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Brown v. United States

Citation: 30 ELR 20170
No. No. 99-5049, 195 F.3d 1334/(Fed. Cir., 10/29/1999)

The court holds time barred Native Americans' claims that the United States breached its fiduciary duties in connection with the administration of a tribal land lease. The court first holds that the six-year statute of limitations pertaining to the claim that the government failed to determine that the lessee was underreporting gross receipts was not tolled by mental incompetence or other excusable ignorance on behalf of the lease allottees. Similarly, the court holds that neither the allottees' lack of sophistication nor their belief that they were powerless to affect the terms of the lease limitations tolled the statute of limitations period for the claim that the government improperly authorizes the 25-year lease. The court holds that the statute of limitations has expired with respect to the claims that the United States breached a fiduciary duty by failing to review and adjust the rental provisions of the lease. The allottees were not excusably ignorant of the government's duty to review and adjust rental provisions of the lease because the allottees demonstrated familiarity with the lease terms and those terms explicitly identified such a governmental duty.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Richard W. Hughes
Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom, Cron & Schoenburg
P.O. Box 8180, Santa Fe NM 87504
(505) 988-8004

Counsel for Defendant
Katherine W. Hazard
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Mayer and Clevenger, JJ.