Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Cobell | Opinion
Kimberly Craven: Congress should do more work on Cobell lawsuit


"Today, the Senate will be asked to approve by unanimous consent settlement of the proposed Cobell lawsuit (Cobell v. Salazar). Senators are not being advised that the proposed settlement is constitutionally dubious and greatly expands the original litigation. It authorizes a mandatory class of plaintiff with no regard to the due-process rights of individuals to opt. It creates a new class to settle land and natural resource mismanagement claims which were never part of the original litigation and not been part of the 14-year-long Cobell lawsuit which, we have been told, sought only an accounting of individual Indian money (IIM) accounts.

If Congress approves it, the settlement will consist of two classes: those of the historical accounting class and the new “un-litigated” class – the trust mismanagement class. The first class will receive $1,000 and any traditional safe-guard of opting-out will be denied this class. The new second class will receive $500 and a formula based on the top 10 sums that have filtered through a person’s IIM account.

Creation of the new class has been disturbing to many tribes and American Indians. The government will be authorized to pay more than $3.4 billion without even filing an Answer to the new Complaint of land mismanagement claims. What it means is that if you’re a Native person whose land has been flooded or damaged, timber destroyed, mineral royalties underpaid, soil poisoned, grass lands over-grazed by your lessee or if you’ve just been the victim of trespass, your claims will be settled for $500 and a formula amount that bears no resemblance to actual damages or loss."

Get the Story:
Kimberly Craven: Cobell settlement worth doing right, together (The Hill 8/2)

Cobell Settlement Documents:
Agreement | Press Release | Q&A | Audio

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