indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Falmouth Institute - December in Las Vegas
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Judge rejects Osage Nation brief in Cobell case
Friday, June 13, 2008
Filed Under: Cobell

A federal judge on Thursday denied an attempt by the Osage Nation to enter the Indian trust fund lawsuit but the status of the tribe's hefty royalties remains at issue as the case heads towards final resolution.

The tribe filed a last-minute brief that claimed ownership of a valuable mineral estate in northeastern Oklahoma. According to data from the federal government, oil and gas royalties from the Osage Reservation could account for as much as 20 percent of the Indian trust.

The tribe supported the right of the Cobell plaintiffs to receive a judgment for the government's failure to account for the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust. But the brief also accused the plaintiffs of trying to include tribal assets in their claim for $58 billion in restitution.

"Although the plaintiffs admit in their reply brief that the Osage Nation owns the mineral estate, they go on to argue that the income from the estate does not belong to the Osage Nation. They seek to turn the Osage Nation's ownership of the minerals into a meaningless fiction," attorneys for the tribe wrote in their May 29 motion.

Coming shortly before the trial that started on June 9, the brief raised a significant issue for Judge James Robertson. He is trying to decide how much money is owed to Indian beneficiaries for the government's failure to account and he has asked both sides in the case for their views on the Osage trust.

The Osage trust is unique because it was created by a separate act of Congress. Royalties from the reservation are distributed to individual tribal members based on a system of "headright" ownership.

The plaintiffs included the Osage headrights in their model for restitution due to their character as individual trust funds. But the Department of Justice, in questioning one witness, suggested it was wrong to do so.

Excluding the Osage revenues would in fact cut down the plaintiffs' claim for $58 billion significantly, economic expert Bradford Cornell acknowledged under cross-examination. "That's like about eleven-plus billion dollars?" asked John Warshawsky, an attorney for the government. "Yes," Cornell responded on Monday.

Cornell didn't testify whether or not he knows the Osage revenues are individual trust funds. But another plaintiffs' witness brought her experience to the table.

Mona Infield, a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee, spent more than a decade working on the Osage trust in Oklahoma. At one point, the tribe employed her directly to handle the royalties.

Infield, who now works in New Mexico, said it was clear to her that the Osage royalties are individual Indian trust funds. "It would be very surprising to me to hear that those were actually tribal trust funds," she testified on Monday in response to the tribe's assertions.

A witness for the government, on the other hand, testified that she excluded Osage royalties from IIM disbursement figures. Michelle Herman, of FTI Consulting, supported the view that headright payments aren't part of the system.

"There are some payments that are made directly from the tribal trust to owners of headrights, and that money would not be included," Herman said on Wednesday.

Robertson hasn't expressed views one way or another on the issue though his pre-trial order sought evidence on the inclusion of the Osage headrights in the plaintiffs' claim for restitution. He didn't explain why he rejected the Osage brief yesterday.

So far, Robertson has heard four days of testimony in what is turning out to be a quick-moving trial. The plaintiffs rested their main case on Wednesday and the government began calling its witnesses.

Testimony resumes Monday with more government witnesses and plaintiffs plan to call some rebuttal witnesses. The trial is expected to wrap up next week and Robertson has said he intends to issue a ruling later this summer.

Separately, the Osage Nation is suing the government in the U.S. Court of Claims for failing to account for an estimated $2.5 billion in headright royalties.

Relevant Documents:
Osage Nation Brief | Denial of Osage Brief

Trial Transcripts:
June 9 AM | June 9 PM | June 10 AM | June 10 PM | June 11 | June 12 AM

Related Stories:
Editorial: $58B trust payout more than fair (6/13)
Editorial: Indians short-changed by trustee (6/13)
Cobell plaintiffs rest case in trust fund trial (6/12)
Cobell plaintiffs focus on $58B claim at trial (6/11)
Trial seeks to resolve Indian trust fund lawsuit (6/11)
Judge opens landmark trial in Cobell trust fund case (6/10)
Jodi Rave: Cobell happy with opening day of trial (6/10)
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:
Choctaw Nation releases statement after guilty verdict in case (11/21)
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)
House passes bill to address Grand Portage Band per capitas (11/21)
House Natural Resources Committee passes three tribal bills (11/21)
Chaske Spencer: Changing the narrative for our Native youth (11/21)
Winona LaDuke: No one believes in the 'black snake' pipeline (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)
Oglala Sioux Tribe rounds up dogs after deadly attack on girl (11/21)
Leader of Navajo Nation signs bill for higher tax on junk food (11/21)
North Dakota tribe in negotiations for pipeline to curb flaring (11/21)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe passes language to new generation (11/21)
Little Traverse Bay Bands swear in interim leader after recall (11/21)
Blog: Play-by-play of election controversy on Navajo Nation (11/21)
Column: Theories link Thanksgiving to 1637 Pequot massacre (11/21)
Editorial: Work with Burns Paiute Tribe on land-into-trust bid (11/21)
Ex-employee of Passamaquoddy Tribe admits to drug charge (11/21)
BIA publishes notice of Karuk Tribe Class III gaming compact (11/21)
Oklahoma reports drop in gaming exclusivity fees from tribes (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)
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.