Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
ads@blueearthmarketing.com   712.224.5420

Cobell
Off the Reservation: Cobell ruling a slap in the face


"Back in June, I was riding back to Missoula with my girlfriend, aunt and grandmother. It’s a long drive from Ft. Belknap to Missoula, so we idled time with conversation, music and news. The newscaster told us about the lawsuit between Elouise Cobell and the Department of the Interior entering into a critical phase.

I was excited. My aunt just said, “We’ll never see a result in our lifetimes.”

On August 9, she was proven right and wrong. U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled that Cobell and the 500,000 Native plaintiffs were entitled to $455 million. At first glance, that’s a tangible result.

But don’t be fooled. Just because it looks, tastes and feels like a result doesn’t mean that it is a result. This is a pseudo-victory, the smallest of steps forward in a marathon that has barely begun.

An issue in the ruling is the award. Cobell and crew estimated that the trust-holding Natives are owed $47 billion. Judge Robertsons’ total of $455 million is closer to the lower total of the Feds. This is, as my grandmother put it, a slap in the face. Cobell and the attorneys presented factual evidence that much more then $455 million was misappropriated.

I hate to say it, but the $47 billion originally sought may be impossible. This lawsuit has been in court for what feels like a glacial age, against every possible obstacle that the Department of the Interior could think up. There’s a long and grinding appeals phase to go through next, but any monetary award that’s more then a gift card is amazing."

Get the Story:
Troy Doney/Off the Reservation: Elouise Cobell and the Maze of Retribution (New West 8/13)

Another Story:
Reactions to Cobell decision range from trauma and rejection to hope (Indian Country Today 8/15)

Court Decision:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (August 7, 2008)

Related Stories:
Jodi Rave: Interior can't find owners of $73M (8/13)
Cobell to appeal $455.6M ruling 'as soon as possible' (8/13)
Jodi Rave: Cobell to appeal $455.6M decision (8/11)
Cobell final ruling of $455.6M disappoints (8/8)
Judge issues final ruling in Cobell trust case (8/7)
Judge to issue final ruling in Cobell case in August (06/26)
Judge to hear final arguments in landmark Cobell trial (06/25)
Washington law firm invests millions in Cobell case (6/23)
Final ruling in Cobell case expected by mid-July (6/20)
En Francais: Elouise Cobell ready for battle (6/19)
Osage Nation seeks to intervene in Cobell case (6/19)
Cobell judge won't rule early on final trial (6/18)
Cobell to appear on NPR program 'Tell Me More' (6/16)
Jodi Rave: Testimony continues in historic Cobell trial (6/16)
Letter: Indians kept poor by federal government (6/16)
Osage trust funds at issue in Cobell lawsuit (6/13)
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)