Jodi Rave: Cobell set for appeal of $455.6M decision
"Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the Interior Department, welcomed a federal judge's order this week granting an appeal on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Native landowners across the country.

“If this opinion was fair, I'd like to be out of court, but we certainly can't let a decision like this stand,” said Cobell, a national community development expert from the Blackfeet Reservation. “It's factually and legally wrong so we have to challenge it. We're ready to go the long haul to make sure we have fairness to all the plaintiffs.”

On Aug. 7, U.S. District Judge James Robertson issued a final ruling in the 12-year-old case, Cobell vs. Interior, awarding $455.6 million judgment to Native landowners who have thousands of Individual Indian Money accounts managed by the Interior Department.

Robertson said he would grant an appeal in the Cobell suit because of “substantial ground for difference of opinion.” He also said an immediate appeal would ultimately bring an end to the long-running litigation.

Cobell filed suit in 1996 with the hope of receiving an historical accounting from the Interior Department, which has been responsible for collecting money earned from natural resources on more than 11 million of acres of Indian land. Lawyers for Cobell argued that upward of $47 billion had not been collected or properly distributed to landowners.

In deciding the final settlement amount, Robertson asked Cobell's lawyers to prove how the government had benefited from using - and not distributing - Native landowner money. In their appeal, lawyers for Cobell are arguing the judge did not have jurisdiction to determine the federal benefits.

The lawyers are also disputing the court's decision to exclude valuable mineral payments involving the Osage Nation in Oklahoma."

Get the Story:
Federal judge grants appeal of Cobell judgment (The Missoulian 9/9)

Certification for Appeal:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (September 4, 2008)

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

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