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
Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law - University of Tulsa College of Law
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Trust fund rider faces test in courtroom
Monday, November 24, 2003

The battle over the Indian trust fund moved from the Congress to the courthouse on Friday as the plaintiffs launched a bid to keep the long-running lawsuit alive.

Even though more than 500,000 American Indians have won numerous court decisions affirming their rights, the case is on temporary hold due to high-level political meddling. Over the objections of account holders, tribes and their supporters, the White House and top lawmakers pushed through an appropriations bill that delays the accounting of at least $13 billion in trust funds.

The so-called "midnight rider" is a direct attack on the trust fund lawsuit, filed in 1996 on behalf of Indian beneficiaries around the country. As the Bush administration lost decision after decision in the courts, officials turned to sympathetic lawmakers who were eager to rein in the millions that have been spent, largely unsuccessfully, to correct more than a century of mismanagement.

The legality of those tactics is now before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Both parties have filed briefs hoping to sway the court as it considers whether to keep the case on hold or let it move forward.

Led by Elouise Cobell, a banker from the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, the plaintiffs say the rider violates the U.S. Constitution. The legislative branch, they argue, cannot tell the judicial branch how to interpret laws.

"Simply put, the Constitution does not permit the legislature to do ... what it does here: crack open final judgments in specific cases, rewind the process, and then rewrite the law to readjudicate the outcome," the plaintiffs' brief filed on Friday stated.

In seeking to delay the case for up to a year, the Bush administration attorneys say it would cost at least $6 billion to carry out the accounting. They argue that the rider gives Congress a chance to redefine the rights of Indian beneficiaries under the American Indian Trust Reform Act of 1994.

"Congress has now altered the governing law, providing that, pending further congressional action (or decision not to act), neither the 1994 act nor any principles of common law" require an accounting, the government's November 10 brief stated.

Last week, Cobell and attorneys from the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), the non-profit organization handling the lawsuit, made the rounds at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Cobell thanked lawmakers, like Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) and Brad Carson (D-Okla.), and organizations like the National Indian Gaming Association, for their support in trying to defeat the rider.

"Don't cover your ears on this issue," she told NCAI delegates on Tuesday, warning that the use of riders threatens Indian rights beyond just the trust fund case. "I want you to stand strong. I want you to stay strong with us."

At an NCAI session on Wednesday, Special Trustee Ross Swimmer, a Bush administration political appointee, discussed his views on trust reform. He called Cobell's case "an extremely important issue." "It has both benefits and certainly has its downsides in terms of managing the trust and keeping up with what the court wants," he said.

Swimmer discounted as "rumor" the suggestion that money for Indian programs, like education, is being used to fund the Office of Special Trustee, which he heads. He said tribal leaders are kidding themselves if they think Congress would spend that kind of money on Indian Country.

"I'm not going to tell you that it's not important to do a accounting, but I can think of a lot of ways to spend $7 to $8 billion," he said.

Relevant Documents:
Plaintiffs Motion (November 21, 2003) | Government Motion (November 10, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
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:
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 � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
It was called the 'Spanish Flu.' But it killed hundreds of Indians too
A worldwide flu pandemic struck Indian Country hard, killing more than 2,000 Navajos and 600 Lakota one hundred years ago.

YES! Magazine: Native hiker helps reclaim indigenous place names
Native climber Len Necefer created indigenous geotags for more than 40 mountains.

Jason Asenap: Confronting colonialism while others celebrate it
How do you honor New Mexico’s colorful past without celebrating violent colonialism in racially charged festivities?

Ivan Star Comes Out: Our children aren't growing up with our culture
From what I have witnessed during my 60-plus years of life, most of our college graduates are culturally handicapped and they do not speak Lakota.

Trump administration finally informs tribes about dramatic reorganization
After keeping Indian Country in the dark for more than a year, the Trump administration is ready to consult with tribes.

A 'dark period' in American history: Repatriation committee gets back on track
A 'dark period' in American history: Repatriation committee gets back on track
After a long wait, the Trump administration announced new advocates for the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.

'Another threat to water': Fort Peck Tribes angered by oil well spill
Some 600 barrels of oil and 90,000 barrels of production water, also known as brine, spilled from an oil well on the Fort Peck Reservation.

Cronkite News: Trump ally submits signatures for busy Senate race
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio supports everything Donald Trump does. But he's not a "yes man."

Mary Annette Pember: Indian Country Today set for relaunch on June 4
Mark your calendars: the new Indian Country Today debuts at the mid-year session of the National Congress of American Indians.

Malinda Maynor Lowery: Indigenous people are the original Southerners
Malinda Maynor Lowery: Indigenous people are the original Southerners
When people see Southern history in black and white, where are American Indians? A Lumbee citizen asks a key question.

Pamunkey Tribe not invited to local meeting about casino plan
Local officials in Virginia are hosting a town hall to discuss plans for a casino only they haven't invited a key player.

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians schedules referendum on alcohol
Citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will decide whether the tribe will operate its own liquor store on the reservation in North Carolina.

School on Pine Ridge Reservation immerses children in Lakota culture
School on Pine Ridge Reservation immerses children in Lakota culture
A school on the Pine Ridge Reservation is immersing children in Lakota culture, turning the tide against genocide and trauma.

Tribes back bill to protect ancestral lands from Trump's energy push
Tribes back bill to protect ancestral lands from Trump's energy push
Tribal leaders want to prevent the Trump administration from allowing energy development on ancestral lands.

House committee set to advance Republican-sponsored Indian bills
House committee set to advance Republican-sponsored Indian bills
The House Committee on Natural Resources is due to advance three Indian bills at a markup session on Capitol Hill.

Indian Health Service back in the hot seat with budget hearing
Indian Health Service back in the hot seat with budget hearing
It's almost been a year since the Indian Health Service came under heavy fire before lawmakers who control the agency's funding.

Cronkite News: San Carlos Apache activist joins rally at U.S. Capitol
Cronkite News: San Carlos Apache activist joins rally at U.S. Capitol
'There are many issues that need to be addressed, but Congress doesn’t matter if there’s no water,' said Apache activist Wendsler Nosie Sr.

Graham Lee Brewer: Discrimination against Native students all too common
Graham Lee Brewer: Discrimination against Native students all too common
Discrimination against two young Mohawk men at Colorado State University highlights an all-too-common misunderstanding.

Mark Trahant: Paulette Jordan could be the first Native governor
Mark Trahant: Paulette Jordan could be the first Native governor
Conventional wisdom says Paulette Jordan has no chance, but Idaho is changing fast.

Scrambled Eggs: How the Trump team is mixing up the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Scrambled Eggs: How the Trump team is mixing up the Bureau of Indian Affairs
Still wondering about that reorganization? A former Bureau of Indian Affairs official explains it.

Yakama Nation dedicates new center to help veterans with services
Yakama Nation dedicates new center to help veterans with services
The Yakama Warriors Association finally has a place to call home on the reservation in Washington.

Teen ordered to apologize to treaty tribes for starting massive fire
Teen ordered to apologize to treaty tribes for starting massive fire
A 15-year-old boy started a massive fire that endangered treaty and cultural resources along the Columbia River.

Navajo Nation casinos generate another $10 million for chapter communities
Gaming continues to benefit communities on the Navajo Nation.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe gains local support for homelands legislation
After seeing some initial opposition, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe has gained local support for a bill to protect its homelands in Massachusetts.

Connecticut governor seeks to negotiate sports betting with tribes
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe could be on the road to sports betting soon in Connecticut.

Muscogee Nation clashes with state in reservation boundary dispute
Muscogee Nation clashes with state in reservation boundary dispute
The Muscogee Nation and the state of Oklahoma are headed into a historic sovereignty clash thanks to the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court sides with tribal interests in sovereign immunity case
Supreme Court sides with tribal interests in sovereign immunity case
In a rare win for Indian Country, the nation's highest court has sided with tribal interests in a closely-watched sovereign immunity case.

Doug George-Kanentiio: Energy company still hostile to indigenous interests
Doug George-Kanentiio: Energy company still hostile to indigenous interests
The Mohawk people can abide by our ancestral morals and reject a deal with the Enbridge energy company.

Mark Trahant: Native candidates in New Mexico react to polls and controversy
Mark Trahant: Native candidates in New Mexico react to polls and controversy
As voters head to the polls in New Mexico, Deb Haaland is in a tight three-way race while Gavin Clarkson is still stirring controversy.

Cronkite News: Republican version of Farm Bill defeated in House
Cronkite News: Republican version of Farm Bill defeated in House
Two Arizona lawmakers were among the 30 Republicans who crossed the aisle and joined all Democrats to send the $868 billion farm bill to defeat.

Mike Males: It's not schools that are dangerous for our children
Mike Males: It's not schools that are dangerous for our children
Schools are the sites of fewer than 3 percent of students’ gun homicides; the other 97 percent occur somewhere other than school.

Tribes seek a seat at table as states look into sports betting
With a landmark Supreme Court decision on the books, tribes from California to Connecticut want to be at the table when it comes to sports betting.

Native Sun News Today: Tribal leaders named to national environmental panel
Native Sun News Today: Tribal leaders named to national environmental panel
Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation has been thrust into the spotlight with a new role.

James Giago Davies: One of these days we are going to actually read the book
James Giago Davies: One of these days we are going to actually read the book
In every Wasicu church, and on every reservation, are holy men who can’t even tell you what caused the sky to be blue or thunder to crackle.

Hopi Tribe seeks support for long-overdue land transfer
Hopi Tribe seeks support for long-overdue land transfer
The Hopi Tribe is looking to federal government to fulfill a long-overdue promise that's connected to a seemingly endless land dispute.

Lac du Flambeau Band awaits results of autopsy in search for missing man
Lac du Flambeau Band awaits results of autopsy in search for missing man
Family and friends are offering tributes to Antonio Roché, a 24-year-old Lac du Flambeau man who went missing earlier this month.

Redding Rancheria pays tribute to late former chairwoman Barbara Murphy
Redding Rancheria pays tribute to late former chairwoman Barbara Murphy
Barbara Murphy, a former chairwoman of the Redding Rancheria, passed away on May 8. She was 79.

Agua Caliente Band donates $25,000 in gear to local fire department
Agua Caliente Band donates $25,000 in gear to local fire department
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is helping out a new crew of firefighters in southern California.

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.