indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Dynamic Homes
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Cobell legal team awarded fees for trust fund fight
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The federal judge handling the Indian trust fund lawsuit awarded the Cobell legal team $7.1 million on Monday for successfully fighting for the rights of hundreds of thousands of account holders.

In a lengthy decision, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the Cobell plaintiffs are entitled to recover fees and expenses for their work in the case. He ordered the United States to pay $4.5 million in legal fees and $2.5 million in expenses because the federal government's position was not "substantially justified."

"Here, plaintiffs achieved more than 'excellent results,' they achieved a 'stunning victory,'" Lamberth wrote.

The award covers the first five years of the case, from the day it was filed on June 10, 1996, to February 23, 2001, the day the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the federal government's responsibility to conduct an historical accounting of Indian trust funds.

Throughout this time, the Interior, Treasury and Justice departments argued there was no duty to account, a position they lost at the district court and appeals court level. Under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), this means the government wasn't justified in its defense, Lamberth said.

Lamberth also noted that the government and its attorneys have "demonstrated an unprecedented level of defiance" since the start of the case nine years ago. "In the first of these instances, defendants made numerous illegitimate representations, failed to correct known misrepresentations, and neglected to inform the court about self-inflicted obstacles to comply with its discovery obligations," the decision stated. "As a result, the court held both trustee-delegates in contempt of court - a decision that was never appealed."

Therefore, Lamberth ruled that the Cobell plaintiffs are entitled to a "fee enhancement" due to the government's "bad faith."

Lamberth, however, cut down the plaintiffs' original request for $14.6 million in fees by half. He agreed that some of the work performed by the team was "clerical" in nature and couldn't be covered under EAJA.

He also refused to award fees for time the plaintiffs spent speaking on media-related activities, such as talking to the press about the case. He denied compensation for settlement talks between the two parties that ultimately failed and deducted other fees for proceedings that that were previously compensated.

Attorneys for Interior Secretary Gale Norton had opposed the fee request, calling it extraordinary and unwarranted. But Lamberth rejected most of the government's objections.

"By any yardstick, defendants' conduct can not reasonably be characterized was as 'substantially justified,'" Lamberth wrote.

Of the $7.2 million award, $1.5 million is going to the Native American Rights, a non-profit organization that has been fighting the case since 1996. Another $2.0 million is going to Dennis Gingold, the lead attorney.

Neither NARF, Gingold, nor any of the other members of the legal team have been paid by Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff, for several years. They have been compensated for their work through EAJA filings.

"While I would rather not have to spend a dime on lawyers, Indian beneficiaries know that without our legal challenge to the Indian trust system, the government would have continued to do absolutely nothing to resolve the long-standing problem with our Individual Indian trust accounts," Cobell said yesterday in a statement.

Some members of Congress have criticized the lack of progress in the case, saying it only benefits lawyers and accountants. With the backing of the Bush administration, they passed bills to restrict fees awarded to court officials while agreeing to compensate Interior Department employees who hired attorneys.

Despite the misgivings, Congress has given more than $3 billion to Interior for trust reform projects since the start of the case. Most of the spending has occurred during the Bush administration, which allocated $335 million to conduct a limited historical accounting of the Individual Indian trust accounts after losing in court.

Cobell Court Fees:
Memorandum and Order (December 19, 2005)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm

Related Stories:
Ross Swimmer: No 'lump sum' settlement for Cobell (12/19)
Attorney: Interior still not living up to trust duties (12/19)
Report: Cason says termination of trust on the table (12/16)
Still no agreement on settlement to Cobell (12/9)
Audio: House Resources hearing on Cobell (12/8)
House Resources to hold hearing on Cobell (12/5)
Elouise Cobell: Lamberth frustrated with DOI (11/28)
Judge Lamberth, the cowboy, sides with Indians (11/28)
Editorial: Settle Cobell trust fund lawsuit (11/25)
Cobell to press Interior on accounting mess (11/22)
Cobell says government not off the hook on trust fund (11/21)
Broad accounting of Indian trust fund blocked (11/16)
Battle over Cobell trust fund case heats up (10/24)
Interior ordered to protect Indian trust fund systems(10/21)
Lamberth issues new IT shutdown injunction (10/20)
Interior warned of computer security risks again (09/30)
Bush calls for new judge in Cobell v. Norton case (08/16)
BLM CIO threatened with demotion in Cobell case (08/02)
Appeals court stays Lamberth order on notices (7/29)
DOI mum on settlement figure for Cobell v. Norton (7/27)
Indian leaders to pledge support on trust reform (7/26)
Listening Lounge: Senate hearing on Cobell (7/26)
Cobell calls trust reform bill a win for Interior (7/22)
McCain and Dorgan introduce trust reform legislation (7/22)
Opinion: Keep open mind on Cobell settlement (7/19)
McCain plans hearing on Cobell settlement, reform (7/14)
Judge blasts Interior on handling of trust (7/13)
Elouise Cobell: Principles put trust back into trust fund (07/07)
Cobell and Cason to appear on C-SPAN program (7/6)
Cobell calls for settlement of trust fund lawsuit (7/5)
Editorial: Resolution of trust fund debacle needed (7/5)
Editorial: Abramoff scandal can't compare to trust (6/30)
Opinion: Downfall of Indians traced to Army, BIA (6/28)
Pombo supports settlement of Cobell trust fund case (6/27)
Harjo: Tribes lobby to fleece their own people (6/24)
Editorial: Congress should settle trust fund (6/24)
Editorial: Trust fund a 'national embarassment' (6/22)
Indian Country united on trust reform solutions (6/21)
Trust workgroup to outline Cobell settlement goals (6/17)
Trust reform costs put at $3B, thanks to Bush (6/13)
Echohawk optimistic on settlement of Cobell case (06/03)
Final trust reform meeting held in North Dakota (6/3)
UTTC hosts meeting on trust reform legislation (6/1)
House panel acts to restore Bush budget cuts (05/05)
NCAI and ITMA hold second trust reform meeting (05/04)
Bush administration won't give up fight on Cobell (03/18)
McCain weighs GAO probe of Indian trust debacle (03/10)
McCain lays out Indian agenda for 109th Congress (3/7)
Norton won't testify on trust fund retaliation (2/28)
Bush official won't accept claims of trust mismanagement (02/17)
Appeals court won't hold back Lamberth on trust reform (12/13)
Appeals court supports Lamberth's authority on IT (12/06)
Lamberth critical of Norton's 'bad faith' on trust fund (10/25)
Interior denies attempt to halt trust fund payments (10/05)
Bush administration challenges trust fund ruling (09/16)
Appeals court takes on Cobell trust fund case (9/15)
Lamberth exchanges harsh words with Cobell critic (08/02)
Bush administration calls for end to Cobell case (04/09)
Cobell trust fund suit mediators announced (4/6)
DOI's Internet connection shut down for third time (03/16)
Lamberth defends special master against attack (03/16)
Anderson praises Cobell suit in NCAI speech (2/25)
Tribes still frustrated on trust reform (11/20)
Bush officials blasted by tribal leaders (11/19)
Cobell plaintiffs disputing trust fund rider (11/17)
Daschle criticizes 'shameful' rider in DOI budget bill (11/04)
Norton welcomes time-out in Cobell trust fund case (11/4)
Bush official balks at large settlement for Cobell (7/10)

Copyright 2000-2005 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe honors veterans (9/17)
Mark Trahant: Is independence in the future for tribal nations? (9/17)
House approves bill to address tribal general welfare programs (9/17)
9th Circuit takes up Big Lagoon Rancheria gaming land dispute (9/17)
House passes bill to shield Gun Lake Tribe casino from litigation (9/17)
Andre Cramblit: Enjoying life at Dartmouth as a Native student (9/17)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tribes need to lead climate change reform (9/17)
Sarah Deer wins genius grant for work to protect Native women (9/17)
Native Sun News: Homeless students find support in Rapid City (9/16)
Checks from final payment of Cobell settlement put in the mail (9/16)
DOI offers $9.4M for Cobell buy-backs on Umatilla Reservation (9/16)
House takes up bill to address tribal general welfare programs (9/16)
Tribal leaders headed to Capitol Hill to push legislative priorities (9/16)
NMAI hosts symposium on treaties to coincide with new exhibit (9/16)
Witnesses: Hearing on bill to bar Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/16)
Rival tribes spend $13M to block Tohono O'odham Nation casino (9/16)
Mark Charles: Trail of Tears sign points to much deeper problem (9/16)
Donna Ennis: Don't let ethnic imposters take away our identity (9/16)
Serial killer sentenced to life term for murder of Native woman (9/16)
Civil rights complaint filed over repeated denial of honor song (9/16)
Sen. Cantwell to introduce bill to end NFL's tax-exempt status (9/16)
House backs package to transfer federal land to Te-Moak Tribe (9/16)
Fort Belknap Tribe detained state game warden for trespassing (9/16)
Mohegan Tribe to open first Smashburger location in December (9/16)
Police in Ontario investigate letter that threatens Native people (9/16)
Urban Indian population grows in Brazil's poorest neighborhoods (9/16)
Indian family in Washington continues bid for casino on allotment (9/16)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe challenges NLRB jurisdiction over casino (9/16)
Mohegan Tribe loses bid for commercial casino in Massachusetts (9/16)
Connecticut tribes see another decline in slot machine revenues (9/16)
Tim Giago: Standing tall for Native American Day in South Dakota (9/15)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne man beaten by BIA officer (9/15)
Mark Trahant: Ten reasons why every Native person should vote (9/15)
Jay Daniels: Still waiting on that final Cobell settlement payment (9/15)
Vote set on bill to protect Gun Lake Tribe's casino from litigation (9/15)
HUD settles complaint for couple on Turtle Mountain Reservation (9/15)
Bryan Brewer: Approve HR3043 to stop IRS harassment of tribes (9/15)
Maryann McGovran: Vote for North Fork Rancheria's gaming deal (9/15)
Donna Ennis: Tribal banishments are a form of cultural genocide (9/15)
Steven Newcomb: Political meanings restrict indigenous peoples (9/15)
Bruce Anderson: Washington team name preserves stereotypes (9/15)
Column: DC-area Native people oppose NFL team's racist mascot (9/15)
House set to vote on bill to transfer federal land to Te-Moak Tribe (9/15)
Paskenta Band holds election aimed at resolving council dispute (9/15)
Tribes in Oklahoma raise their minimum wage above federal level (9/15)
Blog: Taos Pueblo exerts sovereignty over health care programs (9/15)
Travel: Remote parks on Navajo Nation are an 'extraordinary find' (9/15)
Petitions submitted to put Tohono O'odham Nation casino to vote (9/15)
Dry Creek Rancheria struggling to see gaming revenues recover (9/15)
Poarch Creeks still open to Class III gaming compact discussion (9/15)
Editorial: Cherokee Nation brings jobs with project next to casino (9/15)
Native Sun News: Olympic medalist visits Pine Ridge Reservation (9/12)
Bryan Brewer: Bill for Native language immersion a high priority (9/12)
Sen. Tester applauds approval of final Cobell settlement payout (9/12)
Kenneth Deer: UN meeting an opportunity for indigenous peoples (9/12)
Judge won't issue injunction in Pojoaque Pueblo compact dispute (9/12)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.