Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

Interview with attorney Elliott Levitas about Cobell settlement

Between The Lines interviews attorney Elliott Levitas about the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit.

"ELLIOTT LEVITAS: Even though the trust had been in existence since about 1888, and there had been litigation over the years, this was the first time a court permitted a class action to be brought, so that every individual Indian didn't have to bring their own lawsuit, and that was one of the major impacts of this litigation.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And you told me that this class action would have gone forward even if it was filed after the Supreme Court decision in the WalMart case last month made filing class actions more difficult. I know Ms. Cobell received a larger payment than most beneficiaries will receive.

ELLIOTT LEVITAS: Ms. Cobell, who was really the moving force behind this litigation, actually contributed her own money to keep the litigation going. For example, Ms. Cobell had received one of the so-called McArthur genius awards several years ago for her efforts, and if I remember correctly, I think she contributed about $390,000 of that award of $400,000 to help maintain the litigation, so there is that. In a class action case, the named plaintiffs -- the class representatives, those who are the leaders of the class and who are actively involved in promoting and moving the case along -- are entitled to receive what are called incentive awards, and that is to make it possible for individuals to bring these types of class actions. Ms. Cobell and other of the named plaintiffs, the class representatives, were awarded incentive awards by Judge Hogan."

Get the Story:
Native Americans Win $3.4 Billion Settlement for U.S. Government's Mismanagement of Millions of Acres of Land (Between The Lines 7/13)

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