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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
Jicarilla Apache Nation
Decided By 
(Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the petitioner)
(For the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

In 2002, the Jicarilla Apache Nation of New Mexico sued the federal government for allegedly mismanaging financial interests and funds, which are held in trust for the tribe's benefit. The tribe is seeking access to attorney-client communications about the trust operation. The Court of Federal Claims denied a petition by the United States to vacate its orders requiring the government to produce the documents.


Does the attorney-client privilege entitle the United States to withhold from an Indian tribe confidential communications between the government and government attorneys implicating the administration of statutes pertaining to property held in trust for the tribe?

Decision: 7 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Attorney-Client Privilege

Yes. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the lower court order in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito. "The fiduciary exception to the attorney-client privilege does not apply to the general trust relationship between the United States and the Indian tribes," Alito wrote. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, arguing that the majority decision "rests on false factual and legal premises and deprives the Nation and other Indian tribes of highly relevant evidence in scores of pending cases seeking relief for the Government's alleged mismanagement of their trust funds." Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in consideration of the case.

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UNITED STATES v. JICARILLA APACHE NATION. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_10_382>.
UNITED STATES v. JICARILLA APACHE NATION, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_10_382 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. JICARILLA APACHE NATION," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2010-2019/2010/2010_10_382.