indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Cobell case moves toward resolution after 12 years
Thursday, March 6, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

The federal judge handling the Indian trust fund case is moving to resolve the case by the end of the summer despite opposition from the Bush administration.

At a hearing in Washington, D.C., yesterday, Judge James Robertson scheduled a June 9 trial. He hopes the proceeding, which will last about two weeks, will bring an end to the long-running Cobell lawsuit.

"I am absolutely committed to getting this matter resolved ... this summer," said Robertson during the 1.5-hour status conference.

The trial comes nearly 12 years to the day the case was filed on June 10, 1996. Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, and other Indian leaders asked the Interior Department for an accounting of billions of dollars of their trust funds.

In a 165-page decision on January 30, Robertson ruled that such an accounting was "impossible" due to budget constraints and limitations imposed by the Bush administration. Part of his opinion focused on a large sum of money that doesn't appear to be properly accounted anywhere in the history of the trust.

"The best fix I could get on it was somewhere between $3 billion and $3.5 billion," Robertson said yesterday.

Both sides in the case agree at least $13 billion has passed through the trust since the early 1900s. But the discussion of money and whether any is due to Indian beneficiaries drew objections from Robert Kirschman, a Department of Justice attorney.

According to the government's view of the case, the plaintiffs' only claim under the 1994 Trust Fund Management Reform Act is the historical accounting, even if it is incomplete. "That's the remedy contemplated by the act," Kirschman said.

If Indian beneficiaries want to file a lawsuit over trust funds that were never collected, should have been collected or never made it to the right person, they should go to the federal court of claims, Kirschman argued. He also said the government wants to challenge the finding that a complete historical accounting is "impossible."

The government's argument puzzled Robertson, a Clinton nominee who was assigned to the case in December 2006 after the removal of Judge Royce Lamberth. Robertson said it would be a waste of judicial resources to force the case to be heard in yet another court.

"When you tell me that the law of the case says the only relief is an historical accounting ... that doesn't mean very much if an historical accounting is impossible," Robertson told Kirschman. "Then what, is there no relief? Is that the government's position?"

Dennis Gingold, an attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Robertson to schedule a trial to determine the amount that should be in the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust and to account for the 11 million acres of Indian allotments that have passed out of trust from 1887 to 1934. He said the federal district court has the power to "disgorge" the trust, or restate the dollar values of the accounts.

"We agree completely that this case must end," said Gingold. "Its time," he added. "Twelve years of litigation is enough. One hundred and twenty years of mismanagement is enough."

Robertson initially shot down the idea of a trial in late May -- the date suggested by the plaintiffs -- but came back with the June date. He asked both sides to prepare briefs to address the "disgorgement" the trust, the scope of his powers to order relief to the plaintiffs and an issue related to the way the case was certified as a class action.

Robertson also said he wants to resolve Internet connectivity at the Interior Department. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and the Office of the Solicitor remain offline, more than six years after a court investigator found major vulnerabilities in the department's security network.

The judge said he is "inclined to let them turn the switches back on," an issue that could be resolved as early as the end of the month or sometime in April.

Another matter relates to the "historical statements of account," or HSAs, that Interior has been trying to send to Indian beneficiaries for the past few years. Lamberth had blocked their release and Robertson, in his January opinion, said they fail to provide account holders with an accurate view of their trust funds and assets.

Robertson acknowledged there is some value in mailing the HSAs but said they need to be labeled properly with some sort of "Surgeon General's warning" that they are not a complete historical accounting. "We're going to work that out," Robertson said.

After the hearing, Cobell said she was extremely happy that the case was going to trial for a final resolution. She declined to say how much money she believes should be in the trust but said it should run in the billions.

As part of a potential Congressional settlement, the plaintiffs and Indian and tribal organizations asked for $27.5 billion, a figure that includes interest. Gingold said in court yesterday that interest won't be part of the June trial.

"We're not asking for the interest," Gingold told the judge. "That would be damages."

Court Decision:
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (January 30, 2008)

Final Briefs:
Cobell Brief: Conclusions of Law | Cobell Brief: Findings of Fact | DOJ Brief: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Trial Transcripts:
Day 1 AM | Day 1 PM | Day 2 AM | Day 2 PM | Day 3 AM | Day 3 PM | Day 4 AM | Day 4 PM | Day 5 AM | Day 5 PM | Day 6 AM | Day 6 PM | Day 7 AM | Day 7 PM | Day 8 AM | Day 8 PM | Day 9 AM | Day 9 PM | Day 10 AM | Day 10 PM

Trial Order:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (April 20,2007)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

Related Stories:
Judge sets June 9 trial to resolve Cobell case (3/5)
Judge to hold Cobell hearing this Wednesday (3/3)
Next hearing in Cobell case set for March 5 (02/21)
Resolution appears near in Cobell trust case (2/19)
Editorial: Settle 'botched' Indian trust fund (02/06)
Editorial: Settle the Indian trust fund lawsuit (2/4)
Kempthorne reiterates $7B Indian trust offer (2/1)
Editorial: A remedy for 'neglect' of Indian trust (2/1)
Cobell: 'Great day in Indian Country' (1/31)
Judge: Cobell historical accounting 'impossible' (1/30)
Cobell statement on historical accounting decision (1/30)
Jim Cason: Historical accounting facts (01/18)
Cobell: Historical accounting far from accurate (12/14)
Bush shifts historical accounting duty again (12/5)
Opinion: U.S. wages war on Indian landowners (12/4)
Cobell historical accounting briefs due in court (11/30)
Jodi Rave: Cobell trial ends after 10 days (10/29)
Cobell historical accounting trial concludes in DC (10/26)
BIA faulted for trust management in Palm Springs (10/24)
DOJ objected to testimony from Interior attorney (10/24)
Interior attorney set to testify in Cobell case (10/22)
Interior says Cobell suit not worth billions (10/15)
Cason wraps up testimony in trust case (10/12)
Cobell accounting trial opens in DC (10/11)
Cobell historical accounting trial starts in DC (10/10)
CFO Magazine: The Indian trust fund accounting (10/5)
Cobell historical accounting trial starts October 10 (10/1)
BIA agency lacks accounting for millions in trust (09/25)
Audit finds Indian trust management problems (9/24)
Cobell: Upcoming trial tackles important issues (09/19)
Interior attorney to testify at upcoming Cobell trial (9/18)
DOI won't release trust data in Cobell case (9/11)
Interior attorney accused of disclosing trust data (08/29)
Judge opens electronic data to Cobell plaintiffs (07/10)
Another Cobell historical accounting hearing (7/9)
Judge expresses views on Indian trust fund accounting (06/19)
Hearing on Cobell historical accounting trial (6/18)
Cobell prepares for court battle on accounting (5/30)
Cobell prepares for historical accounting trial (5/18)
Judge prods DOI on Indian trust fund accounting (5/15)
First status conference for Cobell accounting trial (5/14)
Cobell status conference pushed back to May 14 (05/02)
Attorney calls $7B Cobell offer pennies on dollar (4/24)
Cobell heads to landmark accounting trial (4/23)
Judge orders Cobell accounting trial for October 10 (4/20)
Jodi Rave: Cobell calls for accountability (4/12)
BIA office in Palm Springs criticized by landowners (4/11)
BIA office in Palm Springs under investigation (4/10)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Indian Country cheers historic decision on Dakota Access Pipeline (12/5)
Tribes and Dakota Access headed back to court for hearing in D.C. (12/5)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp again parts with Indian Country on #NoDAPL (12/5)
Dave Archambault: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe thanks many allies (12/5)
Mark Trahant: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe continues to defy history (12/5)
Democracy Now: Thousands of veterans deploy to Standing Rock (12/5)
Dana Lone Hill: Lakota prophecy warns of our water turning black (12/5)
James Giago Davies: Finding the real enemy in the #NoDAPL fight (12/5)
Senate committee ready for hearing on Cobell buy-back program (12/5)
Bureau of Indian Affairs extends comment period on probate rule (12/5)
Native American Farming and Ranching panel gets new members (12/5)
Class III gaming compacts for five tribes in California take effect (12/5)
Lakota Country Times: 'Tanka Bar' company recognized as leader (12/5)
Native Sun News Today: Northern Cheyenne leaders inaugurated (12/5)
Harlan McKosato: Don't believe everything you read on Facebook (12/5)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Why election was dangerous for Indian people (12/5)
Indian Republicans associated with Trump seek trust land changes (12/5)
Quinault Nation prepares for journey to Standing Rock encampment (12/2)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Iroquois prophecies warn of grave dangers (12/2)
Brandon Ecoffey: Media gets it wrong on Dakota Access frontlines (12/2)
Bronson Koenig: What I found during my journey to Standing Rock (12/2)
Timothy Egan: Fake cowboys cheered while the real Indians suffer (12/2)
Lakota Country Times: Laced marijuana finds its way to Pine Ridge (12/2)
Native Sun News Today: Owner of Wounded Knee site lowers price (12/2)
David Ganje: An opportunity for tribes to clean up their homelands (12/2)
Mary Annette Pember: Tribal member arrested for string of arsons (12/2)
Tiffany Midge: The women are here and we have a message for you (12/2)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe calls for safety as veterans head to camp (12/1)
North Dakota sheriff scrubs Facebook of incriminating information (12/1)
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp considers role in Donald Trump administration (12/1)
Daniel Brown: Ho-Chunk Nation celebrates a new day in Wisconsin (12/1)
Lakota Country Times: #NoDAPL kitchen in need of more supplies (12/1)
Native Sun News Today: Standing Rock Sioux Tribe summons allies (12/1)
Vi Waln: Sacred fire burns at Oceti Sakowin camp in North Dakota (12/1)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Veterans at Standing Rock for the good fight (12/1)
Native Sun News Today: Duane Big Crow relishes role in coaching (12/1)
Clara Caufield: Community at Northern Cheyenne stays connected (12/1)
Steven Newcomb: A message to the Donald Trump administration (12/1)
Alaska Native designer brings subsistence fashion to new audience (12/1)
Tohono O'odham Nation and state remain at odds in casino dispute (12/1)
United Keetoowah Band won't talk about plans for potential casino (12/1)
Wilton Rancheria continues to face mysterious opposition to casino (12/1)
Non-Indian firm set to open $1.3B casino outside of nation's capital (12/1)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.