Utah Must Account for Tribe’s Money, Court Says

     DENVER (CN) – The 10th Circuit refused to limit a lawsuit asking Utah to produce an accounting of how state officials spent the oil royalties in a trust benefitting Navajo Indians in San Juan County.

     Jake Pelt and other members of the Navajo Nation sued to force a financial accounting of the Navajo Trust Fund, claiming the state trustee lost about $150 million in oil royalties through mismanagement.
     The decision was on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court decided the issue of “virtual representation,” which could have determined whether the decisions in three prior cases would shape the result of the present case.
     Instead, the Supreme Court struck down the “virtual representation” doctrine in Taylor v. Sturgell in January 2008.
     This led to Judge Robinson’s decision that the Navajos were not “virtually represented” in the three previous cases.
     “There is no question that the named plaintiffs in the earlier suits were not the same as the plaintiffs in the instant action,” Robinson wrote. “One who was not party to an action is not bound by the judgment.”
     Robinson remanded for further proceedings.

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