(CN) – Attorney-client privilege doesn’t shield documents allegedly showing how the government mismanaged the Jicarilla Apache Nation’s trust assets, the Federal Circuit ruled.
“We hold that the United States cannot deny an Indian tribe’s request to discover communications between the United States and its attorneys based on the attorney-client privilege when those communications concern management of an Indian trust and the United States has not claimed that the government or its attorneys considered a specific competing interest in those communications,” Judge Arthur Gajarsa wrote.
The court denied the government’s bid to overturn a trial court’s order requiring production of the documents, saying the “fiduciary exception” applies to tribal trust cases.
The tribe had sued the government in federal claims court and later won a motion to compel discovery of trust-related documents.
The government agreed to produce 71 of the 226 requested documents, claiming the rest were exempt from disclosure. The trial court disagreed and ordered the government to produce most of the remaining records.
The Federal Circuit refused to overrule that order.