Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182 (1993)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the tenth circuit

No. 91-1833. Argued March 3, 1993—Decided May 24, 1993

The Indian Health Service receives yearly lump-sum appropriations from

Congress, and expends the funds under authority of the Snyder Act and the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to provide health care for American Indian and Alaska Native people. Out of these appropriations the Service funded, from 1978 to 1985, the Indian Children's Program (Program), which provided clinical services to handicapped Indian children in the Southwest. Congress never expressly authorized or appropriated funds for the Program but was apprised of its continuing operation. In 1985, the Service announced that it was discontinuing direct clinical services under the Program in order to establish a nationwide treatment program. Respondents, Indian children eligible to receive services under the Program, filed this action against petitioners (collectively, the Service), alleging, inter alia, that the decision to discontinue services violated the federal trust responsibility to Indians, the Snyder Act, the Improvement Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. In granting summary judgment for respondents, the District Court held that the Service's decision was subject to judicial review, rejecting the argument that the decision was "committed to agency discretion by law" under the APA, 5 U. S. C. 701(a)(2). The court declined to address the merits of the Service's action, however, holding that the decision to discontinue the Program amounted to a "legislative rule" subject to the APA's notice-and-comment requirements, 553, which the Service had not fulfilled. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, even though no statute or regulation mentioned the Program, the repeated references to it in the legislative history of the annual appropriations Acts, in combination with the special relationship between Indian people and the Federal Government, provided a basis for judicial review. The court also reasoned that this Court's decision in Morton v. Ruiz, 415 U. S. 199, required the Service to abide by the APA's notice-and-comment procedures before cutting back on a congressionally created and funded program for Indians.

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