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
Judge opens landmark trial in trust fund case
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

The landmark trial in the Indian trust fund case began on Monday as the Bush administration drastically revised some key figures in the long-running lawsuit.

During opening statements, attorneys for the plaintiffs and the federal government clashed over the amount of the money at issue in the dispute. Both sides promised to present testimony and evidence in hopes of putting a dollar value on the table.

"We're looking at a judgment," plaintiffs' attorney Dennis Gingold said, "that is substantially in the billions of dollars. That's a lot of money but it's been 120 years."

Department of Justice attorney Robert Kirschman challenged the claim, citing new studies that he said showed 99 percent of the money that came into the trust was paid to Indian beneficiaries. According to the government, only between $158 million and $365 million is in dispute.

"There is no legal or factual basis to pay the plaintiffs billions of dollars or anything even close to $1 billion," Kirschman told the court. "This amounts to millions, not billions."

The new figures differ dramatically from those the government presented during a trial last year. Based on the earlier numbers, Judge James Robertson has suggested somewhere between $3 billion to $3.5 billion remains in dispute.

After hearing from four witnesses yesterday, Robertson didn't seem to get any closer to clarifying the amount. But he dropped some hints about the legal remedies he is considering as he attempts to put the 12-year-old case -- which was filed on June 10, 1996 -- to rest.

"Remember, we're trying to put together a number here," Robertson said.

Robertson indicated he might be looking at issuing a declaratory judgment to order the government to deposit a certain amount in the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust. That judgment could be supplemented by "restitution" to the plaintiffs, a figure based on the alleged benefits the government obtained by failing to distribute the trust funds.

"Can there be restitution for a failure to account?" Robertson asked the plaintiffs' first witness.

Douglas Laycock, a professor at the University of Texas-Austin School of Law and an expert on restitution, appeared to agree that such a strategy would protect at least some part of a final judgment from being overturned on appeal. But he said the judge would be "breaking new ground" regardless of the outcome.

James C. Miller III, who served as director of the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Reagan administration, followed up with testimony about the alleged benefits the government obtained through its management of the trust. He said the government doesn't have to borrow as much money to keep running because it can rely on the funds derived from activities on Indian lands.

"There is a significant and quantitative benefit to the United States," he said.

Miller was the fourth witness to testify for the plaintiffs on the first day of the trial. The fast-moving pace was welcomed by Robertson but the government attorneys objected on the grounds that they weren't being given enough time to prepare their cross-examinations.

If the pace is maintained, the plaintiffs' attorneys said they might be able to wrap up their case by the end of this week. Robertson is only hearing testimony on Mondays through Thursdays.

The trial will resume this morning at 9:30am with the government's cross-examination of Miller. On Wednesday, Robertson will start after the lunch hour due to other matters in his court.

Related Stories:
Jodi Rave: Cobell trial begins in Washington DC (6/9)
Cobell trust fund case set for final trial (6/3)
After six-plus years, BIA website finally online (05/27)
BIA to be fully online in a couple of months (5/21)
Interior heads back online after disconnect (5/15)
Judge issues pre-trial order in Cobell trust case (5/13)
Bush administration responds to Cobell $58B claim (04/11)
'Rough justice' seen in resolving Cobell case (4/7)
House panel threatens Cobell accounting cut (4/4)
Letter: A small spark of justice in Cobell case (3/31)
Cobell plaintiffs say $58B owed for Indian trust (3/21)
Cobell case set for resolution in court (3/6)
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)



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:
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe finally starts work on movie theater (8/3)
Morongo Band awards $40K in scholarships to Native students (8/3)
Native Sun News: Indian lawmakers achieve goals in Montana (8/3)
Lakota Country Times: Skate competition grows at Pine Ridge (8/3)
Mark Trahant: Appoint tribal delegates to serve in US Congress (8/3)
Delphine Red Shirt: Restore Black Hills peak to its rightful name (8/3)
Dana Lone Elk: Lakota grandmothers hold our society together (8/3)
Steve Russell: The Great White Lion Hunter kills only for thrills (8/3)
Terese Marie Mailhot: Native people endure delays for justice (8/3)
Steven Newcomb: High court still relying on Christian doctrine (8/3)
Navajo Nation couple weighs court challenge to marriage law (8/3)
Chemehuevi Tribe accuses law enforcement of racial profiling (8/3)
Alaska Natives deal with toxic legacy in poisoned food supply (8/3)
Mille Lacs Band halts walleye harvest amid declining numbers (8/3)
Arizona cites immunity in Tohono O'odham Nation casino case (8/3)
Fond du Lac Band wants to resolve long-running gaming fight (8/3)
Snoqualmie Tribe hires new chief operating officer for casino (8/3)
Editorial: Seminole Tribe is a good gaming partner for Florida (8/3)
Editorial: Something's gotta give in New England casino race (8/3)
Muscogee Nation activist dangled from bridge to stop oil ship (7/31)
Native Sun News: Rapid City mayor denies claim of retaliation (7/31)
Ernestine Chasing Hawk: Rapid City mayor's year of retaliation (7/31)
Brandon Ecoffey: Rapid City continues with tradition of racism (7/31)
Clara Caufield: Northern Cheyenne Tribe leaves people in dark (7/31)
Lakota Country Times: Group seeks to boost Pine Ridge tourism (7/31)
Federal murder charges laid for shooting on Crow Reservation (7/31)
Alex White Plume asks court for permission to plant hemp crop (7/31)
Isleta Pueblo welcomes Secretary Sally Jewell for school event (7/31)
Tribes caught off-guard with mandate from Affordable Care Act (7/31)
Commerce Blog: Secretary Pritzker meets with tribes and youth (7/31)
Tribes in Pacific Northwest 'very worried' about future of salmon (7/31)
Alaska to recognize tribal domestic violence protection orders (7/31)
Moapa Band enters $4.3M settlement for power plant pollution (7/31)
Senate Ad-Hoc Committee on Indian Affairs holds first meeting (7/31)
Donald Trump not shy with invoking race when it comes to tribes (7/31)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees big future with Class II casino (7/31)
Catawba Nation still waiting for answer on casino land-into-trust (7/31)
Last defendant sentenced in theft case at Yakama Nation casino (7/31)
Senate committee examines costs of substance abuse on tribes (7/30)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee delays vote on land-into-trust (7/30)
BIA allows two more New Mexico gaming deals to go into effect (7/30)
Former workers at Choctaw Nation casino plead guilty to theft (7/30)
Inmate charged with murdering Mississippi Choctaw man in jail (7/30)
Native Sun News: Keystone XL Pipeline protest draws big crowd (7/30)
James Giago Davies: Don't judge anyone's depth of Lakotaness (7/30)
Tara Houska: DC rally puts focus on threats to sacred Oak Flat (7/30)
Sarah Sunshine Manning: Native mother left to die in a jail cell (7/30)
Julian Brave NoiseCat: Native issues you aren't hearing about (7/30)
Peter d'Errico: Seeking action after apology from Pope Francis (7/30)
Suspect in custody over deadly shooting on Crow Reservation (7/30)
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.