indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Job Opening - Editor - Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Times
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:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Choctaw Nation Trial:
Former Choctaw Nation employee found guilty after lengthy trial (11/21)
Trial on Choctaw Nation fraud winds down with final testimony (11/21)
Leader of Choctaw Nation faces tough questions in fraud trial (11/21)
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux youth to join White House meet (11/21)
Obamas welcome youth from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to DC (11/21)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tax disparities remain in Indian Country (11/21)
ICT interview with DOI deputy secretary on Cobell buy-backs (11/21)
Column: Theories link Thanksgiving to 1637 Pequot massacre (11/21)
BIA publishes notice of Karuk Tribe Class III gaming compact (11/21)
Pala Band gears up for official launch of Internet gaming site (11/21)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux woman shot and killed by police (11/20)
Mark Trahant: Lakota honor song wasn't out of place in Senate (11/20)
Dog attack blamed for death of eight-year-old girl at Pine Ridge (11/20)
DOI issues status report on Cobell land consolidation program (11/20)
Greg Grey Cloud explains Lakota honor song after Senate vote (11/20)
Steven Newcomb: Disestablishing the doctrines of domination (11/20)
Sen. Mark Begich: Moving forward for the first people of Alaska (11/20)
Bill Richardson: Indian Country feels effects of climate change (11/20)
Smithsonian: Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 won't be forgotten (11/20)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe sues South Dakota over sales tax (11/20)
Morongo Band distributes 10K turkeys for Thanksgiving meals (11/20)
GAO report looks at tribal implementation of Adam Walsh Act (11/20)
FBI opens background check database to tribal law agencies (11/20)
Survey shows most Americans wouldn't use R-word in person (11/20)
USDA Blog: Youth from Angoon Tribe carry on their traditions (11/20)
Editorial: County and critics must stop fighting Chumash Tribe (11/20)
Editorial: Oklahoma Indian museum benefits the entire state (11/20)
Muscogee Nation finally starts work on $365M gaming project (11/20)
Two tribes making push for off-reservation casino in California (11/20)
Mashantucket Tribe hires new executive for gaming operation (11/20)
Opinion: Catawba Nation makes a sneak attack with casino bid (11/20)
Opinion: Poarch Creek gaming deal won't help state's economy (11/20)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne activists push for change (11/19)
Mark Trahant: Historic election in Alaska with Native candidate (11/19)
Audio: Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on child trauma (11/19)
Republicans hold up action on Alaska tribal jurisdiction measure (11/19)
DOI official to give update on Cobell land consolidation program (11/19)
Center for Native American Youth hosts panel discussion in DC (11/19)
Sen. Heitkamp to host panel on child trauma in Indian Country (11/19)
Gyasi Ross: Police shootings aren't just a 'people of color' issue (11/19)
Steven Newcomb: Focusing on liberation and self-determination (11/19)
Crow Creek Sioux man arrested as Senate rejects Keystone bill (11/19)
Leader of Tunica-Biloxi Tribe hit with prescription drug charges (11/19)
Performance sheds light on 'purchase' of Lenape island in 1626 (11/19)
Alaska Supreme Court hears dispute over tribal court authority (11/19)
Editorial: Put end to 'futile' taxation dispute with Chehalis Tribe (11/19)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes announce $27M casino (11/19)
Oneida Nation announces $100M retail development for casino (11/19)
Mohegan Tribe passed over for second casino in Pennsylvania (11/19)
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.