United States v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, 537 U.S. 465, 8 (2003)

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Opinion of the Court



Jurisdiction over any suit against the Government requires a clear statement from the United States waiving sovereign immunity, Mitchell I, supra, at 538-539, together with a claim falling within the terms of the waiver, Mitchell II, supra, at 216-217. The terms of consent to be sued may not be inferred, but must be "unequivocally expressed," Mitchell I, supra, at 538 (quoting United States v. King, 395 U. S. 1, 4 (1969)) (internal quotation marks omitted), in order to "define [a] court's jurisdiction," Mitchell I, supra, at 538 (quoting United States v. Sherwood, 312 U. S. 584, 586 (1941)) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Tucker Act contains such a waiver, Mitchell II, supra, at 212, giving the Court of Federal Claims jurisdiction to award damages upon proof of "any claim against the United States founded either upon the Constitution, or any Act of Congress," 28 U. S. C. 1491(a)(1), and its companion statute, the Indian Tucker Act, confers a like waiver for Indian tribal claims that "other-wise would be cognizable in the Court of Federal Claims if the claimant were not an Indian tribe," 1505.

Neither Act, however, creates a substantive right enforceable against the Government by a claim for money damages. Mitchell I, supra, at 538-540; Mitchell II, supra, at 216. As we said in Mitchell II, a statute creates a right capable of grounding a claim within the waiver of sovereign immunity if, but only if, it "can fairly be interpreted as mandating compensation by the Federal Government for the damage sustained." 463 U. S., at 217 (quoting United States v. Testan, 424 U. S. 392, 400 (1976)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

This "fair interpretation" rule demands a showing demonstrably lower than the standard for the initial waiver of sovereign immunity. "Because the Tucker Act supplies a waiver of immunity for claims of this nature, the separate statutes and regulations need not provide a second waiver

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