump-sum appropriation not subject to judicial Naranjo then argues that......
  • New Mexico Health Connections v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., No. CIV 16-0878 JB\JHR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • October 19, 2018
    ...correct that courts cannot substantively review an agency's choices regarding how to spend lump sum appropriations. See Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 192 (1993)("The allocation of funds from a lump-sum appropriation is another administrative decision traditionally regarded as committed to......
  • Time Warner Cable Inc. v. Fed. Commc'ns Comm'n, Docket Nos. 11–4138(L), 11–5152(Con).
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • September 4, 2013
    ...termed “ ‘legislative,’ ” rules, not to, inter alia, “ ‘rules of agency organization, procedure, or practice.’ ” Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 196, 113 S.Ct. 2024, 124 L.Ed.2d 101 (1993) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 553(b)); see Electronic Privacy Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 653 F.3......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • ADMINISTRATIVE SABOTAGE.
    • United States
    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 120 Nbr. 5, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...was not an "urgent concern" under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, 5 U.S.C. app. [section] 8H(i)(1)). (256.) 508 U.S. 182, 193 (1993) (quoting 5 U.S.C. [section] (257.) Gillian E. Metzger & Kevin M. Stack, Internal Administrative Law, 115 Mich. L. Rev. 1239, 1253......

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