Interior Solicitor Withdraws Obama M-Opinion on “Under Federal Jurisdiction” >>

March 11th, 2020

Interior Solicitor Withdraws Obama M-Opinion on “Under Federal Jurisdiction”

On March 10, the Interior Department’s Office of the Solicitor issued a short opinion withdrawing the Obama Administration’s 2014 M-Opinion (M-37029) (“Meaning of ‘Under Federal Jurisdiction’ for Purpose of the IRA”). The 2014 M-Opinion established a procedure for the Interior Department to follow, enabling the BIA to continue to transfer fee land into tribal trust pursuant to the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2009 Carcieri v. Salazar decision. Below is a portion of the new opinion, signed by Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani:

“To remove such uncertainties and to assist tribes in assessing eligibility, in 2018, the Solicitor’s Office began a review of Sol. Op. M-37029’s two-part procedure for determining eligibility under Category I, and the interpretation on which it relied. This review has led me to conclude that Sol. Op. M-37029’s interpretation of Category I is not consistent with the ordinary meaning, statutory context, legislative history, or contemporary administrative understanding of the phrase ‘recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction.’ Therefore, I hereby withdraw Sol. Op. M-37029.

“Concurrent with this Opinion, I am issuing procedures under separate cover to guide Solicitor’s Office attomeys in determining the eligibility of applicant tribes under Category l. This guidance derives from an interpretation of Category I that better reflects Congress’ and the Department’s understanding in 1934 of the phrase ‘recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction.'”

The new procedure and underlying memo recommending the changes can be found here https://www.bia.gov/bia/ots/fee-to-trust/fee-to-trust-decisions

Comments Off on Interior Solicitor Withdraws Obama M-Opinion on “Under Federal Jurisdiction”

Comments are closed.