Split Tenth Circuit Panel Rules HUD Illegally Recaptured NAHASDA Funds but Tribes Cannot Recover

Here is the opinion in the consolidated appeal captioned Modoc Lassen Indian Housing Authority v. United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

An excerpt from the lead opinion:

These consolidated appeals arise from a government agency’s decision to recapture, via administrative offset, funds that the agency allegedly overpaid to multiple grant recipients. The grant recipients brought suit in federal court, arguing in relevant part that the agency lacked authority to recapture the funds without first providing them with administrative hearings. The district court agreed and ordered the agency to repay the grant recipients. The agency now appeals that order.

If these underlying facts sound relatively straightforward, it’s because they are. But they nevertheless give rise to three legal questions that are decidedly less so: (1) did the agency recapture the funds pursuant to a statute or regulation that imposed a hearing requirement, thus rendering the recaptures illegal; (2) if the agency didn’t recapture the funds pursuant to such a statute or regulation, did it have authority to recapture the alleged overpayments at all; and (3) if not, must the agency reimburse the grant recipients for the amounts it illegally collected?

In answering the first of these three questions, the panel unanimously agrees that the agency didn’t recapture the funds pursuant to a statute or regulation that imposes a hearing requirement. Thus, we agree that the district court erred in ruling that the recipients were entitled to hearings before the agency could recapture the alleged overpayments.

But that’s where our unanimous agreement ends; the remaining questions divide the panel. Ultimately, two members of the panel agree that the agency lacked authority to recapture the funds via administrative offset. Accordingly, we affirm the portion of the district court’s order that characterizes the recaptures as illegal. Nevertheless, two other members of the panel agree that if the agency no longer has the recaptured funds in its possession, then the district court lacked authority to order the agency to repay the recipients. Thus, we reverse that portion of the district court’s order and remand for further factual findings.


HUD Brief

Tribes Brief

HUD Reply

This entry was posted in Author: Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Research, sovereign immunity, trust relationship and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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