Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

Cobell attorneys say fee request not a big issue in Indian Country

Attorneys who have worked on the Indian trust fund lawsuit for 14 years don't think their fee request isn't a big issue in Indian Country.

Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation who has worked on the case since it was filed in June 1996, said Indian beneficiaries have asked about fees during meetings that have been held on reservations. But he said there hasn't been much controversy.

“I think beneficiaries understand that to get attorneys dedicated to working on a matter, as they were in this case, they ought to be compensated fairly. They get that point," Harper told The Blog of Legal Times.

Harper spoke to tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians winter session in Washington, D.C., last week. No one asked about fees there either.

The attorneys want at least $99.9 million from the $3.4 billion settlement that was approved by Congress last year. But they say they are fairly entitled to $223 million under a contingency agreement signed with the named plaintiffs.

“Is there a reason to treat this case different from other cases? In our mind, there isn’t,” Harper told BLT.

The Department of Justice says the attorneys are only entitled to $50 million. Two House Republicans have introduced H.R.887 to cap fees at $50 million.

“For some politicians on the more conservative side, it’s easy to demagogue plaintiffs’ lawyers,” Harper said. “It’s an easy political shot to take with few consequences.”

Get the Story:
Plaintiffs' Lawyers in Cobell Defend $223M Fee Request (The Blog of Legal Times 3/8)

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