your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ 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:
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye endorses Hillary Clinton (10/21)
Twenty-Nine Palms Band disputes 'Trump, You're Fired' story (10/21)
Repatriation review committee announces additional meetings (10/21)
Native Sun News Today: Ping-pong continues in #NoDAPL case (10/21)
Lakota Country Times: 'Reel Jobs' school nurtures Lakota talent (10/21)
James Giago Davies: Drugs and crime overrun our reservations (10/21)
Dana Lone Hill: Becoming a grandmother is life's highest honor (10/21)
Misty Perkins: Indigenous voices are lost in colonial translation (10/21)
John Leguizamo: Who was 'mistreating indigenous people' first? (10/21)
Bureau of Land Management confirms repatriation for ancestor (10/21)
Cowlitz Tribe opposes coal export terminal on aboriginal lands (10/21)
Crow Tribe signs agreement to resolve long-running tax dispute (10/21)
National Indian Gaming Commission refutes online gaming claim (10/21)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation stays quiet on long-delayed casino plan (10/21)
Alaska tribes enter new era with first land-into-trust application (10/20)
Native leaders in Alaska endorse Hillary Clinton in historic move (10/20)
Bureau of Indian Affairs finishes update to model juvenile code (10/20)
Utah group aims to elevate Native issues in an unusual election (10/20)
Chemehuevi Tribe secures approval of HEARTH Act regulations (10/20)
Poarch Band of Creek Indians can't be sued for firing employee (10/20)
Native Sun News Today: Oglala veteran shot and killed by police (10/20)
Lakota Country Times: Founders of annual Spiritual Run honored (10/20)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Education system diminishes our people (10/20)
Brandon Ecoffey: It's business as usual for South Dakota's GOP (10/20)
Morgan Rodman: Federal agencies work to protect treaty rights (10/20)
Mary Annette Pember: First baby born at water protector camp (10/20)
Duane Yazzie: Spirituality prevails as #NoDAPL fight continues (10/20)
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe opens reservation to #NoDAPL camp (10/20)
Haskell University confirms president is still under investigation (10/20)
Agua Caliente Band back in federal court to defend water rights (10/20)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe removes members amid per cap woes (10/20)
Ho-Chunk Nation moves forward with $33M expansion at casino (10/20)
Cowlitz Tribe announces more executives for fast-rising casino (10/20)
Wilton Rancheria continues to make progress on casino project (10/20)
Agency shifts course as ancient remains slated for repatriation (10/19)
Navajo Nation opposes bill that reduces share of trust revenues (10/19)
Doug George-Kanentiio: A voice for residential school survivors (10/19)
Native Sun News Today: LNI hosts girls volleyball tournament (10/19)
Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe voters send message (10/19)
Editorial: Republicans in South Dakota embrace Monster Trump (10/19)
Vi Waln: Water protector camps overflow with spiritual energy (10/19)
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.