RESPONDENT: Skelly Oil Company
LOCATION: Alfred Realty Company
DOCKET NO.: 65
DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: Supreme Court of Oklahoma
CITATION: 390 US 365 (1968)
ARGUED: Jan 24, 1968
DECIDED: Mar 18, 1968
Facts of the case
Media for Poafpybitty v. Skelly Oil Company
Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 24, 1968 in Poafpybitty v. Skelly Oil Company
Number 65, Poafpybitty et al.petitioners versus Skelly Oil Company.
Mr. Johns, you may proceed to your argument.
Charles Hill Johns:
Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.
The petitioners in this case are Comanche Indians residing of the State of Oklahoma.
They own some lands that were originally allotted to their predecessor under the General Allotment Act.
The lands are restricted against alienation.
Under the General Allotment Act, these Indian owners are permitted to make an oil and gas lease.
But the oil and gas lease must be approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
They lease some lands to Skelly oil Company.
Skelly Oil Company drilled; sell in wells on the property, produced oil and gas.
They flag the gas into the air.
Petitioners filed suit against Skelly asking damages, money damages for a breach of the expressed and implied governance of the lease.
And notified the United States, invited them to come into the lawsuit.
They did not elect to come into the case.
A trial course sustained a demurrer which is comparable to the motion to dismiss federal practice and it would appeal to the Supreme Court in the State of Oklahoma.
The Supreme Court in the State of Oklahoma held by reason of the federal restrictions against alienation.
These Indian lessor do not have the capacity to bring a suit for damage.
After the Supreme Court had so held by appropriate proceedings, we filed an application for a certiorari which was granted by this Court.
The United States at the invitation of the Court, I have filed a brief amicus curiae and the United States supports our position.
So simply stated it is our position, the only one question here is whether Indian lessors in a departmental oil and gas lease have the capacity to institute and maintain a suit for damages without the joiner the of the United States.
Now, there is no question that the United States had a perfect right to bring such a lawsuit.
It's our position the Indian lessors have their right to bring such a lawsuit.
The case is here as the Court please, on a question of the pleadings that ended demurrer was sustained.
All the allegations of our petition must be taken as proof.
In other words, we think we should be permitted to bring a lawsuit for damages.
It is our theory that the restrictions against alienation are for the protection of the Indians.
That the United States will not permit certain Indian citizens the right to alienate their lands but that restriction if Your Honor please, goes to the same to the alienation of the property.
It is our position and we submit that it was never the intention of the Congress that an oil and gas lessee such as the respondent in this case would be entitled to benefit by using these restrictions against the Indian and saying that the Indian does not have the right to bring a lawsuit to recover what he thinks he is entitled to receive by reason of a breach of the lease contract.
Supposing you prevail on this --
Charles Hill Johns:
I beg your pardon sir?