Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter - Oral Argument - April 18, 2012

Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter

Media for Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 18, 2012 in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 18, 2012 in Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapter

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument this morning in Case 11-551, Salazar, Secretary of the Interior v. Ramah Navajo Chapter.

Mr. Freeman.

Mark R. Freeman:

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

The funding dispute in the -- in this case is the result of two distinctive features of the ISDA's statutory scheme.

On the one hand, Congress has required the Secretary of the Interior to accept every self-determination contract proposed by an Indian tribe, provided that the contract meets the requirements of the Act, without regard to the total number of contracts into which the Secretary must enter.

Now, on the other hand, in every fiscal year since 1994, Congress has enacted an explicit statutory cap on the amount of money that the Secretary may use to pay contract support costs under the ISDA and under those contracts.

Now, we think under the circumstances, Congress intended the Secretary to resolve these -- the relationship between these provisions in exactly the way that the Secretary has.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Excuse me, but could the Secretary have done anything else?

Mark R. Freeman:

I'm sorry.

I couldn't hear Your Honor.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Could the Secretary have done anything else?

There's an allegation that the Secretary in fact pays some contractors more than their pro rata share, that it pays some nothing--

Mark R. Freeman:

Right.

Sonia Sotomayor:

--so that it's in effect acting -- I don't want to use the word "arbitrarily" -- but acting in whatever its best interest is.

So what protects the contracting party from that -- from that conduct, assuming it were to be correct?

Mark R. Freeman:

Yes, Your Honor.

Well, the Secretary has promulgated a formal nationwide policy.

Sonia Sotomayor:

Says it has a policy.

Mark R. Freeman:

Yes, and--

Sonia Sotomayor:

The allegation is, is that it's not following it, that it's choosing to pay people some more than others.

Mark R. Freeman:

--Right.

And let me address that.

The allegation is, I think, at page 9 to 10 of Respondents' brief.

Those allegations are, as a factual matter, false.

For example, they've given a couple of examples where 0 percent contract support costs were paid.

One of those examples is a contract where it had been entered into in that particular year.

New contracts are paid under a different appropriation.

Another example is they give a case of a tribe that was paid 352 percent of its contract support costs.

And let me explain, because I think it's important to understand how--

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Before you do that--