indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Two mediators selected in Cobell trust fund suit
Tuesday, April 6, 2004

A retired federal judge who handled tribal cases and an attorney who has worked on several tribal disputes have been chosen as mediators in the Indian trust fund lawsuit.

Members of Congress who are pushing for resolution of the long-running case announced the selection of former judge Charles B. Renfrew and professional mediator John G. Bickerman yesterday. The lawmakers hailed the move as an important development.

"I am very pleased the parties have come together and agreed to have these two distinguished men help bring a reasonable end to this case," Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

"This is another hopeful step in a very complicated case in which hundreds of thousands of individual Indians await a final and just settlement," added Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Resources Committee.

Renfrew and Bickerman were selected after several rounds of talks between the plaintiffs in the case and representatives of the Bush administration. Each party suggested five possible candidates, a list that included former president Jimmy Carter, a Democrat.

The field was narrowed down to eight choices, four from each side, who were then interviewed by the parties. An agreement on Renfrew and Bickerman, both of whom have worked with Republican and Democrat administrations, was reached last Friday.

The plaintiffs have welcomed the involvement of Congress in settling the lawsuit, which was filed seven years ago in June 1996. Last night in New Mexico, lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell spoke to Navajo tribal members who are part of the case and told them in a letter of the need for mediators of "stature and integrity."

"While it is clear to us that Secretary Gale Norton and Attorney General John Ashcroft will not settle the case without pressure, perhaps Congressional involvement will provide the necessary element to achieve a fair settlement of the case," she said.

Renfrew, an attorney by training, served as a federal judge in California from 1972 to 1980. He was appointed by former president Richard Nixon, a Republican.

During his eight years on the bench, Renfrew handled a number of Indian law cases for tribes in northern California. He upheld the federal-tribal relationship in trust and water rights disputes.

Renfrew left the court for a short stint as deputy attorney general at the end the Carter administration. He went on to serve as a vice president for legal affairs for Chevron Oil and later, as its director. More recently, he's served as a special master in several cases, including a Microsoft anti-trust case.

Bickerman, an attorney, has worked with tribes on a number of occasions. As president of his own dispute resolution firm, he's mediated treaty, land, environmental and other cases.

One significant case involved several Michigan tribes and the state and federal governments. In the spring of 2000, his firm settled a long-running fishing rights case by allocating the catch among the tribes under an 1836 treaty.

Bickerman's ongoing cases includes work with the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, the Metlakatla Tribe of Alaska, the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation. He's successfully mediated other cases where the Department of Interior was a named party.

Talks between the plaintiffs and the Bush administration began in January at the urging of members of Congress. The plaintiffs last May said they were interested in mediation. Secretary Norton finally responded last November.

The negotiations mark the sixth time the plaintiffs and the government have sought to resolve the case, which represents 500,000 individual Indians whose oil, gas, timber, grazing and other assets are managed by the federal government. All of the earlier attempts failed although an agreement with former Special Trustee Tom Slonaker was reached at the end of the Clinton administration, only to fall through when it was rejected by the Department of Justice.

A subsequent attempt during the Bush administration ended with the plaintiffs' attorneys particularly upset because they had shared their settlement model with the government. Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles would later ridicule the model in testimony to Congress and said he would not settle the case. But an outside trust expert called the proposal a significant step at a hearing before Campbell's committee last October.

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Bickerman Dispute Resolution - http://www.bickerman.com/index2.shtml
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Appeals court issues stay of DOI shutdown order (03/25)
Neal McCaleb criticizes Tex Hall and Judge Lamberth (03/19)
DOI's Internet connection shut down for third time (03/16)
Lamberth defends special master against attack (03/16)
Computer shutdown applies to all DOI systems (03/16)
BIA shows off information technology facility (03/02)
Anderson praises Cobell suit in NCAI speech (2/25)
Cobell continues fight for accounting of billions (12/19)
Lamberth orders DOI to turn over IT reports (12/12)
DOI fares poorly on computer security report card (12/11)
Trust fund rider faces test in courtroom (11/24)
Trust reform a big issue at NCAI conference (11/21)
Tribes still frustrated on trust reform (11/20)
Norton finally responds to trust settlement (11/20)
Bush officials blasted by tribal leaders (11/19)
Cobell plaintiffs disputing trust fund rider (11/17)
Appeals court puts trust fund ruling on hold (11/14)
Norton using rider to seek stay of Cobell case (11/12)
Editorial: White House actions on trust 'contemptible' (11/7)
Quick fixes won't solve trust fund problems (11/5)
President Bush 'on the hook' for trust fund delays (11/5)
Norton testimony sought by plaintiffs in trust case (11/5)
Tribal company's work on trust accounting on hold (11/5)
Daschle criticizes 'shameful' rider in DOI budget bill (11/04)
Norton welcomes time-out in Cobell trust fund case (11/4)
Norton appealing Indian trust fund ruling (11/3)
Norton says White House behind trust fund rider (11/3)
House approves trust fund rider in DOI bill (10/31)
Campbell pushes action on trust fund suit (10/30)
Battle brews in House over DOI budget bill (10/30)
Cobell rallies support for trust fund case (10/28)
DOI bill halts Indian trust fund case (10/24)
Bill targets Indian trust fund suit (10/22)
House chairman supports self-governance rider (10/14)
Self-governance tribes fear impact of reorganization (10/09)
Lamberth lays out future of Indian trust reform (09/26)
Court report finds undervaluation of Navajo lands (08/21)
Administration eyes consolidation of Indian appraisals (08/15)
Tally for private attorney fees in Cobell case rises (07/24)
Congress hacks Bush's accounting funds (7/16)
Swimmer partly right on trust fund rider (7/14)
Bush official balks at large settlement for Cobell (7/10)
On trust, lawmakers take Bush officials at face value (06/25)
Private attorneys reap benefits on Cobell case (06/24)
Norton offered settlement funds for IIM trust (6/20)
Lamberth criticizes interference with trust fund case (05/22)
Bush administration turns to Congress on trust (04/04)

Copyright 2000-2004 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Girls basketball team proudly wears Navajo hairstyle during game (2/8)
Senate committee to host roundtable on Tribal Law and Order Act (2/8)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee postpones field hearing into EPA (2/8)
National Indian Gaming Commission slated to get a third member (2/8)
Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation invests in our people's wellbeing (2/8)
Kevin Washburn: Republicans punish tribe in public lands measure (2/8)
Harold Monteau: Democrats stack the deck for only one candidate (2/8)
Cutcha Risling Baldy: Don't let Leonard Peltier die in prison system (2/8)
Wallace Coffey resigns as chair of Comanche Nation after 25 years (2/8)
Pope Francis to celebrate mass at Indian church for trip to Mexico (2/8)
California communities go without as casino revenue fund dries up (2/8)
Non-Indian firm looking to block Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino (2/8)
Umatilla Tribes raise gambling age as sales of liquor start at casino (2/8)
Apology offered to girls who were forced to change Native hairstyle (2/5)
Mark Trahant: Bernie Sanders campaign starts Indian policy group (2/5)
Charles Trimble: Taking responsibility for upkeep of our cemeteries (2/5)
Mary Annette Pember: Memorial to Indian genocide eyed in Russia (2/5)
Terese Marie Mailhot: I guess I'm just one of those 'crazy' Indians (2/5)
Judge weighs compromise for $380M in leftover Keepseagle funds (2/5)
Blackfeet Nation welcomes movement on water rights settlement (2/5)
Yakama Nation wins decision on cost of cleaning up contamination (2/5)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe confident of casino bid despite lawsuit (2/5)
Arizona sees 6.9 percent boost in gaming contributions from tribes (2/5)
Cowlitz Tribe close to reaching agreement with city for new casino (2/5)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation questions exclusion from casino process (2/5)
Tribal leaders question management changes at IHS in Great Plains (2/4)
IHS chief medical officer apologizes for comments about newborns (2/4)
Group sues IHS for records about water pollution on Yakama Nation (2/4)
Sen. McCain still bothered by failure to block Arizona tribe's casino (2/4)
Gun Lake Tribe announces retirement of longtime chair DK Sprague (2/4)
House Natural Resources Committee passes Indian bills at markup (2/4)
Samuel Winder: Indian defendants face harsher criminal penalties (2/4)
Charles Kader: Tribal burial grounds in Florida are being desecrated (2/4)
Roger Chelsey: Pamunkey Tribe clears last hurdle for federal status (2/4)
Reno Sparks Indian Colony mourns passing of leader William Coffey (2/4)
Native students convince school to name Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe supports move to Indigenous People's Day (2/4)
Coquille Tribe donates $100K to help college with health programs (2/4)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes help inmates reintegrate (2/4)
Little River Band hails BIA movement on off-reservation casino bid (2/4)
Lac Vieux Desert Band reopens hotel after disease scare at casino (2/4)
Eastern Cherokee council revives plan for bowling alley at casino (2/4)
Mark Trahant: Self-determination should be on table for campaign (2/3)
Bernie Sanders won Democratic precinct on Meskwaki Reservation (2/3)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee passes two water bills at meeting (2/3)
House committee approves Lytton Band bill with casino limitation (2/3)
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.