United States v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, 537 U.S. 465, 13 (2003)

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Cite as: 537 U. S. 465 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

source of law on which the Tribe relies—that suggests the existence of such a mandate." Brief for United States 28. The argument rests, however, on a failure to appreciate either the role of trust law in drawing a fair inference or the scope of United States v. Testan, 424 U. S. 392 (1976), and Army and Air Force Exchange Service v. Sheehan, 456 U. S. 728 (1982), cited in support of the Government's position.

To the extent that the Government would demand an explicit provision for money damages to support every claim that might be brought under the Tucker Act, it would substitute a plain and explicit statement standard for the less demanding requirement of fair inference that the law was meant to provide a damages remedy for breach of a duty. To begin with, this would leave Mitchell II a wrongly decided case, for one would look in vain for a statute explicitly providing that inadequate timber management would be compensated through a suit for damages. But the more fundamental objection to the Government's position is that, if carried to its conclusion, it would read the trust relation out of Indian Tucker Act analysis; if a specific provision for damages is needed, a trust obligation and trust law are not. And this likewise would ignore Mitchell I, where the trust relationship was considered when inferring that the trust obligation was enforceable by damages. To be sure, the fact of the trust alone in Mitchell I did not imply a remedy in damages or even the duty claimed, since the Allotment Act failed to place the United States in a position to discharge the management responsibility asserted. To find a specific duty, a further source of law was needed to provide focus for the trust relationship. But once that focus was provided, general trust law was considered in drawing the inference that Congress intended damages to remedy a breach of obligation.

Sheehan and Testan are not to the contrary; they were cases without any trust relationship in the mix of relevant fact, but with affirmative reasons to believe that no damages


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