WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal judge says the Interior Department has "unreasonably delayed" its accounting for billions of dollars owed to Indian landholders. U.S. District Judge James Robertson's ruling came in a lawsuit that claims the government has mismanaged more than $100 billion in oil, gas, timber and other royalties held in trust since 1887. Robertson says he will schedule a hearing in the next month to discuss a way to solve the problem. Robertson says it's clear that completing the required accounting is an impossible task. But he says that doesn't mean the task is hopeless.
Post by Curtis Kitto "MIKE" on Apr 6, 2008 7:22:52 GMT -5
This is to inform you of the political manuvering occurring (as reported in Indianz.com) as the Cobell case nears judgement day. I must admit I was surprised by the reaction of the Virginia Democrat Representative Jim Moran, who, "...eagerly supported Dicks' contention that Indian landowners aren't owed any money for the handling of their trust assets and funds. He said a litigation-driven project that the subcommittee funded -- without consulting Indian Country -- uncovered just "one error" in the accounts of the five-named plaintiffs in the case." Read all about it: www.indianz.com/News/2008/008025.asp
(Representative Moran sponsored legislation to approve Federal-recognition of the Virginia Tribes, on May 8, 2007.)http://moran.house.gov/list/press/va08_moran/pr070508.shtml
Post by Curtis Kitto "MIKE" on Apr 11, 2008 16:02:27 GMT -5
Fri April 11, 2008 U.S. government rejects a $58B Indian payoutBy Chris Casteel Washington Bureau WASHINGTON — The U.S. government doesn't owe money to American Indians suing over management of their trust accounts, and their claim for $58 billion is "absurd,” the government says.
The Indians originally sued the government in 1994 seeking a full accounting of the funds held by hundreds of thousands of individual Indians, and the lawsuit should be dismissed if they no longer want that accounting, the government says in a brief filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court here.
Moreover, the U.S. judge presiding over the case doesn't have the authority to award any money to the Indians and should cancel the trial scheduled for June on the matter, the government says.
The government's brief came in response to one filed by the plaintiffs three weeks ago seeking $58 billion to compensate for money they say was collected by the government for individual Indian trust account holders but not paid to the accounts.
According to the Indians, about $3 billion was collected in the past 120 years for the accounts but never paid. Holding on to that money has allowed the government to borrow less money to finance its spending, the plaintiffs say.
And, they say, based on Treasury bill rates going back over the time period, the government's reduced borrowing costs have meant a total benefit of $58 billion.
Equitable relief sought Aware that U.S. District Judge James Robertson cannot require the U.S. government to pay damages, the Indians say the money owed isn't damages but "equitable” relief that any financial trust would have to provide if it improperly benefited from the use of trust funds.
The Indians also are asking the judge to return to the trust all the land that has been sold since the trust's inception in the late 19th century. An estimated 40 to 54 million acres were allotted, but only about 10 million acres remain.
The land is the source of most of the money in the individual Indian trust accounts. Robertson recently ruled that it would be "impossible” for the government to perform an historical accounting reaching back more than a century and provide accurate account balances to about 300,000 account holders. In its brief this week, the government rejected every argument the Indians made about why the trust is owed money and how much is owed.
Post by Curtis Kitto "MIKE" on Aug 8, 2008 5:09:48 GMT -5
My conclusions, after attempting to apply a suitably adjusted set of equitable principles to the facts of this case, are that plaintiffs have properly asserted a claim for restitution; that this Court has both the jurisdiction and the power to adjudicate that claim; and that the evidence supports an award in the amount of $455,600,000, a number that is within the range of the government’s own admitted “uncertainty” about the amount necessary to restore the proper balance to the IIM trust. I have rejected the plaintiffs’ claim of entitlement to an additional sum representing “benefit to the government.” This opinion –- indeed, this litigation –- neither deals with nor resolves any claims that IIM account holders may have for damages against the government.1 And it leaves for another day the question of how and to whom the award should be distributed.
Judge issues final ruling in Cobell trust case Thursday, August 7, 2008 Filed Under: Cobell
Judge James Robertson issued his final ruling in the Cobell v. Kempthorne case, concluding that Indian beneficiaries are owed $455.6 million for mismanagement of their trust funds.
The amount is far lower than the $47 billion sought by the Cobell plaintiffs. It's not much higher than the "hundreds of millions" that has been suggested by the Bush administration.
"I am disappointed, to say the least," said lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana. "We believe we presented a strong, compelling case that individual Indian trust beneficiaries are entitled to much more than the government's admitted mismanagement of our trust monies over the past 120 years."
"The department is gratified that the court recognized the complexities and uncertainties involved in this case," responded Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary at the Interior Department. "We look forward to working with the court, the Congress, and the plaintiffs to bring the case to final closure."
Cobell said an appeal is possible. Robertson said his decision does not resolve potential damages claims against the federal government.
Court Decision: Cobell v. Kempthorne (August 7, 2008)
"Labored mightily and brought forth a mouse"...This ruling was so predictable. You fight the issue for years, win on the merits of the case, and in some cases win a fair judgement, and wind up with a mere fraction of what is really owed. Mostly, as in Cobell, the judge will reduce the settlement amount to chump change, or the Appeals Court will do it for him.
Judge Robertson was appointed United States District Judge in December 1994. He graduated from Princeton University in 1959 and received an LL.B. from George Washington University Law School in 1965 after serving in the U.S. Navy. From 1965 to 1969, he was in private practice with the law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering. From 1969 to 1972, Judge Robertson served with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, as chief counsel of the Committee's litigation offices in Jackson, Mississippi, and as director in Washington, D.C. Judge Robertson then returned to private practice with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where he practiced until his appointment to the federal bench. While in private practice, he served as president of the District of Columbia Bar, co-chair of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and president of Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, Inc.
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