Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

Republicans issue subpoena to attorneys in Cobell litigation

The Republican majority on the House Natural Resources Committee issued subpoenas to two attorneys in the Indian trust fund lawsuit, an action that's drawing objections from the top Democrat on the panel.

The subpoenas were sent to attorneys Keith Harper, a member of the Cherokee Nation, and Dennis Gingold. The Republicans are demanding documents regarding attorney fee agreements and costs in the case.

"This action, taken without prior notice or approval of the [full] Committee, and without any consultation with the Minority, raises serious questions of decorum, undermines the legitimacy of any future investigation into these matters, and could threaten to destroy pending settlement of a century-old pattern of abuse of Native Americans by the United States government," Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) wrote in a letter today to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Washington), the chairman of the committee.

Hastings is co-sponsoring H.R.887, a bill to limit attorney fees in the lawsuit to $50 million. He and other Republicans are upset about a request for $233 million in fees that the plaintiffs detailed in court papers.

The final decision on attorney fees is up to Judge Thomas Hogan. The Cobell plaintiffs and Democrats say the bill interferes with the judicial process.

At a hearing on the bill last month, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, threatened to issue subpoenas to the Cobell attorneys. He said they weren't cooperating with Congress.

"If they continue to stonewall me, I will subpoena," Young said on April 5.

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