Cobell Lawsuit & Settlement

DC Circuit ruling puts $3.4B settlement closer to Indian Country





The D.C Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday backed the $3.4 billion settlement to the Cobell trust fund lawsuit, clearing the way for payments to go to Indian Country.

Barring further appeals, payments could be in the hands of Indian beneficiaries within weeks. Most account holders will receive at least $1,800 but many will receive much more.

"With this ruling, we hope the courts can proceed with its delayed plan to begin distributing proceeds of this settlement to the over 500,000 Native American Trust account beneficiaries,” said Turk Cobell, the son of the late Elouise Cobell, who was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit “Our family, as well as many other members of the class, look forward to finalizing and bringing closure to this case and the settlement."

An appeal, however, could tie up payments for several more months. Kimberly Craven, a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate in South Dakota, told The Oklahoman that she hasn't decided what to do after her challenge was rejected by the DC Circuit.

“I’m disappointed,” Craven told the paper. “I really think it’s an illegal settlement. This court didn’t agree.”

Congress authorized the settlement in December 2010. It puts $1.412 billion in the hands of Indian beneficiaries and creates a $1.9 billion land consolidation fund.

Judge Thomas Hogan approved the settlement at a hearing in June 2011, followed up by a written decision in July 2011. Craven and a handful of other beneficiaries filed timely appeals but all of them were resolved by the DC Circuit's decision.

“Today’s decision is another responsible step forward for Indian Country," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana) said in a press release. "The historic Cobell settlement will benefit thousands of American Indians across the country. I’m pleased that the court ruled it fair and look forward to seeing it across the finish line."

Further appeals could go before the DC Circuit. It's also possible for an appeal to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Get the Story:
Federal appeals court upholds Indian trust case settlement (The Oklahoman 5/23)
$3.4 billion Indian land royalty settlement upheld (AP 5/22)

DC Circuit Decision:
Cobell v. Salazar (May 22, 2012)

Related Stories:
DC Circuit affirms fairness of $3.4B Cobell trust fund settlement (5/22)
Native Sun News: $3.4B Cobell settlement still in question (02/22)
DC Circuit hears first of challenges to Cobell trust settlement (02/17)