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
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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:
Lakota Country Times: Runners take 500-mile Black Hills journey (6/28)
Mark Trahant: Navajo Republican drops out of race for Congress (6/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must update its constitution (6/28)
Editorial: Lakota treaty council supported work at Wounded Knee (6/28)
Alex Jacobs: Our elected leaders do little to address gun violence (6/28)
Northern Arapaho Tribe asserts more control over health system (6/28)
Trump rehashes 'Pocahontas' slur as Warren hits road for Clinton (6/28)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation still fighting for recognition and casino (6/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino foes lose big source of funding (6/28)
Big Sandy Rancheria remains optimistic on plan for second casino (6/28)
Little River Band credited with sharing $30.4M in casino revenues (6/28)
Editorial: Let's leave gaming to tribes and kill Arkansas casino bid (6/28)
Supreme Court deals setback to tribes in labor sovereignty dispute (6/27)
Washington tribes win major fishing rights decision at appeals court (6/27)
Shinnecock Nation hits the end of the line with ancestral land claim (6/27)
Supreme Court won't hear Pauma Band compact negotiation case (6/27)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on 3 bills (6/27)
Lakota Country Times: Teams compete for Indian horse relay title (6/27)
Native Sun News: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation through education (6/27)
Vi Waln: Don't be afraid to come pray with your Lakota relatives (6/27)
Clara Caufield: Out fishing on the Upper Boulder River in Montana (6/27)
Opinion: Supreme Court exposes Indian people to federal powers (6/27)
Anonymous: Fighting back against victimization in Indian Country (6/27)
Michael Sandoval: San Felipe Pueblo respects rights of neighbors (6/27)
Andre Cramblit: Fond memories of growing up with Muhammad Ali (6/27)
Linda Greenhouse: Supreme Court goes silent in high-profile case (6/27)
Partial land-into-trust fix being watched by non-Indian interests (6/27)
Omaha Tribe cooperates with federal investigation into payments (6/27)
Northwest tribes take a stand against oil terminal in Washington (6/27)
Indigenous Digital Archive Project wins grant for online database (6/27)
Donald Trump fares poorly against Hillary Clinton in national poll (6/27)
Senate provision targeted tribes with commercial gaming plans (6/27)
Poarch Creeks in deal to acquire commercial casino in Louisiana (6/27)
Kootenai Tribe hopes to lure Canadian customers back to casino (6/27)
Tribes rest easy as Supreme Court wraps up a surprising session (6/24)
Tribes in northern California take action to protect salmon runs (6/24)
Aaron Payment re-elected as chairman of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe (6/24)
Gun Lake Tribe hosts annual Sweet Grass Moon Powwow in July (6/24)
Native Sun News: First Native hockey referee 'Butchy' passes on (6/24)
Delphine Red Shirt: Lakota people denied voting rights on our land (6/24)
Ruth Hopkins: Saving sacred Bear Butte from a massive biker bar (6/24)
Terese Mailhot: Becoming a better ally after the Orlando shooting (6/24)
April Youpee-Roll: Elizabeth Warren owes more to Indian Country (6/24)
Another land-into-trust fix reportedly being drafted in the Senate (6/24)
Federal charges filed in kidnapping of girl on Fort Peck Reservation (6/24)
Non-Indian charged for trespassing at Nambe Pueblo in New Mexico (6/24)
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.