Justice News

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, Head of the Justice Department's Civil Division, Delivers Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Ramah Navajo Chapter v. Jewell Settlement
Albuquerque, NM
United States
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Today, the Department of Justice is pleased to announce a proposed settlement to resolve a nationwide class action brought by tribes and tribal contractors that had Indian Self Determination Act contracts with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  This is a preliminary resolution we submitted to the district court last night.  If the settlement is approved by the court, it will bring to a close 25 years of litigation between the tribes and the federal government in a way that is fair and honorable to all the parties involved.

This agreement is a compromise that was long in the making – reached only after years of complex negotiations following the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter.  During that time, the parties have met repeatedly, working with expert accountants, auditors and statisticians to analyze thousands of contract documents.  The result is a settlement that both sides can be proud of.

The proposed settlement will provide for a $940 million lump-sum payment to the class to resolve claims for contract support costs for the years 1994 through 2013.  These are the tribes’ share of costs incurred in carrying out important federal programs that serve the well-being of members of the tribes.  It establishes a fair and equitable system for distributing shares of this amount to each of the 645 class member tribes and tribal contractors.  As a general rule, each tribal contractor that submits a claim will receive a share based on the amount of contract support costs it has incurred over the last 20 years.  But the parties have also agreed to a minimum payment for each year that a self-determination contract existed with a tribe in order to ensure that no tribe is excluded from the benefit of this agreement.

I would like to extend a particular thanks to the three named plaintiffs – Ramah Navajo Chapter, Oglala Sioux Tribe and Pueblo of Zuni – for their efforts, and the efforts of class counsel on their behalf.  This proposed settlement would not exist without their determination and tireless efforts over the last 25 years.  I’d also like to thank the hard work of the attorneys at the Justice Department under the Civil Division’s Federal Programs Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of New Mexico, as well as those at the Department of the Interior.  Without them, a settlement of this scope and importance would not have been possible.

Before I conclude, I would like to emphasize that this agreement does more than simply resolve this pending litigation.  It also is an embodiment of a stronger relationship between the United States and the sovereign tribal nations, a relationship that is stronger today than perhaps any time in history.  It demonstrates how the central mission of the Department of Justice is to ensure that justice is done, and how our attorneys work tirelessly every day to achieve that goal.

Indian Country Law and Justice
Updated November 8, 2016