Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
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Cobell
Judge issues pre-trial order in Cobell trust case


The June 9 trial to resolve the Cobell v. Kempthorne Indian trust fund case is quickly approaching.

Judge James Robertson intends to put a dollar figure on the money owed to hundreds of thousands of Individual Indian Money (IIM) beneficiaries. His rulings have suggested anywhere between $3 billion and $3.6 billion was not distributed to account holders.

In a May 2 pre-trial order, Robertson said the plaintiffs will go first. He said they have the burden of proving how much money Indian beneficiaries are owed, a figure that could include Osage head right funds, judgment and per capita accounts and money deposited in IIM accounts on behalf of tribes.

Roberton also said the plaintiffs have the burden to establish whether the government received some sort of "benefit" for the use of Indian trust funds and whether Indian beneficiaries are entitled to that money.

After the plaintiffs present their case, Robertson said the government will have the burden of refuting it. He said he will consider evidence "bearing on the percentage of monies collected by the IIM trust system that have been disbursed to beneficiaries – and the percentage that ought to have been disbursed," according to the pre-trial order.

The trial takes place in the federal district courthouse in Washington, D.C. Robertson has said he expects it will last a couple of weeks. He plans to issue a final ruling later in the summer.

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