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Cobell | Opinion
Editorial: A remedy for 'neglect' of Indian trust

"The case of the mismanaged American Indian trust funds is Dickensian both in length — now 11 years before the courts — and inequity. On Wednesday, Judge James Robertson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the Interior Department had “unreasonably delayed” its accounting for billions of dollars owed to American Indian landholders and that the agency “cannot remedy the breach.”

There is, of course, no full remedy — not for the historical wrongs or the cynical and shabby accounting or the years of frustration. And as Judge Robertson and others before him have noted, a meticulously accurate tally of what the American Indians are owed is almost certainly impossible. Yet that does not mean that a reasonable compromise cannot be reached or that the government should abandon efforts to find one.

Even with meticulous oversight, monitoring them accurately would have been a tough assignment. But the government’s failure is not simply sloppy bookkeeping. It is willful neglect, including the active destruction of records and the failure to comply with court orders.

As Judge Robertson notes, the fact that the government cannot provide a full accounting for what may be billions of dollars “does not mean that a just resolution is hopeless.” He has scheduled a new hearing to try and find a remedy. We hope it will indeed mark the beginning of the end of this case and the beginning of real equity for the holders of these accounts."

Get the Story:
Editorial: The Verdict: It’s Broken (The New York Times 2/1)

Court Decision:
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (January 30, 2008)

Final Briefs:
Cobell Brief: Conclusions of Law | Cobell Brief: Findings of Fact | DOJ Brief: Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law

Trial Transcripts:
Day 1 AM | Day 1 PM | Day 2 AM | Day 2 PM | Day 3 AM | Day 3 PM | Day 4 AM | Day 4 PM | Day 5 AM | Day 5 PM | Day 6 AM | Day 6 PM | Day 7 AM | Day 7 PM | Day 8 AM | Day 8 PM | Day 9 AM | Day 9 PM | Day 10 AM | Day 10 PM

Trial Order:
Cobell v. Kempthorne (April 20,2007)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne -
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice -

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