Lincoln v. Vigil

PETITIONER: Lincoln, Acting Director, Indian Health Service, et al.
RESPONDENT: Vigil et al.
LOCATION: Jacksonville City Council

DOCKET NO.: 91-1833
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 508 US 182 (1993)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1993
DECIDED: May 24, 1993

Edwin S. Kneedler - on behalf of the Petitioners
Joel R. Jasperse - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Lincoln v. Vigil

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1993 in Lincoln v. Vigil

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in number 91-1833, Michael Lincoln v. Grover Vigil or Vigil.

Spectators are reminded not to talk while you're in the courtroom.

Mr. Kneedler, you may proceed.

Edwin S. Kneedler:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Respondents brought this suit to challenge a 1985 decision by the Indian Health Service to redirect the work of a group of its employees from a regional to a national effort to promote the availability of diagnostic and related services for handicapped Indian children.

The employees' work was funded by a lump sum appropriation from Congress for the Indian Health Service and its 12,000 employees, 50 hospitals, 150 health centers, and 300 health clinics.

The funds were authorized by the Snyder Act, the comprehensive statute that authorizes Indian appropriations generally, and by the Indian Health Services Improvement Act which from time to time has provided supplemental funds to address specific areas of Congress' concern.

This case presents two questions.

First, whether judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act of the... of an agency's allocation of funds from one concededly authorized purpose to another is barred because it is committed to agency discretion by law.

And second, whether formal rule-making procedures, consisting of a published notice in the Federal Register and opportunity for comment, is required before the Indian Health Service could redirect its resources in the manner that respondents challenge.

We submit that the answer to both questions is no, or that the court of appeals erred on both questions.

On the first, the court of appeals acknowledged that the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Service Act do not provide manageable standards for a court to apply in reviewing the Indian Health Service's action here.

Nor does the Lump Sum Appropriations Statute furnish any such law.

It's simply, as is typical of such statutes, a lump sum for all of the authorized activities of the statutes... or of the agency under the statutes that authorize its basic functions.

The court of appeals instead concluded that certain statements in the legislative history of the Lump Sum Appropriations Statute furnished a basis for judicial review.

In our view that is clearly wrong.

Statements in legislative history are simply not law for a court to apply within the meaning of this Court's APA jurisprudence.

Only statutory texts enacted by Congress is law for a court to apply.

Antonin Scalia:

You... you have a text here which is, you know, a certain amount of money.

And you don't... it doesn't... you don't know what that money's supposed to be used for, and this legislative history clarifies what it's to be used for.

Why is that any different from a piece of legislative history that clarifies the meaning of a prohibition?

It's totally ambiguous.

You'd think the agency can take a number of different views of what it means.

If you find it clarified in the legislative history, that's what it means.

Is that--

Edwin S. Kneedler:

That's... that's not the purpose for which the court of appeals used the language in this case.

It did not focus on language in the Lump Sum Appropriations statute itself and then say that the legislative history helped to clarify the statutory text.

The court really used the legislative history as a substitute for the statutory text.

The statutory text here simply authorizes the agency to expend the funds for purposes authorized by the... by the Snyder Act as... those functions transferred to the Indian Health Service.

It's then necessary to look to the Snyder Act or the Indian Health... Indian Health statute to look for any law to apply.