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Cobell
Judge in trust fund case worried about delays in settlement


The judge handling the Indian trust fund lawsuit said he won't wait much longer for Congress to approve a $3.4 billion settlement to the case.

Judge James Robertson extended a deadline in the case one more time, until the end of May. He urged Congress to act in order to put an end to the long-running lawsuit.

"The need for Congress to act is real," Robertson said at a hearing in his courtroom. "Until or unless Congress acts the lawyers on both sides who have devoted themselves to this case for 15 years are on hold. More importantly, all of Indian Country is on hold."

"I don't want to be too melodramatic about this but justice is on hold," Robertson added, according to the transcript of the hearing that was quoted by Hilary Tompkins, the Solicitor of the Interior Department, at the Federal Bar Association Indian law conference at Pojoaque Pueblo in New Mexico yesterday.

Key members of Congress reacted positively when the deal was announced in December. But no legislation has been introduced to authorize $1.4 billion in payments to individual Indians and create a $2 billion land consolidation fund.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to fund the settlement twice since December. The most recent request was transmitted on February 12.

"The settlement that we ended up with is the largest class action settlement in the history of the United States," said lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, at the conference yesterday. "So I feel very good about it."

"It's very hard for Blackfeet people to set down our weapons, We like to fight on forever and ever," Cobell added. "But it was time" to settle the case, she said.

Get the Story:
Deadline Extended for Third Time in $1.4 Billion Indian Trust Case (The National Law Journal 4/9)

Relevant Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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