"Lawyers from the Native American Rights Fund
, on Thursday will ask a federal judge in Washington, D.C., to grant class-action certification on behalf of 250 tribes whose tribal trust fund accounts are managed by the U.S. Interior Department
Twelve tribes named as lead plaintiffs in the Nez Perce v. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne suit are seeking a complete and historical accounting of their tribal trust fund accounts managed by the Interior Department for the past 188 years.
“The situation is so bad on how the government continues to manage the trust accounts that it's not an easy task to bring these claims,” said Melody McCoy, an attorney for NARF. “The government just resists at every step of the way; resists turning over the information so tribes can make their claim. The government knows how bad it is. And they are terrified of liability.”
The Interior Department manages more than 1,800 trust fund accounts for more than 250 tribes. As of 2007, account balances for tribal trust funds totaled $2.9 billion. A restitution award on behalf of tribes could exceed $500 billion, said McCoy, who will present oral arguments Thursday before U.S. District Judge James Robertson. McCoy is one of five lawyers who will argue the tribal trust case on behalf of NARF, a Native legal advocacy organization based in Boulder, Colo.
Interior Department lawyers filed a motion in June to dismiss the Nez Perce v. Kempthorne tribal trust fund case. They argue tribes have “no legal footing” for claims of breach of trust and the demand for an accounting because tribes received account statements, a requirement of the Trust Fund Management Reform Act of 1994.
NARF lawyers are saying the account statements done by the Arthur Anderson accounting firm in 1996 were incomplete."
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Jodi Rave: Tribes to seek class-action status
(The Missoulian 7/24)
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