This matter comes before the Court after a forty-four day bench trial. Having undertaken a careful review of all the evidence presented and all representations made during that trial, of the record in this case, and of the applicable law, the Court now enters a structural injunction and appoints a monitor to oversee its implementation.
This memorandum opinion is the first of two opinions issued this date. The present opinion deals solely with the further relief ordered by this Court relating to the historical accounting owed by defendants to plaintiffs. The second opinion will treat the further relief ordered by the Court relating to the obligation of the Interior defendants to bring themselves into compliance with the fiduciary duties owed to plaintiffs as the trustee-delegate of the United States for the individual Indian money trust.
A decent respect for all who will be affected by today's rulings makes it appropriate that the Court should provide a full explanation of the reasons compelling it to order such relief. Only an appreciation of the full context in which the present trial emerged will make clear precisely why this Court has determined such relief to be necessary. Part I of this opinion provides a synopsis of this litigation to date. Part II examines the tradition of institutional reform cases, and explains how the present case fits within that tradition. Part III analyzes relevant separation-ofpowers issues. Parts IV and V present in detail the Court's specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. Part VI describes the relief ordered this date. Finally, in Part VII, the Court provides a brief explanation of the profound necessity for the entry of a structural injunction in this matter.
1. The Removal of the American Indians
The forced removal of American indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands is one of the darkest chapters in American history. Perhaps few today realize, however, that this forced removal did not result from isolated acts of Western settlers; rather, it was set in motion by the federal government. Moreover, few recall the clash between the executive branch and the federal judiciary over the policy of removal, in which the executive branch refused to enforce the mandate of the Supreme Court that American Indian Tribes were to be treated as sovereign entities.
In 1827, the Cherokee nation, located within the boundaries of the state of Georgia, adopted a written constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution, which declared them to be a sovereign, autonomous nation. VINE DELORIA, JR. & CLIFFORD M. LYTLE, AMERICAN INDIANS, AMERICANJUSTICE 28 (1983) ("American Indians"). At the time, the Cherokee nation possessed "a thriving agricultural economy, a written language, and a formal government, including a legislature, and courts." DAVID H. GETCHES ET AL., FEDERAL INDIAN LAW 96 (4th ed. 1998) ("Federal Indian Law"). The following year, the state of Georgia passed a law assimilating Cherokee lands into Georgia's northwestern counties. In 1829, the state passed a law rendering the Cherokee territory located within Georgia boundaries subject to the laws of Georgia, effectively abolishing existing Cherokee laws and customs. The Cherokee nation filed suit in federal court to enjoin the enforcement of the Georgia laws, but the matter was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, 30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 1 (1831). A year after dismissing the case, however, the Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Chief Justice John Marshall, determined the Cherokee nation to be "a distinct community, occupying its own territory,... in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter, but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves...." Worcester v. Georgia, 31 U.S. (6 Pet.) 515, 561 (1832).
Prior to the Court's decision, however, Congress had passed the Indian Removal Act, authorizing the President to compel Indian Tribes living east of the Mississippi River to migrate westward. Additionally, in 1830, the governor of Georgia had announced that gold had been discovered on the Cherokee lands, prompting widespread trespasses onto Cherokee territory by Georgia citizens searching for gold. Therefore, the governor of Georgia, together with numerous state officials, announced that they would not obey the mandate of the Supreme Court. Federal Indian Law at 122. Moreover, upon learning of the Worcester decision, President Andrew Jackson is fabled to have retorted: "Well, John Marshall has made his decision -- now let him enforce it." When they realized that the executive branch had no intention of honoring the decision of the Court, the Cherokee nation reluctantly entered into the Treaty of New Echota in 1835. American Indians at 33. Soon afterward, "[n]early sixteen thousand Cherokees walked 'silent and resigned' from Georgia to their new homes in what became eastern Oklahoma. This journey has been called the 'Trail of Tears' because the Indians were leaving their ancestral lands under the most harsh conditions imaginable." Id. at 7.
The other Tribes dwelling east of the Mississippi River, having witnessed the fate of the Cherokee nation, realized that their removal to the West was inevitable, and entered into treaties with the United States promising to migrate westward. They included the remaining four "Civilized Tribes," the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole; and other Tribes, including the Kickapoo, Wyandot, Ottawa, Pottawatomie, Winnebago, Sac and Fox, Delaware, Shawnee, Wea, Peoria, Miami, Kaskaskia, and Piankeshaw. American Indians at 32; Federal Indian Law at 126-27.
As America expanded westward, its citizens re-encountered the Tribes that it had banished to reservations located west of the Mississippi River. Instead of forcing the Tribes to migrate further westward, however, the United States gradually adopted a new policy to deal with "the Indian problem": the Tribes would simply be assimilated into American culture. Speaking before Congress in 1881, President Chester Arthur declared that the new policy of the United States towards the Indian Tribes would be "to introduce among the Indians the customs and pursuits of civilized life and gradually to absorb them into the mass of our citizens." American Indians at 8. The primary method by which this policy would be executed was the allotment process.*fn2
In 1887, Congress passed the General Allotment Act, 24 Stat. 388. It became popularly known as the Dawes Act, after one of its sponsors, Massachusetts Senator Henry Dawes. The Dawes Act authorized the President to divide any Indian reservation into separate plots, and assign the portions to individual tribal members, according to a prescribed formula. The head of a family was allotted a one-fourth section, or 160 acres; each single person over eighteen and each orphan child under eighteen was allotted a one-eighth section, or 80 acres; and each non-orphan child under eighteen was allotted a one-sixteenth section, or 40 acres. Any "surplus" lands that were not allotted to individual Indians were opened to settlement by non-Indians. See Cobell v. Babbitt, 91 F. Supp.2d 1, 8 (D.D.C. 1999) ("Cobell V"). Section 5 of the Dawes Act provided that "the United States... will hold the land thus allotted, for the period of twenty-five years, in trust for the sole use and benefit of the Indian to whom such allotment shall have been made, or, in case of his decease, of his heirs" and that after twenty-five years had passed, the United States would convey full title to the land to the Indian to whom the land had been allotted. The United States was authorized to extend the twenty-five year period, in its discretion. As the D.C. Circuit has previously explained, "[d]uring the trust period, individual accounts were to be set up for each Indian with a stake in the allotted lands, and the lands would be managed for the benefit of the individual allottees. Indians could not sell, lease, or otherwise burden their allotted lands without government approval. Where tribes resisted allotment, it could be imposed." Cobell VI, 240 F.3d at 1087 (citation omitted).
One pair of commentators has stated that a key assumption of the government's allotment policy was that "Indians wanted to become farmers and had the capacity to do so. This policy assumed that the routine work of agriculture would provide the necessary training in thrifty habits that all 'civilized' people possessed." American Indians at 9-10. As one of the individual defendants testified during the first trial in this litigation,
the thinking was that it was tribalism that held the Indians back; that what they needed to do was develop the sort of individualism that had been so beneficial for the United States in its expansion, and allotment was the way to do that.... They were so confident in this assimilation policy that there was actually a sunset in most of the allotment agreements that said after 25 years the trust patents will be withdrawn, you'll be issued a fee patent, each individual who owned this land, and you will go forth and prosper. You will own the land outright, and may do with it what you wish.
Cobell V, 91 F. Supp.2d at 8. In short, to quote Theodore Roosevelt, the Dawes Act was designed to be "a mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass."
By the early twentieth century, it had become evident that, as judged by its own terms, the allotment process had been an abysmal failure. It had failed to remake the American Indians in the image of the white man, and to absorb the Indian Tribes within American society. To the contrary, "[r]eservations in the early twentieth century were still 'Indian country' – places where a 'measured separatism' had been maintained between Indians and the dominant society." Federal Indian Law at 191. A comprehensive report issued by Lewis Meriam in 1928 entitled "The Problem of Indian Administration" (commonly known as the Meriam Report) concluded that the assumptions underlying the allotment process had been flawed: "It almost seems as if the government assumed that some magic in individual ownership of property would in itself prove an educational civilizing factor, but unfortunately this policy has for the most part operated in the opposite direction" (quoted in American Indians at 13).*fn3
Influenced by the findings in the Meriam Report, Congress in 1934 passed the Indian Reorganization Act, 48 Stat. 984 ("IRA"). Section 1 of the IRA ended the practice of allotting Indian lands. Section 2, however, provided that "[t]he existing periods of trust placed upon any Indian lands and any restriction on alienation thereof are hereby extended and continued until otherwise directed by Congress." In other words, any reservation lands that had already been allotted before 1934, but for which full title had not been conveyed to the Indians to whom they had been allotted, were to be held in trust by the United States indefinitely. As such, the United States continues to possess a duty to administer allotted Indian lands in trust for the benefit of the individual Indians to whom they were allotted. The income arising from the administration of those lands held in trust by the United States is the subject of the present suit.
3. The Individual Indian Money (IIM) Trust
As a result of the allotment process that took place between 1887-1934, followed by the IRA's indefinite extension of the trust period, the United States presently holds approximately 11 million acres of land in trust for the heirs of the American Indians to whom they were originally allotted.
The United States itself is the trustee of this trust, which is known as the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust. However, Congress has designated the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Treasury to be the trustee-delegates of the United States, and the departments run by these two cabinet secretaries are entrusted with certain trust management responsibilities. The trust responsibilities of the Treasury Department are to maintain and invest IIM funds, under the direction of the Interior Department, and to provide accounting and financial management services. The United States has entrusted most of its trust obligations, however, to the Department of the Interior. Within the Interior Department, several agencies perform particular IIM trust functions. These agencies include the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Office of Trust Funds Management (OTFM), and the Minerals Management Service (MMS). In testimony received during the most recent trial, Interior Deputy Associate Secretary James Cason estimated that since 1909, approximately $13 billion has been received and deposited into the IIM trust.*fn4
A 1994 Report of the House Committee on Natural Resources provides a useful overview of the IIM trust management system:
Funds have been held in trust for American Indians by the Federal Government since 1820. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has had the authority to invest Indian Trust Funds since 1918, however, it was not until 1966 that the BIA exercised its full range of investment authority. The Office of Trust Funds Management (OTFM) within the BIA is responsible for implementing the fiduciary responsibility of ensuring that all proper controls and accountability are maintained with regard to the Indian trust funds. OTFM, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, oversees the trust fund operations at the 12 BIA Area Offices and 93 BIA Agency offices.
Trust fund accounts are comprised mainly of money received through the sale or lease of trust lands and include timber stumpage, oil and gas royalties, and agriculture fees. Accounts containing judgment funds awarded to tribes are also maintained. Trust funds controlled by the BIA currently total over $2.1 billion with $1.7 billion in tribal trust funds and $390 million in Individual Indian Money (IIM) accounts. Several accounts may be held for each tribe. The BIA is currently managing some 1,880 tribal accounts and nearly 337,000 separate IIM accounts.
In order to protect these funds, investments must be unconditionally secured through Federal Government deposit insurance. Funds must be deposited in interest bearing accounts within 30 days of receipt. The Federal Government is responsible for lost interest if funds are not invested within that time. The responsibility for management of Indian Trust Funds by the BIA has been determined through a series of court decisions, treaties, and statutes.
H.R. REP. NO. 103-778, at 9 (1994), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3467, 3468. This committee report also discusses the long history of mismanagement of the IIM trust:
Volumes have been written about improper management of funds within the Bureau of Indian Affairs since its inception. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was made a part of the U.S. War Department on March 11, 1824. Almost immediately there was criticism regarding the way it handled financial matters. In 1828, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft a noted negotiator of several Indian treaties and novelist wrote, "The derangements in the fiscal affairs of the Indian department are in the extreme. One would think that appropriations had been handled with a pitchfork." In 1834 during the first session of the Twenty-third Congress the House of Representatives Committee on Indian Affairs filed a report with accompanying legislation which characterized the administration of Indian Affairs as being "expensive, inefficient, and irresponsible." Although it is 160 years later, this Committee shares the concerns of its predecessor committee.
Over the years numerous audits and reports on Indian trust funds have been published by the Inspector General of the Department of the Interior, the U.S. General Accounting Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and Congressional Committees. A 1992 report released by the House Committee on Government Operations entitled, "Misplaced Trust: The Bureau of Indian Affairs' Mismanagement of the Indian Trust Fund" details multiple problems with the management of these funds. The report was the culmination of several years of investigation and multiple Congressional hearings on the subject.
Among the problems outlined in the report which persist are:
ù the inability to give proper accounting of balances to each of the account holders;
ù lack of uniform written policies to govern how accounts are to be managed and under what circumstances funds can be withdrawn;
ù insufficient training of personnel needed to carry out the duties required;
ù inadequate automated and record keeping systems. The Office of Management and Budget has consistently, since the 1980's when such a list was first kept, placed the financial management of Indian trust funds as a high risk liability to the United States.
Id. at 9-10; 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. at 3468-69. The 1992 report alluded to, entitled Misplaced Trust, "concluded that Interior had made no credible effort to address the problems in trust administration in a 'wide range of areas' and that Interior had disobeyed many congressional directives aimed at forcing Interior to correct trust management practices and reconcile the Indian trust accounts. Cobell V, 91 F. Supp.2d at 12.
Prompted in large part by the findings of the Misplaced Trust report, Congress in 1994 enacted the Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 103-412, 108 Stat. 4239 ("the 1994 Act"). It will be useful to examine the legislative history of the act, in order to glean the intent of Congress in passing it.
The bill was introduced in the House by Congressman Bill Richardson (D-N.M.) as H.R. 4833. On September 26, 1994, then-Congressman Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) explained to the House Subcommittee on Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources the need for passage of such a bill:
We have had two hearings on trust management -- or, more properly, mismanagement --in the Native American Affairs Subcommittee this Congress.... Since the Government Operations Committee released its report, "Misplaced Trust: The Bureau of Indian Affairs' Mismanagement of the Indian Trust Fund," I have seen precious little change in this sad state of affairs. Instead, I have seen promised deadlines come and go; I have seen promises to reform go unfulfilled. Despite statements made in the early days of the Clinton administration, two years later neither the [Interior] Department nor the BIA has brought us one step closer to resolving the trust fund problem. All we have seen is a continuation of the BIA's one unchallenged specialty: inertia.
We have seen the pattern repeated over and over. The Department and BIA promise to act, fail to, we are forced to introduce legislation to deal with the issue, and then when passage of the legislation seems imminent they come to us and ask for more time, quote, "because we're working on the problem, really we are," unquote, or they offer their own, watered-down, legislative proposal in the hope of heading ours off....
I am sure that this morning we will hear more of the same excuses and promises, more requests to just give it a little more time, from the Department that we have been hearing for the last six years. But, Mr. Chairman, shame on us, shame on this Congress, if we delay any further.
The Department told us in August, and I am sure will repeat this morning, that they have everything under control. Well, Mr. Chairman, my response to that is an explicative which decorum prevents me from using here but which I will paraphrase: cow manure!.... Mr. Chairman, the Department needs to pull itself out of denial, pull itself out of its fantasy world, and come to grips with [reality]. It is clear that they are incapable of doing it themselves. I sincerely hope that we can do it for them, and will do everything I can to move a bill before Congress adjourns.
140 CONG. REC. 27,243 (1994) (emphasis in original). The bill was reported favorably to the full House on September 28, 1994. Five days later, Congressman Mike Synar (D-Okla.) addressed the full House:
Mr. Speaker, if ever the words "It is the right thing to do," meant anything, they mean everything with respect to the legislation we consider today.... We must take this step because the Department itself refuses to adequately address the serious accounting and management problems which have plagued the trust fund program for decades.
Over the years, Congress, the General Accounting Office, the Interior Department's inspector general, and the President's Office of Management all have issued directives to the Department to develop a comprehensive plan for cleaning up this mess. In many cases, those directives have simply been ignored. At other times, the Department has responded with simplistic, isolated and often ill-conceived initiatives which, even taken together, will never solve the trust fund problems repeatedly found in three separate bureaus of the Department.
This legislation is the only way we are going to force the Department to give sustained high-level attention to this issue, and to develop the kind of comprehensive strategic plan that is essential to correcting these serious trust fund problems. And it is the only way Congress and the trust fund account holders will ever have assurance that the Secretary of the Interior is taking the steps necessary to meet his fiduciary obligations to those for whom we are holding these funds in trust....
Mr. Speaker, my Subcommittee on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources has held five separate oversight hearings on this subject since 1989. Mr. Richardson's subcommittee has also held several hearings in the last two years. Regrettably, year after year we get the same worn-out response from the Interior Department. They tell us they're really on top of this now. They tell us they're really going to move on needed reforms now. Year after year, on and on with the same commitments. Year after year, those commitments are largely forgotten when the hearings are over.
I understand the Interior Department opposes this legislation. That is too bad; we have tried to work in good faith with the Department on correcting these problems and, failing that, on crafting an appropriate legislative measure. I want to assure my colleagues that the Department's vague last-minute arguments over the bill have no merit whatsoever. And, sadly, their promises of reform are no different, and no better, than those of their predecessors.
It is time for Congress to take matters into its own hands, and to require by statute that the Secretary and the Department do what needs to be done to fix these problems and meet the Government's trust responsibilities to the account holders....
There is an understanding that, after [the seven subcommittee hearings], we have been unable to get the responsiveness that we need out of the BIA to perform the basic fiduciary responsibilities which we would expect out of any trustee. If this was done in the Social Security system, my colleagues, we would have had a war.
40 CONG. REC. 27,243 - 24,244 (1994) (emphasis added). The statements by the bill's sponsors demonstrate that the bill was not intended as a mild suggestion to the Interior Department to undertake minor changes. Instead, it was a bill presented by congressmen who had become exasperated by the Interior Department's repeated refusal to reform its management of the IIM trust, and who intended for the bill to implement sweeping, radical changes in the management of the trust. During a Senate hearing on the management of the IIM trust, Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Haw.) observed that "[t]he management of the Indian trust fund has been grossly inadequate in many respects.... Financial management of the trust has been neglected for decades. Many believe that the crisis which exists in the management of the trust funds can only be cured by dramatic change." 139 CONG. REC. 9586 (1993). The House Report on H.R. 4833 speaks to the broad scope of the changes intended to be set in motion by the bill:
[t]he [House Committee on Natural Resources] realizes the depth and breadth of the problems regarding Indian trust assets within the [Interior] Department. There must be an absolute long term commitment by the Department to address the problems affecting Indian allotted lands, their resources, and any receipts produced. This commitment would affect nearly every agency in the Department and is essential for the Secretary to properly discharge his trust responsibility.
H.R. REP. NO. 103-778, at 10 (1994), reprinted in 1994 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3467, 3469.
This intent is nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the statements of Congressmen Richardson and Synar regarding H.R. 4833's immediate predecessor during an oversight hearing on trust fund management:
Mr. RICHARDSON:... I would like to ask my colleague a question. Some have suggested that the private sector monies for the Bureau [of Indian Affairs] be handed over to a private entity. You have suggested that the [Government Accounting Office] look into this. Would you like to share your views on this subject?
Mr. SYNAR: I would, Bill, because the frustration that we have had in dealing with this has led us to the conclusion that unless Ada [Deer, then-Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs] and her new regime at BIA can change some basic attitudes down there in mid-level management, it is going to regrettably take us to a point where a year or two from now we will be right back here with the same problem.
I have got confidence in Bruce [Babbitt, then-Secretary of the Interior] and Ada and those now committed to this principle. I don't think there has been a Secretary of Interior we could count on more for this kind of correction. But there comes a point in time where we can't leave it up to the best intentions of those that are in charge. It may be we have to contract out and do it in a way that will ensure that our Native Americans will have more control over their own destiny, and secondly that we get the kind of accounting we expect in any kind of financial dealings.
So I think what we do is, let's pass the act, make these management reforms, get them in place. Let's come back here in a year, and if by then we haven't made some good improvements or we are not moving in the right direction, I think the three of us and others will have to ask the question of whether the government should continue to be involved in this or whether we should let it move into the private sector.
Mr. RICHARDSON: That seems like a constructive suggestion. Oversight Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Native American Affairs of the Comm. on Natural Resources on Bureau of Indian Affairs' Management of Trust Funds; and H.R. 1846, 103d Cong. 36-37 (Sept. 27, 1993). In other words, a full year before they sponsored H.R. 4833, these two congressmen were giving serious consideration to privatizing the management of the IIM trust if fundamental reforms were not immediately implemented. During a later oversight hearing on H.R. 4833, Congressman Thomas described the Interior Department as "the most pathetic excuse for government that we now have on the Federal level from top to bottom." Hearing Before the Subcomm. on Native American Affairs of the Comm. on Natural Resources on H.R. 1846 and 4833, 103d Cong. 64 (Aug. 11, 1994). During the same hearing, Congressman Richardson, the primary sponsor of H.R. 4833, declared:
Let us not forget that the United States as a trustee for the Indian nations has solemn fiduciary duties. These duties include the duty of loyalty and the duty to make the corpus productive.
We should hold the Federal Government to the same standard as any other trustee. This includes the principle that a trustee should subordinate its own interests to those of the beneficiary. Hence, the status of these funds should be of paramount importance to the Department of Interior, and the needs of the Indian nations with regard to these funds should supersede other obligations the Department may have.
H.R. 4833 was passed by the Congress and signed into law on October 25, 1994 as Public Law 103-412.
1. The Filing of the Present Case
On June 10, 1996, the named plaintiffs commenced the present action against the Secretary of the Interior and other federal officials, alleging that the mismanagement of the IIM trust by the Interior and Treasury departments constituted a breach of their fiduciary duty to plaintiffs. This Court certified the action as a class action on February 4, 1997, and designated the named plaintiffs as class representatives for all present and former IIM beneficiaries. Cobell I, 30 F. Supp.2d at 28. On May 5, 1998, the Court bifurcated this action into two distinct phases. Phase I of the litigation, also known as the "fixing the system" phase, focuses on the reforms instigated by defendants to bring the management of the IIM trust into compliance with their fiduciary obligations. This phase is forward-looking, in that it attempts to discern whether defendants have reformed the management of the IIM trust in such a way as to ensure that the United States will honor its fiduciary obligations to the Indian beneficiaries in the future. Phase II, also known as the "historical accounting phase," focuses on the performance of a formal accounting of the IIM trust, as required by the 1994 Act. This phase is backward-looking, in that it attempts to discern whether and to what extent the United States has honored its fiduciary obligations to the Indian beneficiaries from the inception of the trust until the present date.
On February 22, 1999, following a two-week bench trial, the Court found Bruce Babbitt, then-Secretary of the Interior, Robert Rubin, then-Secretary of the Treasury, and Kevin Gover, then-Assistant Secretary of Interior for Indian Affairs, to be in civil contempt for violating two of the Court's discovery orders. Cobell v. Babbitt, 37 F. Supp.2d 6, 9 (D.D.C. 1999) ("Cobell II"). In its conclusion, the Court explained why the extreme step of imposing a contempt sanction was necessary:
The court is deeply disappointed that any litigant would fail to obey orders for production of documents, and then conceal and cover-up that disobedience with outright false statements that the court then relied upon. But when that litigant is the federal government, the misconduct is even more troubling. The institutions of our federal government cannot continue to exist if they cannot be trusted. The court here conducted monthly status conferences where plaintiffs complained that the government was not producing the required documents. Because of the court's great respect for the Justice Department, the court repeatedly accepted the government's false statements as true, and brushed aside the plaintiffs' complaints. This two-week contempt trial has certainly proved that the court's trust in the Justice Department was misplaced. The federal government here did not just stub its toe. It abused the rights of the plaintiffs to obtain these trust documents, and it engaged in a shocking pattern of deception of the court. I have never seen more egregious misconduct by the federal government.
Id. at 38. The Court directed the defendants to compensate plaintiffs for the harm suffered, and appointed a special master in this litigation. It also instructed the defendants: "Should it appear at any point that the defendants are not taking all reasonable steps to comply with the orders of this court, then harsher relief will be duly administered. Id.
In 1999, the Court conducted a six-week bench trial addressing plaintiffs' Phase I claims. On December 21, 1999, the Court issued a memorandum opinion containing detailed factual findings and conclusions of law. Cobell v. Babbitt, 91 F. Supp.2d 1 (D.D.C. 1999) ("Cobell V"). The Court also issued a declaratory judgment:
1. The [1994 Act] requires defendants to provide plaintiffs an accurate accounting of all money in the IIM trust held in trust for the benefit of plaintiffs, without regard to when the funds were deposited.
2. The [1994 Act] requires defendants to retrieve and retain all information concerning the IIM trust that is necessary to render an accurate accounting of all money in the IIM trust held in trust for the benefit of plaintiffs.
3. To the extent that prospective relief is warranted in this case and to the extent that the issues are in controversy, it has been shown that [the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of the Interior] owe plaintiffs, pursuant to the statutes and regulations governing the management of the IIM trust, the statutory trust duty to:
(a) establish written policies and procedures for collecting from outside sources missing information necessary to render an accurate accounting of the IIM trust;
(b) establish written policies and procedures for the retention of IIM-related trust documents necessary to render an accurate accounting of the IIM trust;
(c) establish written policies and procedures for computer and business systems architecture necessary to render an accurate accounting of the IIM trust; and
(d) establish written policies and procedures for the staffing of trust management functions necessary to render an accurate accounting of the IIM trust.
4. To the extent that prospective relief is warranted in this case and to the extent that the issues are in controversy, it has been shown that defendant Lawrence Summers, Secretary of the Treasury, owes plaintiffs, pursuant to the statutes and regulations governing the management of the IIM trust, the statutory trust duty to retain IIM trust documents that are necessary to render an accurate accounting of all money in the IIM trust held in trust for the benefit of plaintiffs.
5. Defendants are currently in breach of the statutory trust duties declared in subparagraphs II(2) - (4).
6. Defendants have no written plans to bring themselves into compliance with the duties declared in subparagraphs II(2) - (4).
7. Defendants must promptly come into compliance by establishing written policies and procedures not inconsistent with the court's Memorandum Opinion that rectify the breaches of trust declared in subparagraphs II(2) - (4).
Id. at 58. The Court retained jurisdiction over the case for a period of five years, subject to enlargement, and ordered defendants to file quarterly status reports with the Court "setting forth and explaining the steps that defendants have taken to rectify the breaches of trust declared today and to bring themselves into compliance with their statutory trust duties." Id. at 59. It denied plaintiffs' request for further prospective relief, explaining:
The court has based much of its decision today -- especially the denial of more extensive prospective relief -- on defendants' plans (in both substance and timing) to bring themselves into compliance with their trust duties declared today and provided for explicitly by statute.... Should plaintiffs believe that they are entitled to further prospective relief based upon information contained in these reports or otherwise learned, they may so move at the appropriate juncture. Such a motion will then trigger this court's power of judicial review.
Id. Defendants appealed from this decision, arguing (1) that they possessed no judiciallyenforceable duty to account, (2) that reform of the IIM trust had neither been unlawfully withheld nor unreasonably delayed, (3) that this Court lacked sufficient basis to award equitable relief and (4) that the relief awarded was unwarranted. Cobell VI, 240 F.3d at 1094. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, in large part, and remanded to this Court for further proceedings. Id. at 1110.*fn5
Because the scope of this Court's jurisdiction on remand remains a contested issue, the Court will analyze Cobell VI at greater length later in this opinion.
3. The Second Contempt Trial
On September 17, 2002, following a twenty-nine day bench trial, this Court issued a memorandum opinion. The opinion found Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Assistant Interior Secretary of Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb to be in civil contempt of court, in their official capacities, with respect to five specifications:
(1) Failing to comply with the Court's Order of December 21, 1999, to initiate a Historical Accounting Project;
(2) Committing a fraud on the Court by concealing the [Interior] Department's true actions regarding the Historical Accounting Project during the period from March 2000 until January 2001;
(3) Committing a fraud on the Court by failing to disclose the true status of the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System project ("TAAMS") between September 1999 and December 21, 1999;*fn6
(4) Committing a fraud on the Court by filing false and misleading quarterly status reports, starting in March 2000, regarding TAAMS and data cleanup by the BIA; and
(5) Committing a fraud on the Court by making false and misleading representations starting in March 2000, regarding the computer security of IIM trust data.
Cobell VII, 226 F. Supp.2d at 161. The opinion also explained the necessity for considering further injunctive relief, beyond that imposed at the end of the Phase I trial:
It is... apparent to the Court that the defendants are no closer today to discharging their fiduciary responsibilities properly than they were during the Phase I trial back in the summer of 1999. At the conclusion of that trial, after the plaintiffs proved that the defendants were in breach of the fiduciary duties that they owe to the 300,000 individual Indian trust beneficiaries, the plaintiffs requested that this Court put the IIM trust under court supervision. The Court declined to grant such relief at that time because it felt that it was its constitutional duty to allow the defendants to correct the breaches declared by the Court and those found in the 1994 Act. Thus, by declaring the trust duties of the defendants and remanding the matter back to the agency, the Court granted the least intrusive form of relief that it could fashion.
In light of the current posture of this case, it is now obvious that this relief was and is insufficient. The recalcitrance exhibited by the Department of Interior in complying with the orders of this Court is only surpassed by the incompetence that the agency has shown in administering the IIM trust. Accordingly, the Court concludes that while its factual findings and legal conclusions in the Phase I trial ruling were correct (and will therefore not be disturbed), the relief granted by the Court at that time is no longer adequate. Consistent with this conclusion, the Court has determined that it must now consider granting further injunctive relief with respect to the fixing the system portion of the case and the historical accounting project. The Court's conclusion in this regard is in full accord with the principle that courts should exercise the least possible power adequate to the end proposed. The reason is that there is an equally established axiom that when the least intrusive measures fail to rectify the problems, more intrusive measures are justifiable. Moreover, the D.C. Circuit even explicitly stated that "while th[is] court should (and did) remand to the agency for the proper discharge of its obligations, the court should not abdicate its responsibility to ensure that its instructions are followed. This would seem particularly appropriate where, as here, there is a record of agency recalcitrance and resistance to the fulfillment of its legal duties." At this juncture, it is crystal clear that more than a declaratory judgment is necessary to ensure that the defendants discharge their fiduciary obligations properly.
Id. at 147-48 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted).
In light of its conclusion to consider further injunctive relief, the Court scheduled further proceedings to determine whether such additional relief was warranted and, if so, to determine the nature and extent of such relief. Because the Court had already conducted a Phase I trial, and because the time was not ripe to conduct a hearing on Phase II of the litigation, the Court designated these proceedings "the Phase 1.5 Trial," to stress their nature as an interim stage of this litigation. It explained that this trial would "encompass additional remedies with respect to the fixing the system portion of this case and approving an approach to conducting a historical accounting of the IIM trust accounts." Id. at 162. Specifically, the Court explained that it planned to enter a structural injunction in this case. Id. at 147 n.154.
The Court directed the Interior defendants to submit two plans to the Court: (1) a plan for conducting a historical accounting of the IIM trust accounts, and (2) a plan for bringing themselves into compliance with the fiduciary obligations owed to the IIM trust beneficiaries. It stressed that these plans should "describe, in detail, the standards by which they intend to administer the IIM trust accounts, and how their proposed actions would bring them into compliance with those standards." Id. at 148-49. The Court also granted the Treasury Department and plaintiffs leave to file any plan or plans of their own regarding these matters. On January 6, 2003, the Interior defendants and plaintiffs each submitted two plans to this Court.*fn7
On July 18, 2003, the D.C. Circuit vacated the order of this Court finding defendants Norton and McCaleb to be in civil contempt of court, and directing these defendants to bear the cost of the expenses and fees incurred by plaintiffs in litigating the second contempt trial. Cobell v. Norton, 334 F.3d 1128, 1150 (D.C. Cir. 2003) ("Cobell VIII"). Because the D.C. Circuit did not set aside the findings of fact made in this Court's September 17, 2002 memorandum opinion, the Court will treat those factual findings as having been established. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a) ("Findings of fact, whether based on oral or documentary evidence, shall not be set aside unless clearly erroneous, and due regard shall be given to the opportunity of the trial court to judge of the credibility of the witnesses.")
The Phase 1.5 Trial began on May 1, 2003 and ended on July 8, 2003. The Court heard forty-four days of testimony and received over 500 exhibits into evidence from both parties. Proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law were submitted by both parties on August 4, 2003. The Court has weighed all of the evidence presented and fully reviewed the arguments presented by the parties, and hereby enters these findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The Court must first confront the threshold issue of whether it possesses the remedial authority to enter structural injunctive relief against the Interior Department. In no uncertain terms, the Interior defendants have recently made clear that "their position on [this issue] remains that it is beyond this Court's jurisdiction to enter a structural injunction that dictates how the Interior Defendants must conduct trust reform or comply with their obligation to account to individual Indian money (IIM) account holders." Resp. to Court's Inquiries During Closing Arguments at 1. Additionally, the Interior defendants "do not consent to a structural injunction of any sort, to another court monitor, or to any sort of board or other entity to perform a monitoring role." Id. at 2.
Because the purpose of the Phase 1.5 trial was to determine whether additional relief, including structural injunctive relief, was warranted in this litigation, and because the Interior defendants have contested the remedial authority of the Court to afford such relief, the Court must analyze carefully the issue of whether it possesses the remedial authority to enter a structural injunction against the Interior Department. Part II of this opinion will therefore examine this litigation within its proper procedural context, namely, the long line of institutional reform cases in the federal courts. The focus of this examination will be upon the remedial measures undertaken in such cases, as well as the limitations that have been placed upon the authority of the federal courts to order such measures. Part III of this opinion will analyze other factors potentially affecting the Court's ability to enter structural injunctive relief. Specifically, the Court will examine the separation-of-powers principle, the mandates of the D.C. Circuit in its two opinions in this litigation, and the remedial authority afforded to equity courts in trust litigation. After careful consideration of each of these factors, the Court will determine the nature and extent of its remedial authority in this litigation.
II. INSTITUTIONAL REFORM LITIGATION
As noted above, Interior asserts that this Court lacks jurisdiction to enter a structural injunction in the present case. To the Court's knowledge, this precise issue has never been submitted for adjudication by a federal court. For guidance on this issue, it will be necessary to look to cases in which such injunctions have been frequently issued -- namely, the separate lines of substantive cases that collectively form the body of institutional reform litigation in the federal courts.
At least two observations may be made upon surveying the different forms that such litigation has taken. The first is that structural injunctions have been issued (or consent decrees have been entered into) against federal governmental entities in a number of different contexts. The second is that in recent years, the Supreme Court has laid down a number of precedents governing the nature and scope of relief that may be issued in institutional reform cases. It hardly warrants mentioning that, in an institutional reform case such as the present action, the Court must look to binding precedent of the Supreme Court to guide its hand. An examination of the different lines of cases that form the body of institutional reform litigation will allow the Court to examine these important precedents in the substantive context in which they emerged.
The scholarly literature on institutional reform litigation, both positive*fn8 and negative,*fn9 is vast, and the Court will not attempt to discuss it here. Instead, the Court will confine itself to explaining the typical manner in which such cases develop over time, and summarizing the most prominent substantive areas that have formed the subject of institutional reform cases.
A. A Model of an Institutional Reform Case
The necessity of institutional reform litigation arises from the problem of government monopoly. In the modern regulatory state, services provided by many institutions (such as schools, foster care facilities, mental health facilities, prisons, and low-cost housing) are provided exclusively or almost exclusively by government entities. The nature of these services is determined by the legislative branch of government, and administered and managed by bureaucracies within the executive branch. A large number of persons may be dependent in some way upon the services provided and administered by these branches. Therefore, if these branches fail to administer these services in conformity with the Constitution or with applicable statutes, the recipients of these services may suffer injury. However, because the government possesses a monopoly or near-monopoly on the provision of these services, it is impossible for the recipients to respond by "voting with their feet." That is, if the government dispenses a service that is inadequate because it does not conform to constitutional or statutory standards, the recipients may not simply go to a competitor to receive similar services. The monopoly or near-monopoly possessed by the government thus prevents market forces from establishing the most efficient allocation of the services provided.*fn10
Nor does the power of the vote necessarily furnish an adequate check on these branches to ensure that they comply with constitutional and statutory requirements. For one, the recipients of the services may be disenfranchised -- e.g., under the age of eighteen, imprisoned, or committed to the treatment of a mental health facility. Even if the recipients are not disenfranchised, the managers and administrators of such services might well be unresponsive to the voting power. Typically, the types of services in question are not managed directly by elected officials, but by a vast bureaucracy headed by an official who does not run for election. For example, the public does not elect a secretary of housing, an education commissioner, or a director of prisons -- it elects a mayor, governor, or president who appoints these officials, who in turn administer the bureaucracy that provides these services.
In short, if a government entity administers services in a manner that violates either the Constitution or applicable statutes, neither market forces nor the power of the vote can be relied upon to restore its compliance with the law. However, if the recipients of these services suffer injury caused by the violations of law, they may seek redress for their injury in court. This type of litigation is typically known as "institutional reform litigation" because it is initiated in order to reform a government institution by bringing it into compliance with the Constitution or other governing law. The two defining characteristics of an institutional reform case are (1) the case is founded upon a claim that the statutory or constitutional rights of a class of plaintiffs have been violated by an ongoing governmental practice, and (2) the class of plaintiffs seeks to have the trial court assume an continuing role in monitoring and enforcing structural change within the government entity. One author has presented a useful model of the manner in which such cases often develop and are resolved, dividing them into four key phases:
[EDITOR'S NOTE: CHART UNAVAILABLE]
PHILIP J. COOPER, HARD JUDICIALCHOICES 16 (1988) ("Hard Judicial Choices").
The trigger phase is described by Cooper as follows: "In general, the equitable remedy cases are instituted as a reaction to a combination of historic policies or practices plus some triggering event. The cases tend to arise in situations where a number of controversial actions have been taken by one or more government units over time until a trigger level is reached." Id. at 17. The action is initiated in the trigger phase, and may be dismissed for a number of reasons, e.g., lack of standing. If the action is not dismissed during this initial phase, it proceeds to the liability phase, "the purpose of which is to determine whether there has been a violation of law justifying some sort of remedy and, if so, what is the extent of the injury suffered by the plaintiffs?" Id. at 18.
If the trial court finds the defendant to be liable, the remedy phase begins. Cooper's description of this phase of institutional reform litigation warrants quotation at some length:
[The remedy phase] consists of a remedy crafting stage and, often, a parallel appeals process. The product of this remedy phase is a core remedy in the form of a decree or detailed remedy guideline. In many cases,... there are later interactions between the judge and the parties over requests for detailed modifications of the basic remedy, but these are really remedy refinements related to the implementation of the decrees in what is referred to here as the post decree phase rather than as part of the remedy phase.
Remedy crafting consists of a plan development and negotiation stage and a formal decision stage. The judge often plays a facilitator role during the plan development stage, calling upon the parties to negotiate some kind of agreement on how to resolve the problems identified during the liability stage. In some instances the parties will agree on the means to remedy the offending conditions and submit that agreement to the court for legal ratification. In other cases, though, the parties may either not be willing to enter into negotiations at all or, if they do bargain, may be unable to produce a mutually acceptable remedial plan. When the plan development stage reaches its limits, the process becomes more formal and the judge becomes less a facilitator and more a validator, or ratifying official, placing the court's imprimatur on specific parts of the plans submitted by the parties without regard to voluntary acceptance by the parties....
If the parties are unable to negotiate an agreement, the formal process for remedy crafting begins, usually with the judge calling upon the defendants to work out some kind of plan. The remainder of the formal process often centers on a remedy hearing at which proposals made by the defendants and counterproposals submitted by the plaintiffs are presented and explained. Testimony is taken to determine the appropriateness and feasibility of the plans.
If the court ratifies a negotiated agreement submitted by the parties, the agreement is known as a "consent decree." If, however, the parties fail to agree, the usual step for the court to take is to issue a "structural injunction." This term was originated by Professor Owen Fiss, who defined it as an "injunction seeking to effect the reform of a social institution." OWEN M. FISS, THE CIVIL RIGHTSINJUNCTION 9 (1978); see also Lampkin v. District of Columbia, 886 F. Supp. 56, 62 (D.D.C. 1995) ("The purpose of a structural injunction is to remodel an existing social or political institution to bring it into conformity with constitutional demands; e.g., restructuring a school system to facilitate equal educational opportunities. Structural injunctions are typically used as public law remedies for serious and pervasive rights violations."). In its second contempt opinion, this Court explained that "[s]tructural injunctions are somewhat different than ordinary injunctions, 'in that their goal is not merely to halt a single wrongful practice, but to halt a group of wrongful practices by restructuring a social institution such as a mental hospital, school, or prison.'" Cobell VII, 226 F. Supp.2d at 146 n.154 (quoting DAN B. DOBBS, LAW OF REMEDIES § 7.4(4) (2d ed. 1993)). As noted by Cooper, in choosing the form that a structural injunction should take,
[j]udges may select from among a range of affirmative remedy options. These include process remedies, performance standards, or specified particular actions. Process remedies include such techniques as ordering formation of advisory committees, citizen participation requirements, educational programs, evaluation committees, dispute resolution procedures, or other devices that will operate to remedy past problems without mandating the particular form of action or the specific goals the government must pursue.
Performance standards order specific quantities or types of remedial accomplishments, such as numbers or types of new housing units, racial attendance standards in schools, staffing levels at mental health institutions, or other targets, with the means of attainment left to the discretion of the officials who are the defendants in the suit. Specified remedial actions, such as school busing, modified school attendance zones, or required changes in the size and condition or hospital rooms or prison cells leave defendants with little or no flexibility concerning the remedial goals to be achieved or the means of attaining them.
Hard Judicial Choices at 20-21 (footnote omitted). A forthcoming article observes that the prevalent trend in the federal courts is to favor what Cooper labels "performance standards" over specified remedial actions. See Charles F. Sabel & William H. Simon, Destabilization Rights: How New Public Law Litigation Succeeds (forthcoming in Harvard Law Review).
Another group of authors has divided the provisions of a typical structural injunction into substantive and administrative components. Substantive components consist of "the means adopted to effect the substantive measures ordered." Special Project at 814. Administrative components, on the other hand, represent "the means adopted to effect the substantive measures ordered. These means are not themselves required to remedy the wrong; their justification is to be found in the powers of a court of equity to take necessary measures in aid of its decree, not in the constitutional or statutory principles upon which the substantive aspects of the decree are based." Id. The administrative components of a structural injunction may include the appointment of court officials to administer the remedy, including masters, monitors, or mediators. Id. at 826-30.
The final stage in Cooper's model of an institutional reform case is the post-decree phase. This phase involves a parallel interactive relationship between remedy implementation and evaluation and remedy refinement. In many situations the parties in the case will return to the district judge while the decree is being carried out to ask for changes based upon implementation problems. Frequently, these suggested changes are accepted. It is not a situation in which a judge issues an order and, assuming it survives any appeals, never hears of the case again.
Just as the parties to the case can shape the remedy crafting role of the judge by affording or denying role options, so the role played by the judge in the post decree phase is shaped by the core remedy. A judge who orders a process remedy in which he or she specifies neither the precise targets to be met nor the means, but who provides some committee to make such decisions, may have an arm's-length relationship with the parties during implementation. A judge who orders specified particular actions, on the other hand, may find it necessary to play a much more active and specific role in implementing the ruling.
Finally, courts do, in fact, eventually disengage from the parties in the case when they actually remedy the situation that gave rise to the suit. However, it can be a very long time between the issuance of a remedial order and the determination by the court that the problem which gave rise to the suit has been resolved.
Hard Judicial Choices at 23-24. If the institutional defendant refuses to comply with the structural injunction, the court possesses a variety of alternatives to enforce the decree. It may threaten the defendant with a contempt finding, or hold the defendant in contempt. Special Project at 838-39. The court may "tighten" the substantive provisions of the injunction, for example, making the provisions more specific. Id. at 841. Finally, if faced with repeated noncompliance, the court may select more intrusive means to administer the injunction. For example, it may appoint an administrator to supplement the management of the institutional defendant. Id. at 831-35, 841. If none of these measures suffice to effectuate compliance with the injunction, the court must consider resorting to the "most intrusive and coercive of administrative techniques," namely, the appointment of a temporary or permanent receiver. Id. at 835-37.*fn12
Of course, if the institutional defendant chooses to cooperate with the structural injunction, the trial court may take measures to ease the administrative burden upon the defendant. For example, it may decide to "loosen" the substantive provisions of the injunction, affording the defendant a broader degree of discretion in determining the means to satisfy the provisions. Or the court may reduce the oversight role of court-appointed officials such as masters and monitors. Finally, upon a demonstration that the defendant has remedied the situation that gave rise to the suit, the court will typically terminate its retention of jurisdiction over the case.
This model nicely corresponds with the present litigation. The present class action was brought to enforce the Interior and Treasury Department's compliance with the provisions of the 1994 Act and with the pre-existing fiduciary duties imposed upon these agencies in their capacities as trustee-delegates of the United States. As noted above, in passing the 1994 Act, Congress intended to effect broad, sweeping reforms within Interior. The passage of the 1994 Act constituted the triggering event that led to the initiation of the present case. Having survived dismissal motions filed by defendants, the case proceeded to the liability phase, which ended with the D.C. Circuit's affirming of this Court's 1999 liability opinion. The remedy phase began in 2001, when the D.C. Circuit issued its opinion, affirming this Court's remand of the matter to Interior and Treasury. This Court's September 17, 2002 memorandum opinion initiated a new development within the remedy phase, namely, the Phase 1.5 litigation, which was held "to determine what additional relief is warranted in this matter." Cobell VII, 226 F. Supp.2d at 148. During the Phase 1.5 trial, "proposals made by the defendants and counterproposals submitted by the plaintiffs [were] presented and explained" and "[t]estimony [was] taken to determine the appropriateness and feasibility of the plans." In the present opinion, the Court must determine whether the issuance of a structural injunction is appropriate, and if so, what form such an injunction should take.
B. Major Settings of Institutional Reform Litigation
In making this determination, it will be useful to provide a brief description of each of the major settings in which institutional reform litigation has taken place: (1) schools, (2) prisons, (3) mental health facilities, and (4) public housing. The Court will also examine some of the lesser-known contexts in which institutional reform litigation has taken place, including employment discrimination and hearings on Social Security benefits.
Institutional reform litigation began with school desegregation cases. After the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) ("Brown I"), it remanded the combined cases to the district courts, instructing them to "enter such orders and decrees consistent with this opinion as are necessary and proper to admit to public schools on a racially nondiscriminatory basis with all deliberate speed the parties to these cases." Brown v. Board of Education, 349 U.S. 294, 301 (1955) ("Brown II"). The Court explained that the district courts were to "consider the adequacy of any plans the defendants may propose to meet these problems and to effectuate a transition to a racially nondiscriminatory school system. During this period of transition, the courts will retain jurisdiction of these cases." Brown II, 349 U.S. at 301. Brown thus initiated several of the key elements of institutional reform litigation -- the separation of the litigation into a liability phase (culminating with Brown I) and a remedy phase (commenced by Brown II); the submission of plans by the institutional defendant; and the retention of jurisdiction by district courts during the remedy phase.
As is well known, efforts by the federal district courts to desegregate primary and secondary schools were met with massive resistance in the southern states. The Supreme Court's mounting frustration with the recalcitrance of the southern school systems was expressed in its decision in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Bd. of Educ., 402 U.S. 1 (1975), in which the Court declared that
[i]f school authorities fail in their affirmative obligations..., judicial authority may be invoked. Once a right and a violation have been shown, the scope of a district court's equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies. The essence of equity jurisdiction has been the power of the Chancellor to do equity and to mould each decree to the necessities of the particular case. Flexibility rather than rigidity has distinguished it. The qualities of mercy and practicality have made equity the instrument for nice adjustment and reconciliation between the public interest and private needs as well as between competing private claims.
Id. at 15 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
The vast majority of the resulting desegregation cases involved state and local governmental entities as defendants. However, Adams v. Richardson, 356 F. Supp. 92 (D.D.C. 1973), involved a Title VI action against the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). In Adams, the district court issued a declaratory judgment that, in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, HEW had continued to advance substantial federal funds to a number of state and local educational systems, despite the fact that the states or municipalities had either submitted unacceptable desegregation plans, failed to submit any plan for desegregation, or were otherwise failing to comply with Title VI. The court also concluded that, having learned that the states and municipalities were operating in violation of Title VI, HEW had violated its duty to commence enforcement proceedings against them in a timely manner. Having made these conclusions of law, the district court issued a structural injunction against HEW, directing the agency to
(1) institute compliance procedures against ten state-operated systems of higher education, (2) commence enforcement proceedings against seventy-four secondary and primary school districts found either to have reneged on previously approved desegregation plans or to be otherwise out of compliance with Title VI, (3) commence enforcement proceedings against forty-two districts previously deemed by HEW to be in presumptive violation of the Supreme Court's ruling in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, (4) demand of eighty-five other secondary and primary districts an explanation of racial disproportion in apparent violation of Swann, (5) implement an enforcement program to secure Title VI compliance with respect to vocational and special schools, (6) monitor all school districts under court desegregation orders to the extent that HEW resources permit, and (7) make periodic reports to appellees on their activities in each of the above areas.
Adams v. Richardson, 480 F.2d 1159, 1161 (D.C. Cir. 1973) ("Adams I") (internal citation and footnote omitted).
On appeal, similar to the defendants in the present case, HEW argued that the enforcement of Title VI was committed entirely to the discretion of the agency. The D.C. Circuit rejected this argument and affirmed the issuance of the structural injunction, although it directed the district court to modify the provisions relating to desegregation in higher education. Adams I, 480 F.2d at 1164-65. It also rejected HEW's argument that the imposition of a duty to monitor school districts to ensure compliance with Title VI lacked a basis in law:
Although appellants urge in their brief to this court that "it is difficult to find any legal basis for the imposition upon HEW of a monitoring duty in court-order districts," this injunctive order appears to have been responsive to testimony in the record on behalf of HEW itself. That testimony was that HEW recognized its right and authority, as the responsible disbursing agent of federal funds subject to the standards of compliance in districts under court order; that it was handicapped in this respect by inadequate personnel resources, having only some 38 or 40 inspectors which it thought could be more efficiently used in monitoring compliance with voluntary plans filed with HEW; and that, despite these limitations, whenever a court requested it to monitor compliance with an order issued by that court, it made a special effort to respond and had done so on a number of occasions.
Two years later, the district court determined that HEW had demonstrated a "reluctance in recent years to use the administrative sanction process where school district[s] are known to be in non-compliance." Adams v. Weinberger, 391 F. Supp. 269, 271 (D.D.C. 1975). It entered further injunctive relief against HEW, directing it to (1) require 125 school districts with one or more schools substantially disproportionate in their racial composition to rebut or explain the disproportion; (2) commence enforcement proceedings against 45 school districts that had failed to comply with Title VI; (3) report any findings of violations or presumptive violations of desegregation orders to the district courts that had issued the orders; (4) administer future enforcement activities in accordance with a schedule outlined by the court; and (5) report to the court all steps taken to comply with these orders. Id. at 271-73. Two years after it had issued this relief, the district court determined that HEW was continuing to provide federal aid to higher education systems in six states that had not achieved desegregation or submitted acceptable desegregation plans. Adams v. Califano, 430 F. Supp. 118, 120 (D.D.C. 1977). It therefore supplemented the injunctive relief already granted by directing HEW to submit criteria for an acceptable desegregation plan to the six states within ninety days, to require each state to submit a revised desegregation plan within sixty days thereafter, and to render a determination on each plan within 120 days thereafter. Id. at 121.
In the 1990s, the Supreme Court supplemented the broad standards set forth in Brown II and Swann with appropriate limits on the remedial power of the courts to achieve desegregation. In Missouri v. Jenkins, 515 U.S. 70 (1995), the Court reversed a remedial order of a district court that had "set out on a program to create a school district that was equal to or superior to the surrounding [suburban school districts]" through the creation of a "magnet school" program in the inner city to attract students from surrounding districts. Id. at 91. The Court explained that
[t]he District Court's pursuit of "desegregative attractiveness" cannot be reconciled with our cases placing limitations on a district court's remedial authority.... [T]his rationale is not susceptible to any objective limitation.... Nor are there limits to the duration of the District Court's involvement.... The District Court's pursuit of the goal of "desegregative attractiveness" results in so many imponderables and is so far removed from the task of eliminating the racial identifiability of the schools within the [inner city school district] that we believe it is beyond the admittedly broad discretion of the District Court.
Id. at 99, 100. Although many commentators at the time considered Jenkins and similar cases to have sounded the death knell of school desegregation suits, their fears were misplaced. For while many district courts have terminated their jurisdiction over school desegregation cases, a recent empirical study has determined that "the vast majority of school desegregation litigation continues, with no hint of impending termination." Wendy Parker, The Future of School Desegregation, 94 NW. U. L. REV. 1157, 1159 (2000).*fn13 The article also observes that "[c]ontrary to the popular idea of judges acting as 'super school boards' or 'local superintendents,' judges have taken a remarkably minor, passive role in overseeing the implementation of remedial decrees." Id. at 1160.
Prior to the 1960s, federal judges generally adopted a "hands-off" approach to prison conditions and the institutional rules to which federal and state inmates were subjected, refusing to entertain civil claims arising from such conditions or rules. See Margo Schlanger, Beyond the Hero Judge: Institutional Reform Litigation as Litigation, 97 MICH. L. REV. 1994, 2000 (1999) ("Beyond the Hero Judge").*fn14 That approach changed with the initiation of a civil suit in 1969 alleging that conditions in Arkansas state prisons violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court later described the conditions in Arkansas prisons at the time the action was filed:
The routine conditions that the ordinary Arkansas convict had to endure were characterized by the District Court as "a dark and evil world completely alien to the free world." That characterization was amply supported by the evidence.*fn15 The punishments for misconduct not serious enough to result in punitive isolation were cruel,*fn16 unusual,*fn17 and unpredictable.*fn18 It is the discipline known as "punitive isolation" that is most relevant for present purposes.
Confinement in punitive isolation was for an indeterminate period of time. An average of 4, and sometimes as many as 10 or 11, prisoners were crowded into windowless 8' x 10' cells containing no furniture other than a source of water and a toilet that could only be flushed from outside the cell. At night the prisoners were given mattresses to spread on the floor. Although some prisoners suffered from infectious diseases such as hepatitis and venereal disease, mattresses were removed and jumbled together each morning, then returned to the cells at random in the evening. Prisoners in isolation received fewer than 1,000 calories a day;*fn19 their meals consisted primarily of 4-inch squares of "grue," a substance created by mashing meat, potatoes, oleo, syrup, vegetables, eggs, and seasoning into a paste and baking the mixture in a pan.
Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 681-83 (1978) (citations omitted). The Arkansas litigation "augured a nationwide flood of class-action lawsuits leading to major court orders requiring reform in such areas as housing conditions, security, medical care, mental health care, sanitation, nutrition, and exercise." Beyond the Hero Judge at 2004. Apart from the Arkansas litigation, the best-known prison reform case is the long-running Ruiz litigation, which was cited by the D.C. Circuit in its 2003 opinion in the present case. See Cobell VIII, 334 F.3d at 1142-43.*fn20
Not all prison conditions cases involved conditions as deplorable as those in the Arkansas litigation. Moreover, although most prison conditions cases involved state jail or prison facilities, the federal prison system has been the subject of at least three such cases. In Jorden v. Arnold, 408 F. Supp. 869 (M.D. Pa. 1976), inmates in the U.S. Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania filed a class action, claiming that the conditions in the prison's administrative detention cells violated the Fifth and Eighth Amendments. The district court found that prior to the filing of the class action, the physical conditions of the cells "violated basic concepts of decency," in that "[l]ittle or no ventilation caused the cells to be stuffy and foul-smelling. Four of the cells had no sinks while the commodes and water supply in them could only be controlled from outside the cells. The cell windows were painted over so that there was inadequate light for reading and no view of the outside world." Id. at 876. The district court found that during the pendency of the case, prison officials had undertaken several corrective measures to remedy the situation. Nevertheless, the court noted that the facilities had never been subject to regular inspection, which was "probably why the system came to be so inadequate prior to [initiation of the] action." Id. The court therefore issued a structural injunction requiring the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to (1) provide proper maintenance to the ventilation system in the penitentiary, including annual inspections, (2) afford each inmate confined in disciplinary segregation the opportunity to shower at least twice a week, and to exercise at least two hours per week, (3) continue to have unpainted windows, light bulbs, and sinks and commodes capable of control inside the cells, and (4) maintain the facilities in accordance with policy statements issued by the Bureau. Jordan v. Arnold, 472 F. Supp. 265, 267-68 (M.D. Pa. 1979).*fn21
In Bono v. Saxbe, 450 F. Supp. 934 (E.D. Ill. 1978), inmates in the maximum-security federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, filed a class action alleging that conditions in a particular unit within the penitentiary known as the "Control Unit" violated the Constitution. The district court determined that "[w]hile the general purpose of the control unit passes constitutional muster, as applied there are constitutional infirmities." Id. at 942. In particular,
[p]laintiffs' uncontroverted evidence showed the debilitating mental effect on those inmates confined to the control unit. They were locked up in a closed-front cell 23½ hours per day. Little, if no, activity was offered to relieve this boredom. Reading material, while available, was limited. Access to legal materials was limited. Outside physical exercise was sporadic, at best, and indoor exercise limited. Meaningful contact with other persons was virtually nonexistent. Rehabilitative programs were virtually nonexistent.
The most odious characteristic, however, was the closed-front cell, the boxcar. An inmate would spend nearly every minute of every day in his cell, cut off from any contact with the outside world even the limited "outside world" of the incarcerated felon. The inmates' existence was limited by the space of his cell and the approximately three feet beyond the cell bars, at which point the outer wall was erected. These walls contained but a small window in the door. Even though the inmate could express a preference as to whether the outer door would be open or closed, the correctional officer had the final say in the matter.
Id. at 946. The district court entered a structural injunction requiring prison officials to (1) eliminate their use of the boxcar cell, (2) submit proposals governing the conduct of hearings to be provided before placing inmates in the control unit, (3) stop placing inmates in the unit solely because of the nature of their crimes or escape attempts, (4) provide guidelines for inmates to follow to expedite their release from the unit, (5) submit a proposal providing for increased physical exercise for prisoners in the unit, and a status report detailing the officials' compliance with the injunction. Id. at 947-48. The prison officials submitted the required proposals and status report, which the district court adopted over the objections of the plaintiffs, although it did increase the required amount of exercise for prisoners in the unit from four to seven hours per week. Bono v. Saxbe, 462 F. Supp. 146 (E.D. Ill. 1978). The court also enjoined the officials from placing an inmate in the control unit without following the procedures set forth in their proposals. Id. at 149.
The Seventh Circuit affirmed, in large part. Bono v. Saxbe, 620 F.2d 609 (7th Cir. 1980). It remanded only on the issues of whether the inadequate lighting in the control unit and strip searches conducted before and after non-contact visits constituted cruel and unusual punishment. On remand, the district court ordered the prison officials to develop a reasonable procedure for providing the inmates with either a forty-, sixty-, or hundred-watt light bulb, but determined that the strip searches were constitutionally permissible. Bono v. Saxbe, 527 F. Supp. 1182 (S.D. Ill. 1980). A year later, the plaintiffs asked the district court to issue an order directing the defendants to show cause why they should not be held in contempt for alleged violations of the structural injunction. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants had violated the provision forbidding the use of the boxcar cell by making use of nine closed-front cells in the control unit. The court denied the plaintiffs' motion, but ordered the defendants to submit a proposal governing the operation of certain aspects of the cells in question. The court adopted the plan submitted by the defendants, over the objections of the plaintiffs, with some modifications. Bono v. Saxbe, 527 F. Supp. 1187 (S.D. Ill. 1981).
The third case involved allegations of discrimination in parole standards against female prisoners in federal and local prison facilities in the District of Columbia. In 1976, the Federal Bureau of Prisons entered into a consent decree, mandating that all female inmates sentenced in the District of Columbia should be paroled under local, not federal, standards, regardless of the manner of their offense or the place of their incarceration. Garnes v. Taylor, civil action no. 159-72 (D.D.C. Dec. 10, 1976). See Cosgrove v. Smith, 697 F.2d 1125, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 1983).
Of course, the most frequent appearance by a federal agency in prison reform litigation has not been as an institutional defendant, but as a plaintiff or plaintiff-intervenor. As noted by one commentator,
through the 1970s, the [U.S. Department of Justice] was asked or ordered by numerous judges to appear in various kinds of non-desegregation institutional reform cases, including jail and prison conditions cases, and it appeared in others on its own initiative. In total, prior to 1980, the Department of Justice was either plaintiff, plaintiff-intervenor, or amicus (almost always 'litigating amicus,' participating in discovery, negotiation, and presentation of evidence) in more than ten of the largest and most comprehensive prison cases (four of which had desegregation components) and in a number of jail cases....
Assessment of the Department of Justice's resources, goals and strategies aids a great deal in understanding the shape of litigated prison reform. When the Civil Rights Division was involved, general conditions cases could more easily be statewide, and more comprehensive, because the Division called upon the FBI to perform statewide investigations and paid the (very high) expenses of such comprehensive litigation, including expert fees. Even when the Division did not seek, or was not successful in seeking, to widen the issues past desegregation, the consent decrees the Division negotiated typically required the defendant jail or prison to devise a standardized scheme for assigning inmates to housing and custody and security levels.
Beyond the Hero Judge at 2024-25.
However, by the 1990s, a widespread perception had emerged that some of the relief awarded in prison reform cases had exceeded acceptable bounds. This prompted the passage of the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134 (codified as amended in scattered titles and sections of the U.S.C.), in 1995. A year later, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996), reversing the issuance of a 25-page injunctive order against the Arizona Department of Corrections that "specified in minute detail the times that [prison] libraries were to be kept open, the number of hours of library use to which each inmate was entitled (10 per week), the minimal educational requirements for prison librarians (a library science degree, law degree, or paralegal degree), the content of a videotaped legalresearch course for inmates," and other similar matters. Id. at 347. The Court acknowledged that it was proper for a court to "grant relief against actual harm that has been suffered, or that will imminently be suffered, by a particular individual or class of individuals, orders the alteration of an institutional organization or procedure that causes the harm." Id. at 350. However, it explained, the district court in Lewis had only identified two instances of actual injury, not a systemwide constitutional inadequacy. Additionally, the Court noted that
[t]he order was developed through a process that failed to give adequate consideration to the views of state prison authorities. We have said that the strong considerations of comity that require giving a state court system that has convicted a defendant the first opportunity to correct its own errors also require giving the States the first opportunity to correct the errors made in the internal administration of their prisons.
Id. at 362 (citation and internal punctuation marks omitted). In other words, the Court expressed its support of the long-held practice of affording an institutional defendant the first opportunity to propose a remedial plan to cure its statutory or constitutional violations, observing that "[t]he State was entitled to far more than an opportunity for rebuttal." Id. at 363.
The passage of the PLRA, together with the Supreme Court's decision in Lewis, prompted many commentators to announce that prison reform litigation had been effectively ended. However, reports of the death of such cases are greatly exaggerated. Such litigation "remains a regular and consequential component of the interaction between the court system and the executive and legislative branches of state and local governments," and has evolved to encompass new concerns, such as the needs of women inmates and inmates with disabilities. Beyond the Hero Judge at 2033.
3. Mental Health Facilities
Before the 1970s, men and women afflicted with mental retardation or other mental health problems were frequently committed to state-run facilities that functioned merely as "warehouses" for such individuals. Such facilities often provided little or no medical treatment, and the individuals committed to them were often subject to appalling conditions. Perhaps the best-known litigation involving conditions within state-run mental health facilities is the suit initiated in 1974 against the Pennhurst State School and Hospital, located near Philadelphia. At the time the action was filed,
Pennhurst was typical of large, isolated state residential institutions for persons with mental retardation. Forty-three percent of Pennhurst residents had no family contact within the past three years. Residents slept in large, overcrowded wards, spent their days in large day rooms, and ate in large group settings. There were few programs designed to increase their skills.
Halderman v. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 995 F. Supp. 534, 536 (E.D. Pa. 1998). Injuries to Pennhurst residents, either from other residents or self-inflicted, were common. Residents were frequently subjected to physical restraints and psychotropic drugs, not for treatment purposes, but because staff shortages made it impossible to monitor them. Living areas in the Pennhurst facility did not meet minimal standards for cleanliness, and outbreaks of infectious disease were common. Many of the residents suffered both physical deterioration and mental and behavioral regression during their residency at the facility. See Halderman v. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 446 F. Supp. 1295, 1307-11 (E.D. Pa. 1977) (detailing conditions pervading the facility) (subsequent history omitted).
Having found that the treatment of the Pennhurst residents violated the Eighth Amendment, the district court issued a structural injunction requiring the state of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia to provide each class member with minimally adequate habilitation according to an individualized program, and appointed a special master to monitor compliance with the injunction. Id. at 1326-29. Following a lengthy appeals process, the parties settled, and entered into a consent decree approved by the court. Halderman v. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 610 F. Supp. 1221 (E.D. Pa. 1985). A series of contempt proceedings followed, during which the court determined that the defendants had violated almost every substantive provision of the consent decree. The court's determination resulted in the appointment of additional special masters and specific requirements that, if not met by a specified deadline, would have resulted in the imposition of fines of $5000 per day that the defendants remained in non-compliance. Halderman v. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp., 995 F. Supp. at 540-42.
By 1998, however, the court was able to commend the defendants on their compliance with the decree. It terminated its active supervision of the case, observing that
[t]he past twenty years has seen a vast relocation of persons with mental retardation out of large, state-operated institutions like Pennhurst into small, community living environments. The Pennhurst case helped usher in this deinstitutionalization movement, and has brought a general awareness that persons with mental retardation have the right to minimally adequate habilitation in the least restrictive environment. Study after study has demonstrated that Pennhurst class members have been better off in almost every way since this Court ordered the defendants to provide them with care, training, and habilitation in smaller residential settings. Today, many class members are employed in paying jobs helping contribute to society. Others are acquiring new skills and learning to reach their maximum potential development.
Id. at 548; see also id. at 542-44 (detailing conclusions of studies of the Pennhurst facility). The Pennhurst litigation provides an excellent example of an institutional reform case involving recalcitrant defendants, and of a district court that adopted successful measures addressing such recalcitrance.*fn22 It also demonstrates the wide-ranging public benefits that can result from institutional reform litigation, including not only benefits to the residents of the Pennhurst facility but also to society at large in the form of increased human capital.
"Residential housing is probably regulated more heavily than any comparably diverse, fragmented, and competitive market." Peter H. Schuck, Judging Remedies: Judicial Approaches to Housing Segregation, 37 HARV. C.R.-C.L. L. REV. 289, 292 (2002). At the federal level, this regulation includes the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. § 3601 et seq. Efforts to enforce compliance with the FHA and other federal civil rights laws have included litigation against government agencies alleged to have constructed, financed, or maintained public housing in a racially discriminatory manner. Perhaps the two best-known examples of such litigation are those involving housing in Yonkers and in Chicago.
In the former case, the Justice Department initiated an action against the city of Yonkers, alleging that the city had engaged in racial discrimination in the administration of its public housing programs. The NAACP intervened, and filed an additional claim against the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The claim against HUD was settled by the entry of a consent decree requiring HUD to make available 200 units of family and large-family public housing in East Yonkers. United States v. Yonkers Bd. of Educ., 611 F. Supp. 730, 731-32 (S.D.N.Y. 1985). The NAACP later filed a motion to compel HUD's compliance with the terms of the consent decree. The district court found that HUD had "pursu[ed] a course of virtually complete inaction," and issued a list of specific actions required by HUD under the decree, together with a timetable of deadlines for compliance. Id. at 739, 741-42.
The court also determined, following a trial on the merits, that the city of Yonkers had intentionally segregated minority residents by constructing all of its public housing in the predominantly minority-resident part of the city, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the FHA. United States v. Yonkers Bd. of Educ., 624 F. Supp. 1276 (S.D.N.Y. 1985), aff'd, 837 F.2d 1181 (2d Cir. 1987). The court then issued a structural injunction requiring the city to develop a specified number of public housing units in predominantly-white portions of the city by a specified deadline. United States v. Yonkers Bd. of Educ., 635 F. Supp. 1577 (S.D.N.Y. 1986). Although the injunction was subsequently affirmed by the Second Circuit, the city decided to defy the court's orders. In 1988, the district court found both the city and several individual city council members to be in civil contempt, and imposed fines of $1 million per day of noncompliance. The Second Circuit affirmed, but the Supreme Court reversed the contempt citations as applied to the individual council members. Spallone v. United States, 493 U.S. 265 (1990). Owing to the city's continued resistance, by 2002, only five families had been moved to public housing outside of the predominantly minority-resident part of the city. Shuck, Judging Remedies, at 364. A recent commentator offered this concise assessment of the litigation: "The verdict in Yonkers seems clear: Everyone lost." Id. at 294.
The housing litigation in Chicago has been a different story. In 1966, approximately 43,000 black tenants of and applicants for public housing in Chicago filed an action seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA") and HUD, alleging that HUD had sanctioned and assisted in CHA's racially discriminatory housing practices. The district court dismissed the complaint against HUD for failure to state a claim. The Seventh Circuit reversed, finding that from 1950-1969, HUD approved and funded the CHA's family-housing projects, even though it admitted that it was aware that CHA was placing such sites solely in predominantly-minority areas of Chicago. Gautreaux v. Romney, 448 F.2d 731, 737 (7th Cir. 1971). Although the court acknowledged that HUD's decision was based upon the agency's conclusion that "it was better to fund a segregated housing system than to deny housing altogether" to minority families in Chicago, it nevertheless explained that "a deliberate policy to separate the races cannot be justified by the good intentions with which other laudable goals are pursued." Id. at 737, 738. The Seventh Circuit determined that HUD had violated both the Fifth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and remanded to the district court with instructions to grant summary judgment for the plaintiffs. Id. at 740.
On remand, the district court ordered HUD to use its "best efforts" to increase the supply of dwelling units in conformity with the applicable statutes, rules, and regulations, and with the provisions of an order issued against CHA in a companion case. However, it refused to order relief extending beyond the legal boundaries of the city of Chicago into the outlying suburban areas, because it had previously determined that the discriminatory practices had been committed solely within city limits. Gautreaux v. Romney, 363 F. Supp. 690 (N.D. Ill. 1973). The Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded, finding that "federal involvement [was] pervasive" in the housing projects, and directed the district court to adopt "a comprehensive metropolitan area plan that will not only disestablish the segregated public housing in the City of Chicago... but will increase the supply of dwelling units as rapidly as possible." Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 503 F.2d 930, 936, 939 (7th Cir. 1974).
The Supreme Court affirmed. It expressly distinguished Milliken v. Bradley, 418 U.S. 717 (1974), which had reversed the issuance of a structural injunction affecting suburban areas:
The critical distinction between HUD and the suburban school districts in Milliken is that HUD has been found to have violated the Constitution. That violation provided the necessary predicate for the entry of a remedial order against HUD and, indeed, imposed a duty on the District Court to grant appropriate relief. Our prior decisions counsel that in the event of a constitutional violation all reasonable methods be available to formulate an effective remedy, and that every effort should be made by a federal court to employ those methods to achieve the greatest possible degree of relief, taking into account the practicalities of the situation. As the Court observed in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education: "Once a right and a violation have been shown, the scope of a district court's equitable powers to remedy past wrongs is broad, for breadth and flexibility are inherent in equitable remedies.".... [T]he District Court's proposed remedy in Milliken was impermissible because of the limits on the federal judicial power to interfere with the operation of state political entities that were not implicated in unconstitutional conduct. Here, unlike the desegregation remedy found erroneous in Milliken, a judicial order directing relief beyond the boundary lines of Chicago will not necessarily entail coercion of uninvolved governmental units, because both CHA and HUD have the authority to operate outside the Chicago city limits.
Hills v. Gautreaux, 425 U.S. 284, 297-98 (1976) (internal citations and punctuation omitted). The Court remanded to the district court "for additional evidence and for further consideration of the issue of metropolitan area relief," explaining that "[t]he nature and scope of the remedial decree to be entered on remand is a matter for the District Court in the exercise of its equitable discretion, after affording the parties an opportunity to present their views." Id. at 306.
What is important to note for purposes of the present litigation is that the presence of a federal agency in an institutional reform case did not prevent the Supreme Court from directing that structural relief be ordered. Indeed, the Court held that the presence of the agency as a defendant actually increased the scope of available injunctive relief that could be ordered by the district court. And in Missouri v. Jenkins, discussed supra, the Court reaffirmed the holding in Gautreaux:
Our decision today is fully consistent with Gautreaux. A district court seeking to remedy an intradistrict violation that has not directly caused significant interdistrict effects exceeds its remedial authority if it orders a remedy with an interdistrict purpose. This conclusion follows directly from [Milliken v. Bradley, 433 U.S. 267 (1977) ("Milliken II"], decided one year after Gautreaux, where we reaffirmed the bedrock principle that federal-court decrees exceed appropriate limits if they are aimed at eliminating a condition that does not violate the Constitution or does not flow from such a violation. In Milliken II, we also emphasized that federal courts in devising a remedy must take into account the interests of state and local authorities in managing their own affairs, consistent with the Constitution. Gautreaux, however, involved the imposition of a remedy upon a federal agency. Thus, it did not raise the same federalism concerns that are implicated when a federal court issues a remedial order against a State. Jenkins, 515 U.S. at 97-98 (internal citations and punctuation omitted) (emphasis added). The Court thus not only reaffirmed that a structural remedy may be issued against a federal agency, but also explained that such a remedy is less problematic than a similar injunction issued against a state agency, in that the former raises no potential federalism problems.
Following the Supreme Court's decision in Gautreaux, HUD elected to enter into a consent decree rather than submit to a structural injunction imposed by the district court. The court approved the proposed decree, noting that it included not only sweeping metropolitan-area relief, but also provisions requiring "continuing court jurisdiction to monitor the progress in fulfilling the decree while at the same time permitting the parties to modify the decree without resorting to judicial intervention" and "judicial review in five years to insure that the provisions of the decree are being faithfully implemented and to permit any necessary modification." Gautreaux v. Landrieu, 523 F. Supp. 665, 671-72 (N.D. Ill. 1981). The decree also included provisions requiring HUD to undertake specific actions within a prescribed timeline. See id. at 672-82 (reprinting the consent decree).
By all accounts, the housing program initiated in response to the Gautreaux decree has proven to be a resounding success. Four Northwestern University professors, after completing two empirical studies in 1982 and 1989, concluded:
The studies of the Gautreaux program suggest that residential integration can contribute significantly to the Kerner Commission's aims of improving employment, education, and social integration of low-income blacks. The suburban move greatly improved adult employment, and many adults were employed for the first time in their lives. The suburban move also improved youths' education. Compared with city movers, the children who moved to the suburbs were more likely to be (1) in school, (2) in college-track classes, (3) in four-year colleges, (4) employed, and (5) employed in jobs with benefits and better pay. The suburban move led also to a considerable amount of social integration, friendships, and interaction with white neighbors in the suburbs.
This study supports the basic premises behind the Kerner Commission's proposals for creating housing options outside the ghetto: Moving people to better areas can improve their opportunities. This should encourage Congress to fund housing voucher programs by supplying the resources and services needed for these programs to succeed. The Gautreaux program demonstrated that moving to better neighborhoods can improve adult self-sufficiency and opportunities for their children. Certainly, these results make housing vouchers a promising approach to housing poor families and suggest it is worthwhile to invest more in programs that can produce similar results.
James E. Rosenbaum et al., Can the Kerner Commission's Housing Strategy Improve Employment, Education, and Social Integration for Low-Income Blacks?, 71 N.C. L. REV. 1519, 1552-53, 1555 (1993); see also LEONARD S. RUBINOWITZ & JAMES E. ROSENBAUM, CROSSING THECLASS AND COLOR LINES: FROMPUBLICHOUSING TO WHITE SUBURBIA (2000). In 1997, the district court terminated the consent decree entered into by HUD. Gautreaux v. Chicago Housing Authority, 981 F. Supp. 1091 (N.D. Ill. 1997).
Of course, institutional reform litigation does not always involve conditions as dire as those involved in the Arkansas prison litigation, and it does not always garner as much public attention as school desegregation or public housing litigation. Indeed, much institutional litigation receives little press attention, although its effects are certainly felt by the parties involved.
In Cockrum v. Califano, 475 F. Supp. 1222 (D.D.C. 1979), a class of claimants appealing the denial, reduction, or termination of Social Security benefits sought injunctive relief against the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare ("the Secretary"). The plaintiffs alleged that the Secretary's failure to issue a final decision on such appeals within 120 days of the denial, reduction, or termination of benefits violated the Social Security Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Fifth Amendment. The district court observed that the case "represent[ed] the local manifestation of a nationwide problem which has been treated throughly in other jurisdictions," and cited seven opinions from cases brought against the Secretary in the First, Second, Sixth, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits. Id. at 1228 & n.2.*fn23 It concluded that "[t]he Secretary... has no discretion to delay beyond a reasonable period or to deny plaintiffs their statutory and constitutional rights; his duty is in that sense mandatory. His expertise may entitle him to a role in determining [how] to get from here to there, but he must proceed and get there in a reasonable time. Nor is another adequate remedy available." Id. at 1231. The court rejected HEW's claim that the time for rendering its final decisions was committed wholly to its own discretion:
While HEW, like the school board in a desegregation case, should in the first instance be responsible for defining compliance with its statutory and constitutional duties, the courts are given jurisdiction by Congress in order to provide an ultimate safeguard for such compliance. Avoidance of that role would neglect the Court's duty under the APA, 5 U.S.C. § 706(1), which provides that on judicial review a court "shall compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed." Both under those powers granted by the APA and under general equitable powers, the Court has the authority and responsibility to insure that statutory rights are not denied through agency delay or inaction[.] As found above, many members of the class are disabled, aged or infirm and the benefits at issue constitute the principal means of subsistence for many. Delays in determinations of the lengths which are evidenced here amount to effective denial of benefits and inflict grave and irreparable harms upon plaintiffs.
Id. at 1239 (internal citations omitted) (emphasis added).
The court ordered the defendants "to submit a plan designed in good faith as an operational (not an advocate's) device to reduce the time for decisionmaking and ultimately to permit all decisions to be made within a reasonable time," explaining that "HEW should have the opportunity of first proposing a remedy to the Court which can then determine whether that plan meets HEW's legal responsibilities to plaintiffs." Id. at 1240. The court continued:
It must be emphasized, however, that the Court's exercise of deference here is based upon its presumption that the responsible HEW officials will act in good faith to carry out the Court's mandate, which presumption will, if necessary, be validated in enforcement proceedings.... The Secretary (who has a higher duty) has advanced some contentions which border on the insubstantial and irrelevant, and others which appear more to delay than to aid the resolution of this action on the merits, despite the human concerns which militate in favor of prompter resolution of individual claims.
Id. at 1240 & n.19 (emphasis added).
The parallels with the present litigation need scarcely be noted. The plaintiffs in Cockrum, who were dependent upon the Secretary for the payment of benefits that served as their principal means of subsistence, sought injunctive relief in response to the Secretary's undue delay in carrying out his obligations to the plaintiffs. Noting that the Secretary possessed "a higher duty," the district court directed him to submit a remedial plan, explaining that the court would determine whether the plan satisfied the Secretary's obligations to the plaintiffs. Moreover, the court warned that if the agency's officials failed to act in good faith in carrying out the court's mandate, the court would initiate enforcement proceedings to ensure that its mandates were followed.
In another institutional reform case, NAACP v. Brennan, 360 F. Supp. 1006 (D.D.C. 1973), migrant and seasonal farmworkers alleged that the U.S. Department of Labor had violated the Fifth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Wagner-Peyser Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 49-49k, by approving of and providing funding for state-run employment services that discriminated on the basis of race, national origin, sex, and age. The district court entered a declaratory judgment that the Labor Department had violated the constitutional and statutory provisions cited by plaintiffs. In a subsequent opinion, the court approved a consent decree requiring Labor to undertake a number of specified actions to provide migrant and seasonal farmworkers with employment services on a non-discriminatory basis. NAACP v. Brennan, 8 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) 5696 (D.D.C. 1974). The decree provided for the appointment of a Special Review Committee ("SRC") to monitor the decree's implementation. The seven-member SRC was to consist of three representatives for the plaintiffs, three for the defendants, and one chairperson selected by the other six members. Id. at 5700.*fn24
However, as recounted by one of the attorneys in the litigation, because of the passivity of the district court, the Brennan case proved to be a miserable failure. The first problem was that once the implementation of the consent decree began,
the court took a passive role towards the relationships among the parties and the SRC, as evidenced by its delays in rendering supervisory orders, its failure to respond to the SRC's reports to the court, and its wish, subtly expressed during status calls, that the parties and the SRC negotiate any disputes on their own. This general attitude withdrew some judicial support from the SRC, leaving it to surmount internal and external difficulties with its own resources.
James M. Altman, Implementing a Civil Rights Injunction: A Case Study of NAACP v. Brennan, 78 COLUM. L. REV. 739, 750 (1978). Second, the ambiguity of the consent decree's provisions required the SRC to devote seven months to an attempt to formulate standards to measure compliance with the order. However, the partisan structure of the SRC prevented the formation of any consensus regarding adequate standards of compliance. Id. at 757-60. The SRC members representing Labor managed to have the SRC construe narrowly the terms of the decree, including the powers and responsibilities of the SRC itself, in order to "lay the groundwork for a finding that [Labor] had fully implemented the Order." Id. at 766.
The failure of the SRC led the author to address six future recommendations to judges for structuring the post-decree phase of an institutional reform case:
First, the terms of [the structural injunction] must be as precise and as operationally defined as possible.... Second, the injunction should provide realistic information sources for all its requirements.... Third, the court should appoint a non-partisan individual to monitor defendant's compliance.... There is also no benefit to be gained by using a committee.... Fourth, the capabilities of the monitoring institution must be commensurate with the scope and the nature of the relief ordered.... Fifth, the court must demonstrate by all of its post-judgment actions its commitment to ensuring implementation of its order. The defendant must remain thoroughly convinced that the court will not tolerate noncompliance.... Sixth, the court must anticipate possible future events.... If the defendant discovers that unanticipated problems will make further court action unlikely or will hide or justify its lack of effort or results, it may not be motivated to implement the injunction.
Institutional reform litigation occurs in a variety of different settings. See Beyond the Hero Judge 2034-35 ("More generally, outside jails and prisons, there is a large amount of current litigation and ongoing court-ordered reform in the areas of, for example, child welfare, mental health and mental retardation facilities, juvenile correctional facilities, public housing, and public school funding. And new areas of litigation are opening up.") (footnotes omitted); Sabel & Simon, supra. Although the vast majority of institutional defendants in such cases have been state and local government agencies, a distinct number of institutional reform cases have been brought against federal agencies. In these cases, the courts have shown no reluctance to issue structural injunctions against federal government entities, or to approve consent decrees they have entered into. It would appear from the above survey that one of the reasons that structural injunctions have been infrequently issued against federal entities is that, rather than endure the imposition of such remedies, most federal agencies instead choose to enter into consent decrees. See also Pigford v. Glickman, 185 F.R.D. 82, 111 (D.D.C. 1999) (approving a consent decree agreed to by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which had allegedly engaged in race discrimination against African-American farmers); Walker v. HUD, 734 F. Supp. 1231 (N.D. Tex. 1989) (discussing consent decree entered into HUD in public housing case).
However, the fact that the present case involves a federal defendant does add a new issue that has not been a factor in many other institutional reform cases -- namely, the application of the separation-of-powers principle. It is to this issue that the Court now turns.
III. SEPARATION OF POWERS
Although federal courts frequently examine federalism concerns when considering whether to issue a structural injunction against a state or local government entity, they do not examine the relevance of the separation-of-powers principle. The reason is that the Supreme Court has determined that "the separation-of-powers principle, like the political-question doctrine, has no applicability to the federal judiciary's relationship to the States." Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 352 (1976). However, because the present case involves a federal agency, the Department of the Interior, the Court must analyze whether the issuance of a structural injunction against a federal governmental entity poses separation-of-powers problems.
To the Court's knowledge, this issue has been raised in only two federal cases, neither of which have resolved it.*fn25 The first case is the long-running Adams desegregation litigation, several of the earlier opinions in which are discussed supra. In a later opinion, the D.C. Circuit entertained an appeal of an injunction issued by the district court, together with the underlying consent decree in the case, by the secretaries of the Departments of Education and Labor, the assistant secretary for civil rights of the Department of Education, and the director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. These federal officials claimed that the injunction and decree "impermissibly intrude[d] on their statutory and constitutional authority to manage and supervise their agencies' enforcement of various civil rights laws" and "violate[d] fundamental principles of separation of powers." Women's Equity Action League v. Bell, 743 F.2d 42, 42-3 (D.C. Cir. 1984). They also claimed that the current plaintiffs in the action lacked standing. The D.C. Circuit determined that it was "unable to decide these issues in the first instance," and remanded to the district court. Id. at 44. It stressed that "the 'threshold' and 'merits' issues involved are discrete" and therefore "a ruling on the threshold issue of standing does not decide the issue whether certain relief granted after reaching the merits of a controversy would adversely implicate separation-of-powers limitations." Id.*fn26
On remand, the district court found that its prior orders violated the separation-of-powers principle and dismissed the action. Adams v. Bennett, 675 F. Supp. 668 (D.D.C. 1987). But the D.C. Circuit reversed the dismissal. It explained that the district court had "obscured under a 'standing' headline issues properly analyzed discretely." Women's Equity Action League v. Cavazos, 879 F.2d 880, 886 (D.C. Cir. 1989). It continued:
Plaintiffs in this action, beyond question, are the intended beneficiaries of the statutes under which they sue. If, as they charge, administrative action is legally inadequate under the legislation they invoke, judicial review would serve to promote rather than undermine the separation of powers, for it helps to prevent the executive branch from ignoring congressional directives. As stated in incisive commentary:
It would be ironic indeed if article III were interpreted to preclude federal courts from compelling regulatory agencies to adhere to the will of Congress by undertaking enforcement action to the degree or of the nature that statutes require.
Id. (internal citations and punctuation omitted) (emphasis added). After holding that the plaintiffs possessed standing, the D.C. Circuit directed that the remaining issues raised in the earlier appeal be briefed and argued, including the question of whether the district court possessed the authority "to impose procedural or enforcement requirements (timeframes, compliance monitoring, and reporting) supplementing those set out in the governing legislation[.]" Id. at 887. This issue was never resolved, however, because the D.C. Circuit dismissed the action on the grounds that the statutes at issue created no right of action against federal agencies, as opposed to private defendants. Women's Equity Action League v. Cavazos, 906 F.2d 742 (D.C. Cir. 1990).
The sole discussion of this particular separation-of-powers issue by the Supreme Court is to be found in the concurring opinion of a single Justice in Missouri v. Jenkins who, after offering an originalist critique of the concept of structural injunctions, indicated some concern that such injunctions might raise separation-of-powers problems. See Jenkins, 515 U.S. at 131-37 (Thomas, J., concurring). However, this concern did not lead to the adoption of any standard for determining whether such injunctions exceeded permissible bounds, but only a recommendation that "[t]o ensure that they do not overstep the boundaries of their Article III powers,... district courts should refrain from exercising their authority in a manner that supplants the proper sphere reserved to the political branches, who have a coordinate duty to enforce the Constitution's dictates..." Id. at 136.*fn27
Given the lack of guidance on this specific issue, the only useful authority that this Court has found consists of previous opinions involving separation-of-powers issues raised by clashes between the executive and judicial branches. The Court must therefore analyze these cases to determine what guidance they provide.
B. Judicial-Executive Separation of Powers Cases
In United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), the President of the United States asserted that "the independence of the Executive Branch within its own sphere insulates the President from a judicial subpoena in an ongoing criminal prosecution, and thereby protects confidential Presidential communications." Id. at 706. The Court recognized that the necessity for the President and his assistants to prevent from disclosure the expression of "candid, objective, and even blunt or harsh opinions in Presidential decisionmaking" justified the creation of a "presumptive privilege for Presidential communications" whose existence was "fundamental to the operation of Government and inextricably rooted in the separation of powers under the Constitution." Id. at 708. However, the Court explained,
The right to the production of all evidence at a criminal trial similarly has constitutional dimensions. The Sixth Amendment explicitly confers upon every defendant in a criminal trial the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him" and "to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor." Moreover, the Fifth Amendment also guarantees that no person shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law. It is the manifest duty of the courts to vindicate those guarantees, and to accomplish that it is essential that all relevant and admissible evidence be produced.
Id. at 711. The Court was thus confronted with two irreconcilable claims of coordinate branches of government, each of which were grounded in a power of that branch possessing a constitutional dimension. On the one hand, the existence of the presidential communication privilege would seem to proscribe the disclosure of confidential presidential communications on the subpoenaed tapes. On the other hand, the duty of the courts to give effect to the Fifth and Sixth Amendments by means of its subpoena power would seem to require the disclosure of relevant evidence in a pending criminal trial. Because it was impossible to honor both competing claims, the Court was forced to develop a means that would resolve the difficulty: "Since we conclude that the legitimate needs of the judicial process may outweigh Presidential privilege, it is necessary to resolve those competing interests in a manner that preserves the essential functions of each branch." Id. at 707 (emphasis added).
The Court examined the relevant interest of the judicial branch: "The very integrity of the judicial system and public confidence in the system depend on full disclosure of all the facts, within the framework of the rules of evidence. To ensure that justice is done, it is imperative to the function of courts that compulsory process be available for the production of evidence needed either by the prosecution or by the defense." Id. at 709. It then analyzed the interest of the executive branch:
In this case the President challenges a subpoena served on him as a third party requiring the production of materials for use in a criminal prosecution; he does so on the claim that he has a privilege against disclosure of confidential communications. He does not place his claim of privilege on the ground they are military or diplomatic secrets. As to these areas of Art. II duties the courts have traditionally shown the utmost deference to Presidential responsibilities....
No case of the Court, however, has extended this high degree of deference to a President's generalized interest in confidentiality. Nowhere in the Constitution, as we have noted earlier, is there any explicit reference to a privilege of confidentiality, yet to the extent this interest relates to the effective discharge of a President's powers, it is constitutionally based.
Id. at 710, 711. The Court then proceeded to weigh the competing interests, and reached its conclusion:
In this case we must weigh the importance of the general privilege of confidentiality of Presidential communications in performance of the President's responsibilities against the inroads of such a privilege on the fair administration of criminal justice. The interest in preserving confidentiality is weighty indeed and entitled to great respect. However, we cannot conclude that advisers will be moved to temper the candor of their remarks by the infrequent occasions of disclosure because of the possibility that such conversations will be called for in the context of a criminal prosecution.
On the other hand, the allowance of the privilege to withhold evidence that is demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial would cut deeply into the guarantee of due process of law and gravely impair the basic function of the courts. A President's acknowledged need for confidentiality in the communications of his office is general in nature, whereas the constitutional need for production of relevant evidence in a criminal proceeding is specific and central to the fair adjudication of a particular criminal case in the administration of justice. Without access to specific facts a criminal prosecution may be totally frustrated. The President's broad interest in confidentiality of communications will not be vitiated by disclosure of a limited number of conversations preliminarily shown to have some bearing on the pending criminal cases.
We conclude that when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice. The generalized assertion of privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial.
One of the key observations made by the Nixon Court is that the adjudication of separation-of-powers issues does not turn on an assumption that the branches must operate independently of one another:
The impediment that an absolute, unqualified privilege would place in the way of the primary constitutional duty of the Judicial Branch to do justice in criminal prosecutions would plainly conflict with the function of the courts under Art. III. In designing the structure of our Government and dividing and allocating the sovereign power among three co-equal branches, the Framers of the Constitution sought to provide a comprehensive system, but the separate powers were not intended to operate with absolute independence.
"While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government. It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity." Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S., at 635, 72 S.Ct., at 870 (Jackson, J., concurring).
To read the Art. II powers of the President as providing an absolute privilege as against a subpoena essential to enforcement of criminal statutes on no more than a generalized claim of the public interest in confidentiality of nonmilitary and nondiplomatic discussions would upset the constitutional balance of "a workable government" and gravely impair the role of the courts under Art. III.
Id. at 707. Instead, the Nixon Court concluded, the interdependence and reciprocity of a workable government will necessarily lead to situations in which the functions of one branch will conflict with the functions of another. Sometimes, the Constitution clearly dictates which branch should prevail in such a conflict -- for example, the president's pardon power prevails over the judgment of courts in criminal cases, and a supermajority vote of Congress prevails over the president's veto power. In other instances, however, the decision is not so clear-cut. When the courts are asked to resolve such conflicts, they must do so "in a manner that preserves the essential functions of each branch." Such a resolution turns on the nature of each branch's claim, and the degree to which that claim is related to the traditional or textually-defined purposes of that branch.
The Court concluded that a highly specific claim that is directly and persuasively related to a traditional or textually-defined purpose of one branch will prevail over a more generalized claim that is less clearly or directly related to a traditional or textually-defined purpose of another branch. ("We conclude that when the ground for asserting privilege as to subpoenaed materials sought for use in a criminal trial is based only on the generalized interest in confidentiality, it cannot prevail over the fundamental demands of due process of law in the fair administration of criminal justice. The generalized assertion of privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial."). It also concluded that courts should examine which claim, if adopted, would be less likely to result in a sustained, fundamental impairment of the traditional or textually-designated functions of one of the two branches. ("However, we cannot conclude that advisers will be moved to temper the candor of their remarks by the infrequent occasions of disclosure because of the possibility that such conversations will be called for in the context of a criminal prosecution. On the other hand, the allowance of the privilege to withhold evidence that is demonstrably relevant in a criminal trial would cut deeply into the guarantee of due process of law and gravely impair the basic function of the courts.")
The Court's opinion three years later in Nixon v. Adm'r of Gen. Serv., 433 U.S. 425 (1977), continued and expanded upon the mode of analysis developed in United States v. Nixon for treating separation-of-powers claims. Former President Nixon mounted a constitutional challenge to a statute requiring an executive official to take custody of his presidential papers and tape recordings. Nixon's claims included an assertion that the statute violated the separation-of-powers principle, in that it represented an attempt by Congress to interfere with executive functions. The Court rejected this claim, observing that Nixon's argument was based on an interpretation of the separation-of- powers doctrine inconsistent with the origins of that doctrine, recent decisions of the Court, and the contemporary realities of our political system. True, it has been said that each of the three general departments of government must remain entirely free from the control or coercive influence, direct or indirect, of either of the others, and that the sound application of a principle that makes one master in his own house precludes him from imposing his control in the house of another who is master there.
But the more pragmatic, flexible approach of Madison in the Federalist Papers and later of Mr. Justice Story was expressly affirmed by this Court only three years ago in United States v. Nixon... There the same broad argument concerning the separation of powers was made by appellant in the context of opposition to a subpoena duces tecum of the Watergate Special Prosecutor for certain Presidential tapes and documents of value to a pending criminal investigation. Although acknowledging that each branch of the Government has the duty initially to interpret the Constitution for itself, and that its interpretation of its powers is due great respect from the other branches, the Court squarely rejected the argument that the Constitution contemplates a complete division of authority between the three branches. Rather, the unanimous Court essentially embraced Mr. Justice Jackson's view, expressed in his concurrence in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer....
Like the District Court, we therefore find that appellant's argument rests upon an archaic view of the separation of powers as requiring three airtight departments of government. Rather, in determining whether the Act disrupts the proper balance between the coordinate branches, the proper inquiry focuses on the extent to which it prevents the Executive Branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions. Only where the potential for disruption is present must we then determine whether that impact is justified by an overriding need to promote objectives within the constitutional authority of Congress.
Id. at 441-43 (internal citations and punctuation omitted) (emphasis added). The Court thus reiterated that the form of analysis it had developed in United States v. Nixon was the appropriate method to use in cases involving separation-of-powers claims that are not clearly and unambiguously resolved by the text of the Constitution. Rather than insisting upon a rigid separation of functions among the three branches, the Court instead stressed that such an analysis should be a pragmatic, functional inquiry. Instead of asking whether an action by one branch intrudes upon the actions of another, the proper question is one of degree, examining "the extent to which" such an action prevents the other branch "from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions." If a court determines that such an action presents the potential to disrupt the accomplishment of such functions, then it must examine "whether that impact is justified by an overriding need to promote objectives within the constitutional authority" of the other branch. In developing this functionalist analysis, the Court looked for guidance to the writings of James Madison and Joseph Story:
Madison in The Federalist No. 47, reviewing the origin of the separation-of-powers doctrine, remarked that Montesquieu, the 'oracle' always consulted on the subject,
"did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no controul over the acts of each other. His meaning, as his own words import... can amount to no more than this, that where the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department, the fundamental principles of a free constitution, are subverted." The Federalist No. 47, pp. 325-326 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) (emphasis in original). Similarly, Mr. Justice Story wrote:
"[W]hen we speak of a separation of the three great departments of government, and maintain that that separation is indispensable to public liberty, we are to understand this maxim in a limited sense. It is not meant to affirm that they must be kept wholly and entirely separate and distinct, and have no common link of connection or dependence, the one upon the other, in the slightest degree." 1 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution § 525 (M. Bigelow, 5th ed. 1905).
Though it added little to the development of separation-of-powers law, Morrison v. Olson, 487 U.S. 654 (1988), did continue the Court's use of a functional approach to separation-of-powers issues. In upholding the constitutionality of the independent counsel statute, the Court observed:
The final question to be addressed is whether the Act, taken as a whole, violates the principle of separation of powers by unduly interfering with the role of the Executive Branch. Time and again we have reaffirmed the importance in our constitutional scheme of the separation of governmental powers into the three coordinate branches. As we stated in Buckley v. Valeo, the system of separated powers and checks and balances established in the Constitution was regarded by the Framers as "a self-executing safeguard against the encroachment or aggrandizement of one branch at the expense of the other." We have not hesitated to invalidate provisions of law which violate this principle. On the other hand, we have never held that the Constitution requires that the three branches of Government operate with absolute independence.....
[W]e do not think that the Act impermissibly undermines the powers of the Executive Branch, or disrupts the proper balance between the coordinate branches by preventing the Executive Branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions.
Id. at 693, 695 (citations and internal punctuation omitted) (emphasis in original). Once again citing Justice Jackson's oft-quoted words from Youngstown, the Court emphasized its functional approach to separation-of-powers claims, finding that the independent counsel act neither "impermissibly undermine[d] the powers of the Executive Branch" nor "disrupt[ed] the proper balance between the coordinate branches by preventing the Executive Branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions."
Similarly, despite its high-profile nature, Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681 (1997), added little to already-existing separation-of-powers law, apart from demonstrating still another application of the Court's functional analysis. In rejecting the assertion that the separation-of-powers principle requires courts to stay all private actions against a sitting president until he leaves office, the Court explained:
Rather than arguing that the decision of the case will produce either an aggrandizement of judicial power or a narrowing of executive power, petitioner contends that -- as a byproduct of an otherwise traditional exercise of judicial power -- burdens will be placed on the President that will hamper the performance of his official duties. We have recognized that even when a branch does not arrogate power to itself the separation-of-powers doctrine requires that a branch not impair another in the performance of its constitutional duties. As a factual matter, petitioner contends that this particular case... may impose an unacceptable burden on the President's time and energy, and thereby impair the effective performance of his office....
[P]petitioner errs by presuming that interactions between the Judicial Branch and the Executive, even quite burdensome interactions, necessarily rise to the level of constitutionally forbidden impairment of the Executive's ability to perform its constitutionally mandated functions. Our system imposes upon the Branches a degree of overlapping responsibility, a duty of interdependence as well as independence the absence of which would preclude the establishment of a Nation capable of governing itself effectively. As Madison explained, separation of powers does not mean that the branches "ought to have no partial agency in, or no controul over the acts of each other." The fact that a federal court's exercise of its traditional Article III jurisdiction may significantly burden the time and attention of the Chief Executive is not sufficient to establish a violation of the Constitution.
Id. at 701-03 (footnote omitted) (internal citations and punctuation omitted).
On the other hand, Mistretta v. United States, 488 U.S. 361 (1989), which involved a separation-of-powers challenge to the operations of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, added a further element to the analysis: namely, whether a function is appropriately assigned to a particular branch because of its special knowledge and expertise. The Court began by reviewing past separation-of-powers jurisprudence in the light of Madison's principles:
In applying the principle of separated powers in our jurisprudence, we have sought to give life to Madison's view of the appropriate relationship among the three coequal Branches. Accordingly, we have recognized, as Madison admonished at the founding, that while our Constitution mandates that each of the three general departments of government must remain entirely free from the control or coercive influence, direct or indirect, of either of the others, the Framers did not require -- and indeed rejected -- the notion that the three Branches must be entirely separate and distinct.... Madison recognized that our constitutional system imposes upon the Branches a degree of overlapping responsibility, a duty of interdependence as well as independence the absence of which would preclude the establishment of a Nation capable of governing itself effectively. In a passage now commonplace in our cases, Justice Jackson summarized the pragmatic, flexible view of differentiated governmental power to which we are heir....
In adopting this flexible understanding of separation of powers, we simply have recognized Madison's teaching that the greatest security against tyranny -- the accumulation of excessive authority in a single Branch-- lies not in a hermetic division among the Branches, but in a carefully crafted system of checked and balanced power within each Branch....
It is this concern of encroachment and aggrandizement that has animated our separation-of-powers jurisprudence and aroused our vigilance against the hydraulic pressure inherent within each of the separate Branches to exceed the outer limits of its power. Accordingly, we have not hesitated to strike down provisions of law that either accrete to a single Branch powers more appropriately diffused among separate Branches or that undermine the authority and independence of one or another coordinate Branch.... By the same token, we have upheld statutory provisions that to some degree commingle the functions of the Branches, but that pose no danger of either aggrandizement or encroachment.
In Nixon v. Administrator of General Services,... we described our separation-of-powers inquiry as focusing "on the extent to which [a provision of law] prevents the Executive Branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions." In cases specifically involving the Judicial Branch, we have expressed our vigilance against two dangers: first, that the Judicial Branch neither be assigned nor allowed tasks that are more properly accomplished by other branches, and, second, that no provision of law impermissibly threatens the institutional integrity of the Judicial Branch.
Id. at 380-83 (internal citations and punctuation omitted).
Analyzing the first of these two dangers, the Court first noted that "consistent with the separation of powers, Congress may delegate to the Judicial Branch nonadjudicatory functions that do not trench upon the prerogatives of another Branch and that are appropriate to the central mission of the Judiciary" and that "we have never held, and have clearly disavowed in practice, that the Constitution prohibits Congress from assigning to courts or auxiliary bodies within the Judicial Branch administrative or rulemaking duties that, in the words of Chief Justice Marshall, are 'necessary and proper... for carrying into execution all the judgments which the judicial department has power to pronounce.'" Id. at 388, 389 (citation omitted). It then rejected the argument that the placement of the Sentencing Commission within the judicial branch violated the separation-of-powers principle because the Commission's tasks were more properly accomplished by the two political branches:
[T]he Commission's functions, like this Court's function in promulgating procedural rules, are clearly attendant to a central element of the historically acknowledged mission of the Judicial Branch....
We do not believe... that the significantly political nature of the Commission's work renders unconstitutional its placement within the Judicial Branch. Our separation-of-powers analysis does not turn on the labeling of an activity as "substantive" as opposed to "procedural," or "political" as opposed to "judicial." Rather, our inquiry is focused on the unique aspects of the congressional plan at issue and its practical consequences in light of the larger concerns that underlie Article III. In this case, the practical consequences of locating the Commission within the Judicial Branch pose no threat of undermining the integrity of the Judicial Branch or of expanding the powers of the Judiciary beyond constitutional bounds by uniting within the Branch the political or quasi-legislative power of the Commission with the judicial power of the courts.
Id. at 391, 392 (internal citations and punctuation omitted) (emphasis added).
The Court also rejected the notion that the creation of the Commission impermissibly threatened the institutional integrity of the judiciary, in that the judicial branch "is inevitably weakened by its participation in policymaking":
We do not believe... that the placement within the Judicial Branch of an independent agency charged with the promulgation of sentencing guidelines can possibly be construed as preventing the Judicial Branch from accomplishing its constitutionally assigned functions. Despite the substantive nature of its work, the Commission is not incongruous or inappropriate to the Branch. As already noted, sentencing is a field in which the Judicial Branch long has exercised substantive or political judgment. What we said in Morrison when upholding the power of the Special Division to appoint independent counsel applies with even greater force here: "This is not a case in which judges are given power... in an area in which they have no special knowledge or expertise." On the contrary, Congress placed the Commission in the Judicial Branch precisely because of the Judiciary's special knowledge and expertise....
In sum, since substantive judgment in the field of sentencing has been and remains appropriate to the Judicial Branch, and the methodology of rulemaking has been and remains appropriate to that Branch, Congress' considered decision to combine these functions in an independent Sentencing Commission and to locate that Commission within the Judicial Branch does not violate the principle of separation of powers.
Id. at 395-96 (internal citations and punctuation omitted) (emphasis added).
Mistretta thus represents a further application of the functional analysis developed in the two Nixon cases. In Mistretta, the Court eschews applying formal labels such as "procedural," "substantive," "political," and "judicial" in favor of examining the "practical consequences" of the function at issue. It also notes its past approval of measures that "to some degree commingle the functions of the Branches, but that pose no danger of either aggrandizement or encroachment." But in Mistretta, the Court enhances its functional analysis by adding a new component: an inquiry into whether the function at issue is appropriate to the branch exercising it, either because it is one in which the branch has long exercised substantive judgment or possesses special knowledge or expertise. This new component may be understood as raising the issue of institutional competence, that is, whether a branch can be expected to utilize a particular function with skill, discretion, and care because it involves an area in which the branch possesses special knowledge or expertise.
It is clear from the above-discussed cases that the separation-of-powers principle does not require the branches to operate with absolute independence of one another. To the contrary, the Constitution presumes, and in some cases requires, the commingling of functions between two or more branches. When the functions of one branch conflict with the functions of another, however, the courts must resolve such conflicts in a manner that preserves the essential functions of each branch. Such a resolution requires an inquiry into the nature of each branch's claim, into the degree to which that claim is related to the traditional or textually-defined purposes of that branch, and into which disputed function is less likely to result in a sustained, fundamental impairment of the traditional or textually-designated purposes of one of the branches. The nature of the court's inquiry is functional, not formalistic.
The interest identified by Interior is the ability of executive agencies to manage their affairs as they deem appropriate. This interest finds a textual basis in the admonition of the Constitution that the president shall "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed..." U.S. CONST. art. II, § 3. In the present case, Interior asserts that this interest would be unduly restricted by the issuance of a structural injunction, in that such an injunction would unduly interfere with its ability to direct the management of the IIM trust, including the performance of a historical accounting.
However, as noted by the D.C. Circuit, the Take Care Clause "does not permit the President to refrain from executing laws duly enacted by the Congress as those laws are construed by the judiciary." Nat'l Treasury Employees Union v. Nixon, 492 F.2d 587, 604 (D.C. Cir. 1974) (emphasis added). Additionally, the court concluded:
the judicial branch of the Federal Government has the constitutional duty of requiring the executive branch to remain within the limits stated by the legislative branch.... Moreover, Judicial resolution of the issue better enables the President to perform his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. No lack of respect is shown the executive merely because this Court has exercised its duty to interpret a statute differently than has the President. Indeed, failure to determine the law because the executive has spoken would seem a nonperformance of duty by the judiciary.
Id. at 604-05 (internal citations omitted). This understanding of the Take Care Clause was enshrined in law as early as 1861, when Chief Justice Roger Taney declared that under the authority vested in the president by the clause, the president was not authorized to execute [the laws] himself, or through agents or officers, civil or military, appointed by himself, but he is to take care that they be faithfully carried into execution, as they are expounded and adjudged by the co-ordinate branch of the government to which that duty is assigned by the constitution. It is thus made his duty to come in aid of the judicial authority, if it shall be resisted by a force too strong to be overcome without the assistance of the executive arm; but in exercising this power he acts in subordination to judicial authority, assisting it to execute its process and enforce its judgments.
Ex parte Merryman, 17 Fed. Cas. 144, 149 (1861) (emphasis added).
The interest of the judiciary in the present case, on the other hand, is the interest in taking remedial measures necessary to give effect to its substantive judgments. The remedial power is an aspect of the "judicial Power of the United States" vested in the federal courts by Article III of the Constitution. See, e.g., Muskrat v. United States, 219 U.S. 346, 356 (1911) ("Judicial power... is the power of a court to decide and pronounce a judgment and carry it into effect between persons and parties who bring a case before it for decision.") (citation and internal punctuation omitted); Nat'l Automatic Laundry & Cleaning Council v. Shultz, 443 F.2d 689, (D.C. Cir. 1971) ("The broad consideration involved in judicial review of agency actions... is not merely the declaration of the rights of the private litigants but the functioning of the judicial process. In our overall pattern of government the judicial branch has the function of requiring the executive (or administrative) branch to stay within the limits prescribed by the legislative branch."); Coffey v. Braddy, 372 F. Supp. 116, 124 (M.D. Fla. 1971) ("[T]he Courts of the United States are empowered by Congress and, moreover, have the inherent power to enter such orders as may be necessary to effectuate their judgments, decrees and orders and to prevent interference with, and obstruction to, their implementation."). Additionally, "the power of [federal courts] to apply the rules of equity in any case is derived from section 2 of article III of the Constitution, wherein it is declared that 'the judicial Power of the United States shall extend to all Cases in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution [and] the Laws of the United States...'" United States v. Certain Parcels of Land, 131 F. Supp. 65, 71 (S.D. Cal. 1955).
It is clear that the nature of Interior's claim is what the Court in United States v. Nixon described as a "broad, undifferentiated claim." That is, Interior has not demonstrated that the issuance of a structural injunction in the present case would result in a sustained, fundamental impairment of the executive branch's ability to manage its affairs as it deems appropriate. This is because, generally speaking, the ability of the courts to issue relief in cases involving an executive agency's interpretation of a statute is limited by the doctrine outlined in Chevron, U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 467 U.S. 837 (1984). However, the D.C. Circuit has held that Chevron deference is not applicable in the present case. The Court therefore has no fear that the issuance of structural relief in the present case will spawn imitator suits seeking similar relief because virtually no other cases involve the unusual posture of the present case: to wit, the lack of Chevron deference and the status of the federal defendant as a trustee-delegate, with the concomitant limitations on discretion that such status imposes. In other words, the interest of Interior is not a specific claim that the issuance of a structural injunction in the present case will result in the undermining of the executive branch's ability to "take Care that the laws be faithfully executed." Rather, it is a generalized claim that the deference that is due all executive agencies in the management of their affairs should prevent any injunctive relief that affects Interior's management of the IIM trust. However, the level of deference due Interior in the present case is particularly weak, as recognized by the D.C. Circuit:
Appellants imply that the district court did not show sufficient deference to their roles as administrative officials charged with developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure the discharge of the federal government's obligations. Appellants thus imply, but do not argue, that their interpretation of the 1994 Act, and the obligations that it imposes, is due deference under Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. NRDC. Assuming that the 1994 Act is ambiguous, this does not enable the government to escape liability by interpreting away its fiduciary obligations. While ordinarily we defer to an agency's interpretations of ambiguous statutes entrusted to it for administration, Chevron deference is not applicable in this case. The governing canon of construction requires that statutes are to be construed liberally in favor of the Indians, with ambiguous provisions interpreted to their benefit. Therefore, even where the ambiguous statute is one entrusted to an agency, we give the agency's interpretation careful consideration but we do not defer to it. This departure from the Chevron norm arises from the fact that the rule of liberally construing statutes to the benefit of the Indians arises not from ordinary exegesis, but from principles of equitable obligations and normative rules of behavior, applicable to the trust relationship between the United States and the Native American people. Thus, even if the statutory language did not make clear that the government's duties predate and extend beyond those enumerated in the 1994 Act, the Interior Department would retain its fiduciary obligations to IIM trust beneficiaries.
Cobell VI, 240 F.3d at 1101 (emphasis added) (internal citations and punctuation omitted).
By contrast, the interest of the judicial branch in taking remedial measures necessary to give effect to its substantive judgments is intimately related to the "judicial power" vested in the federal courts by Article III. Inasmuch as Interior does not indicate why the remedial authority of the Court in the present case is unusually restricted, for this Court to conclude that it may not issue structural relief in the present case would necessarily entail it to conclude that federal district courts may never issue a structural injunction against a federal agency, regardless of the individual circumstances. Such a conclusion would cut deeply into the capacity of the courts to effect one of their primary functions -- to afford relief commensurate to redressing claims that they have adjudicated. It would also require the overruling of Gautreaux and the host of other cases discussed in the previous section.
The issue, therefore, is the relative importance of the generalized need for executive agencies to manage their affairs as they deem appropriate as weighed against the importance of the demonstrated, specific need for federal courts to issue appropriate injunctive relief in their adjudication of cases. The Court simply cannot conclude that, if the latter need prevails, the executive branch will be likely to suffer a sustained, fundamental impairment of its ability to "take Care that the laws be faithfully executed." Additionally, as this Court explained in a previous memorandum opinion:
A necessary component of this Court's jurisdiction is the ability to determine what relief to grant if the plaintiff prevails in the action. The Court undertakes this responsibility on a daily basis without even the slightest hint that it does so in contravention to Article III. In this case, after the plaintiffs proved that the defendants were in breach of the fiduciary duties that they owe to the IIM beneficiaries, the Court found that the appropriate relief was a declaratory judgment. A later determination by this Court that more intrusive relief is necessary, whether it be in the form of an injunction or the appointment of a receiver, would not change the basic action taken by the Court. That is, the Court would still only be deciding, as it does in numerous other cases pending before it, what relief is necessary to remedy illegal conduct by the defendant.
Cobell VII, 226 F. Supp.2d at 142-43; cf. Perez v. Boston Housing Authority, 400 N.E.2d 1231, 1252 (Mass. 1980) ("But if it is a function of the judicial branch to provide remedies for violations of law, including violations committed by the executive branch, then an injunction with that intent does not derogate from the [separation-of-powers] principle... To the contrary, when the executive persists in indifference to, or neglect or disobedience of court orders,... it is the executive that could more properly be charged with contemning the separation principle.").
However, Interior has directed this Court's attention to several cases that (it asserts) demonstrate the existence of "well-established principles governing judicial review of agency action and the separation of powers concerns that underlie these principles" that prevent the issuance of a structural injunction in the present case. Defs.' Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law at 238 ("Defs' Prop. Findings and Conclusions"). The Court must therefore analyze the holdings in these cases to determine whether they proscribe the issuance of structural injunctive relief in the present case.
Interior begins with two quotations from Federal Power Comm'n v. Idaho Power Co., 344 U.S. 17 (1952). In that case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of an appellate court that had modified a portion of a license issued by the Federal Power Commission to construct a hydroelectric plant, and then remanded to the agency with instructions to issue the license, as modified. The Court explained:
When the court decided that the license should issue without the conditions [prescribed by the Commission], it usurped an administrative function. There doubtless may be situations where the provision excised from the administrative order is separable from the remaining parts or so minor as to make remand inappropriate. But the guiding principle, violated here, is that the function of the reviewing court ends when an error of law is laid bare.... The Court, it is true, has power to affirm, modify, or set aside the order of the Commission in whole or in part. But that authority is not power to exercise an essentially administrative function.
Id. at 20-21 (internal citations and punctuation omitted).
However, none of the separation-of-powers cases analyzed above based their decisions on any distinction between "essentially administrative" and "essentially judicial" functions. Additionally, the leading commentator on the federal courts has noted that inasmuch as "[t]here is no formula for identifying the divide between properly judicial matters and legislative or administrative matters," in general, the federal courts have refused to recognize the existence of an "administrative question doctrine" akin to the political question doctrine. 13A CHARLES
ALAN WRIGHT & ARTHURR. MILLER, FEDERALPRACTICE& PROCEDURE § 3535 (2d ed. 1984). Thus, for example, during the September 5, 2000 oral arguments on Interior's interlocutory appeal of this Court's 1999 decision, one judge on the D.C. Circuit's panel explicitly rejected Interior's assertion that because "Congress expected the reconciliation process to be done administratively," this Court lacked jurisdiction to determine the scope of a historical accounting before Interior itself had decided how and to what extent it intended to do so. The judge responded: "[W]e spend our lives reviewing judicially those things which are to be done first administratively. I am not sure why you think it advances the ball any to say Congress meant for it to be done administratively[.]" Cobell VII, 226 F. Supp.2d at 39 & n.37.
Similarly, in Heisler v. Parsons, 312 F.2d 172 (7th Cir. 1962), the Seventh Circuit rejected a mandamus petition sought against a district judge who had reviewed a determination rendered by the National Mediation Board. In response to the petitioners' argument that exclusive jurisdiction over the issue was committed to the Board, the Court explained: "The fact that legal rights may, in some respects, depend upon issues committed to administrative determination, does not exclude the courts from jurisdiction to enforce such rights. The courts have consistently taken jurisdiction of actions to settle legal rights which involved premises of an exclusively administrative nature." Id. at 176 (citing cases). In the present case, it will not be necessary to determine whether the "administrative question doctrine" possesses any continuing vitality. It is enough to note that this supposed doctrine possesses no relevance to the issues currently before the Court.
Interior next cites United States v. Saskatchewan Minerals, 385 U.S. 94, 95 (1966) for the proposition that "after declaring agency action unlawful (or unreasonably delayed), courts may not seek to control the processes by which an agency fulfills its Congressionally-mandated functions on remand." Defs.' Prop. Findings and Conclusions at 103. Saskatchewan Minerals is a single-paragraph opinion which states, in its entirety:
These appeals are from an amended judgment of a three-judge district court, which set aside an order of the Interstate Commerce Commission dismissing appellee's complaint, and remanded the case to the Commission for further proceedings with instructions to grant relief to the appellee in accordance with the opinion heretofore entered by this court on December 8, 1965, and the Supplemental Memorandum Decision entered by this Court on March 3, 1966. Accepting the District Court's decision to set aside the Commission's order on the merits, appellants challenge that portion of the judgment which instructs the Commission to grant relief to the appellee and precludes the Commission from reopening the proceedings for the receipt of additional evidence relevant to the question whether the rates challenged by the appellee are in fact unreasonably preferential in violation of § 3(1) of the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. § 3(1). We agree with the appellants that, under the circumstances present here, this restriction is an improper limitation on the Commission's duty to reconsider the entire case. Accordingly, the judgment of the District Court is vacated and the cases are remanded to the District Court with instructions to enter an order remanding the case to the Commission for further proceedings consistent with the District Court's opinion of December 8, 1965.
Id. at 94-95 (internal citations and punctuation omitted) (emphasis added). Precisely how Interior deduces such a sweeping conclusion from this brief, insignificant case, the holding in which is clearly restricted to the individual circumstances of the case under review (whatever those circumstances might be) is, admittedly, quite a mystery to this Court.*fn28 Interior also directs this Court's attention to the Supreme Court's seminal decision in Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. NRDC, Inc., 435 U.S. 519 (1978). In Vermont Yankee, a court reviewing the rulemaking proceedings of the Atomic Energy Commission concluded, "despite the fact that it appeared that the agency employed all the procedures required by 5 U.S.C. § 553... and more," that the proceedings were inadequate, and remanded to the agency for additional rulemaking proceedings. Id. at 535. As all students of administrative law know, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 553
established the maximum procedural requirements which Congress was willing to have the courts impose upon agencies in conducting rulemaking procedures. Agencies are free to grant additional procedural rights in the exercise of their discretion, but reviewing courts are generally not free to impose them if the agencies have not chosen to grant them. This is not to say necessarily that there are no circumstances which would ever justify a court in overturning agency action because of a failure to employ procedures beyond those required by the statute. But such circumstances, if they exist, are extremely rare.
Id. at 524 (footnote omitted). The present case, however, is not a review of a rulemaking decision made by Interior. Instead, it is a determination of whether Interior's Plans for conducting an historical accounting and for bringing itself into compliance with its fiduciary duties comport with its fiduciary duties, the existence of which were confirmed and supplemented (but not created) by the 1994 Act. In other words, this Court is reviewing Interior's compliance with the mandates of the 1994 Act, which, as the D.C. Circuit has already determined, makes clear that Interior possesses fiduciary duties (including the duty to account) with respect to the IIM trust, and that these duties predate the passage of the Act. Vermont Yankee thus possesses little relevance for a court reviewing an agency's compliance with the substantive and procedural requirements of a federal statute, as opposed to a court reviewing the decision of an agency adopted after the completion of a rulemaking proceeding performed in compliance with 5 U.S.C. § 553. Thus, for example, in United States Lines, Inc. v. Federal Maritime Commission, 584 F.2d 519 (D.C. Cir. 1978), the D.C. Circuit remanded a rulemaking decision back to a federal agency whose rulemaking proceedings had not complied with statutory mandates, explaining:
Nor is our conclusion here inconsistent with the Supreme Court's recent decision in [Vermont Yankee] In Vermont Yankee the Supreme Court held that, absent constitutional constraints or extremely compelling circumstances, administrative agencies should be free to fashion their own rules of procedure. The Court thus reversed a decision of this court which had held that the procedures employed by the agency in a rulemaking proceeding were inadequate.
The freedom of administrative agencies to fashion their procedures recognized in Vermont Yankee, however, does not encompass freedom to ignore statutory requirements. The Vermont Yankee Court was careful to point out that "[o]f course, the court must determine whether the agency complied with the procedures mandated by the relevant statutes."
Id. at 543 n.63 (citation omitted).
Nor is In re Barr Laboratories, 930 F.2d 72 (D.C. Cir. 1991), particularly relevant to the present case. In that case, the D.C. Circuit denied a petition seeking a writ of mandamus to compel the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to act, either by approving or disapproving applications submitted by Barr. Although it determined that FDA had repeatedly violated the 180-day deadline for approving or disapproving such applications, it stressed that "[t]he issue before us... is not whether the FDA's sluggishness has violated a statutory mandate -- it has --but whether we should exercise our equitable powers to enforce the deadline." Id. at 75. Noting the "vague and secondhand character of Barr's claim," the D.C. Circuit concluded that the FDA's delay was not egregious and that the agency had not acted in bad faith. Id. It therefore dismissed the case, but invited Barr to refile his claim, "should circumstances arise that would change the outcome of our analysis." Id. at 76.
However, the present case is not before this Court on a writ of mandamus. Moreover, while the D.C. Circuit's 2001 opinion in this case quoted the statement in Barr Laboratories that "a finding that delay is unreasonable does not, alone, justify judicial intervention," it immediately qualified that statement in a footnote: "But see [Forest Guardians v. Babbitt, 174 F.3d 1178, 1191 (10th Cir. 1999)] ('once a court deems agency delay unreasonable, it must compel agency action.')" Cobell VI, 240 F.3d at 1096 & n.4 (emphasis added). The D.C. Circuit then determined that Interior's delay in discharging its fiduciary obligations was both unreasonable and egregious:
That Congress enacted its own remedial statute to address this unconscionable delay does not mitigate the egregious amount of time plaintiffs have waited for, as discussed below, the 1994 Act is not the source of plaintiffs' rights.... Given the record before it, the district court reasonably concluded that absent court intervention, discharge of the government's fiduciary obligations may yet be far off.... [W]e find no basis for disturbing the district court's conclusion that appellants unreasonably delayed the discharge of their fiduciary obligations, nor for upsetting the district court's exercise of jurisdiction under 5 U.S.C. § 706 on this basis.
Id. at 1096-97. In short, the D.C. Circuit clearly did not view Barr Laboratories as controlling in the present case, given the very different circumstances that have given rise to the present action.
Next, Interior cites three cases in support of its assertion that "even in exceptional cases in which an agency has flagrantly disregarded a congressionally-mandated deadline for rulemaking, the appropriate judicial role is to retain jurisdiction and require periodic progress reports until the agency has completed the required action." Defs.' Prop. Findings and Conclusions at 105. It is true that in each of these cases, the respective courts did remand back to the agencies, in the first instance. But nowhere did the courts indicate that the "3 Rs" (remanding, retaining jurisdiction, and requiring progress reports) were the only steps that a court could take under such circumstances. For instance, in Global Van Lines v. ICC, 804 F.2d 1293 (D.C. Cir. 1986), the D.C. Circuit reversed the issuance of a shipping permit, and remanded to the ICC for further proceedings. In a footnote, it explained its disposition of the case: "We agree with the Commission that when an agency committing an error of law has discretion to determine in the first instance how it should be rectified, the proper course is to remand the case for further agency consideration in harmony with the court's holding." Id. at 1305 n.95 (citations omitted). The D.C. Circuit never indicated that remanding was the sole relief that might be afforded by a court reviewing agency action. Additionally, as explained above, Interior's discretion in the present case is more limited than the discretion normally afforded to administrative agencies, in that it is the trustee-delegate of the United States with respect to the IIM trust.
In In re United Mine Workers of Am. Int'l Union, 190 F.3d 545 (D.C. Cir. 1999), the court declined to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor to issue final regulations regarding gaseous emissions in the exhaust of diesel engines used in underground coal mines. Having explained that mandamus is an "extraordinary remedy," the court concluded that "issuance of a writ of mandamus at this time could do more harm than good," and decided to retain jurisdiction in lieu of issuing such a writ. Id. at 549, 556. However, the court concluded: "Prior to final agency action, [petitioners] may petition this court to grant additional appropriate relief in the event MSHA fails to adhere substantially to a schedule that would... constitute a good faith effort by MSHA to come into compliance with the Mine Act." Id. at 556.
The Court first notes that, unlike United Mine Workers, the present action involves neither rulemaking proceedings nor consideration of a mandamus writ. However, it is also noteworthy that the D.C. Circuit indicated its willingness to afford "additional appropriate relief" beyond the mere retention of jurisdiction, if MSHA failed to demonstrate good-faith compliance with the applicable statutory requirements.
Nor is this the only case in which the D.C. Circuit, in denying a mandamus petition against an agency, has demonstrated its willingness to afford relief beyond merely remanding to the agency. In In re Monroe Communications Corp., 840 F.2d 942 (D.C. Cir. 1988), the court declined to issue a mandamus writ against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) directing the agency to act on certain matters related to a license renewal hearing, explaining that "the delay at issue here is not so great as to justify that response." Id. at 943. However, it explained, "the unusual circumstance of an unrebutted allegation of bad faith leads us to retain jurisdiction over the case until the license is awarded to ensure the kind of progress promised at oral argument." Id. at 947 (footnote and citations omitted). It also warned: "We hope that the FCC will resolve this matter in the way it has indicated,... and that we will not be called on to intrude on its internal processes." Id. (emphasis added). Thus, in at least two recent cases, the D.C. Circuit has expressly stated that remanding to an administrative agency that has unreasonably delayed final agency action is not the sole relief that may be afforded against the agency.
Finally, in support of its assertion that its status as a fiduciary "do[es] not authorize judicial intervention in the initial process by which a coordinate branch of the government decides on a plan of action and executes that action," Defs.' Prop. Findings and Conclusions at 105-06, Interior cites Lincoln v. Vigil, 508 U.S. 182, 195 (1993). In Lincoln, the Indian Health Service (IHS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decided to terminate a program for treating handicapped Indian children in the Southwest, and reallocate its funding to support a nationwide effort to assist handicapped Indian children. Handicapped Indian children in the Southwest responded by seeking declaratory and injunctive relief under the APA. The Court first noted that IHS received funds in the form of lump-sum appropriations from Congress under two acts that authorized IHS to "expend such moneys as Congress may from time to time appropriate, for the benefit, care, and assistance of the Indians" for the "relief of distress and conservation of health" and to receive expenditures for "therapeutic and residential treatment centers" for Indians. Id. at 185 (citations omitted). It then observed that
[t]he allocation of funds from a lump-sum appropriation is [an] administrative decision traditionally regarded as committed to agency discretion.... [A] fundamental principle of appropriations law is that where Congress merely appropriates lump-sum amounts without statutorily restricting what can be done with those funds, a clear inference arises that it does not intend to impose legally binding restrictions, and indicia in committee reports and other legislative history as to how the funds should or are expected to be spent do not establish any legal requirements on the agency.
Id. at 192 (citations and internal punctuation omitted). Because the relevant appropriations acts did not even mention the program for Indian children in the Southwest, the Court concluded that the decision to terminate the program and reallocate the money towards a nationwide program was committed to IHS's discretion, and was precluded from judicial review pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2).
The Court observed that under section 701(a)(2), "review is not to be had in those rare circumstances where the relevant statute is drawn so that a court would have no meaningful standard against which to judge the agency's exercise of discretion." Id. at 191 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). It also explained:
Of course, an agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities: Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes... And, of course, we hardly need to note that an agency's decision to ignore congressional expectations may expose it to grave political consequences.
Id. at 193 (internal citation omitted).
The present case involves a program that is not funded by lump-sum appropriations to Interior, but rather is specifically mentioned in the appropriations acts that provide for its funding. This is because appropriations for the management of the IIM fund and for the completion of a historical accounting are made in accordance with the mandates of the 1994 Act. Additionally, the 1994 Act is not so narrowly drawn that this Court possesses no meaningful standard against which to judge Interior's exercise of discretion. Instead, Interior's ...