indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
House bill targets Cobell trust fund lawsuit again
FRIDAY, JUNE 20, 2003

A House panel this week approved legislation that would allow the Bush administration to settle certain trust fund accounts without going through the federal judge overseeing the Cobell case and subject the rest to a statistical sampling, a method overwhelmingly rejected by Indian beneficiaries.

The measure is part of the Department of Interior's $19.6 billion spending bill that cleared an appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday. According to supportive lawmakers, it would provide a "prompt, fair resolution" of the trust fund lawsuit, a seven-year-old case that seeks to provide an accurate accounting of funds owed to more than 500,000 American Indians.

But a Native American Rights Fund (NARF) lawyer said the bill would undermine Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's trust responsibilities. Calling the initiative a "desperate" attempt to kick the class action out of federal court through "side-settling" of certain claims, Keith Harper predicted it would only lead to more litigation.

"There's a reason why this is generally outlawed," Harper said yesterday. "You have the very real possibility that the government will misinform account holders. If the Secretary wanted to settle these accounts in good faith, why isn't she going through the judicial process?"

A spokesperson for Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Interior Appropriations subcommittee, was out for remainder of the week and unavailable for comment yesterday. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), the panel's ranking member, did not return a phone call.

But under the leadership of Dicks and former Rep. Joe Skeen (R-N.M.), who retired last year, the House panel has advanced a number of initiatives targeting the Cobell suit. Last summer, the lawmakers inserted language to limit an historical accounting of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust, whose funds are derived from oil, gas, timber and other land-based activity, from 1985 to the present.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers voted 281 to 144 to strip the bill of the accounting provision affecting the trust, which was created in 1887.

With this year's bill, the subcommittee intends to use the U.S. Judgment Fund, a fund typically used for litigation settlements against the government, to establish a voluntary settlement program. The Interior would be able to offer willing account holders a sum of money to extinguish his or her rights to an accounting. Challenges to the process could be heard in court -- but by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, not by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who is handling the Cobell case.

For those accounts not resolved after the end of the year-long program, the Interior would be allowed to use a "sound" statistical sampling to "estimate a rate of past accounting errors," according to explanatory language accompanying Section 137 of the bill. The provision further states that no account balances will be reduced as a result of the sampling.

In 2000, the Clinton administration asked Indian beneficiaries for their views on an historical accounting. The overwhelming majority said they wanted a full transaction-by-transaction report, not a sampling. Nothing was done on the project, required by law and by court order, for more than a year.

Dan DuBray, an Interior spokesperson, said he was unfamiliar with the details of the House bill, but that the Bush administration was committed to providing an historical accounting. "The department has a very robust effort moving forward," he said yesterday.

President Bush's fiscal year 2004 budget requests a total of $130 million for historical accounting efforts. Of the amount, $100 million would be used to analyze IIM accounts, through a transaction-by-transaction and statistical sampling, while the rest is dedicated to resolving a selected group of tribal trust fund accounts.

The full language of the Interior appropriations bill won't be made public until today. According to a summary of Wednesday's mark-up that was released by the House, it provides $1.9 billion for Bureau of Indian Affairs programs, $566 million for BIA education and $241 million for trust reform.

In addition to the settlement program, Taylor and Dicks have inserted language to limit compensation to the two special masters in the Cobell case. Another section authorizes the use of taxpayer funds to pay attorneys from 54 law firms who are representing 80 current and former government employees whose handling of the Indian trust has been called into question in court reports.

Relevant Documents:
House Committee on Appropriations: Highlights of the FY04 Interior Appropriations Bill (June 18, 2003)

Relevant Links:
House Appropriations Committee - http://www.house.gov/appropriations
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:
Lamberth criticizes interference with trust fund case (05/22)
Judge authorizes release of trust fund report (03/26)
Appropriators question historical accounting plan (03/13)
On accounting, Norton find her magic date (03/12)
Pressure stirs to settle trust fund lawsuit (02/27)
Spending bill keeps provisions affecting Cobell (02/14)
Trust programs see historic increase (2/4)
Standards guide reform effort (1/8)
What happened to all the land? (1/8)
Norton to fight IIM accounting (1/7)
Norton won't account for assets (1/6)
Lamberth slams claimed accounting (12/23)
Tribes opposing trust fund settlement bill (11/13)
Judge rejects Norton's 'absurd' accounting claim (09/23)
Funding battle underlies trust obligations (7/19)
Interior budget bill generates strong debate (7/17)
Opposition to trust fund bill mounts (7/15)
Norton delivers accounting plan (7/5)
House bill cuts trust fund accounting (6/28)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:

Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Choctaw Nation Trial:
Choctaw Nation releases statement after guilty verdict in case (11/21)
Former Choctaw Nation employee found guilty after lengthy trial (11/21)
Trial on Choctaw Nation fraud winds down with final testimony (11/21)
Leader of Choctaw Nation faces tough questions in fraud trial (11/21)
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux youth to join White House meet (11/21)
Obamas welcome youth from Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to DC (11/21)
House passes bill to address Grand Portage Band per capitas (11/21)
House Natural Resources Committee passes three tribal bills (11/21)
Chaske Spencer: Changing the narrative for our Native youth (11/21)
Winona LaDuke: No one believes in the 'black snake' pipeline (11/21)
Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Tax disparities remain in Indian Country (11/21)
ICT interview with DOI deputy secretary on Cobell buy-backs (11/21)
Oglala Sioux Tribe rounds up dogs after deadly attack on girl (11/21)
Leader of Navajo Nation signs bill for higher tax on junk food (11/21)
North Dakota tribe in negotiations for pipeline to curb flaring (11/21)
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe passes language to new generation (11/21)
Little Traverse Bay Bands swear in interim leader after recall (11/21)
Blog: Play-by-play of election controversy on Navajo Nation (11/21)
Column: Theories link Thanksgiving to 1637 Pequot massacre (11/21)
Editorial: Work with Burns Paiute Tribe on land-into-trust bid (11/21)
Ex-employee of Passamaquoddy Tribe admits to drug charge (11/21)
BIA publishes notice of Karuk Tribe Class III gaming compact (11/21)
Oklahoma reports drop in gaming exclusivity fees from tribes (11/21)
Pala Band gears up for official launch of Internet gaming site (11/21)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux woman shot and killed by police (11/20)
Mark Trahant: Lakota honor song wasn't out of place in Senate (11/20)
Dog attack blamed for death of eight-year-old girl at Pine Ridge (11/20)
DOI issues status report on Cobell land consolidation program (11/20)
Greg Grey Cloud explains Lakota honor song after Senate vote (11/20)
Steven Newcomb: Disestablishing the doctrines of domination (11/20)
Sen. Mark Begich: Moving forward for the first people of Alaska (11/20)
Bill Richardson: Indian Country feels effects of climate change (11/20)
Smithsonian: Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 won't be forgotten (11/20)
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe sues South Dakota over sales tax (11/20)
Morongo Band distributes 10K turkeys for Thanksgiving meals (11/20)
GAO report looks at tribal implementation of Adam Walsh Act (11/20)
FBI opens background check database to tribal law agencies (11/20)
Survey shows most Americans wouldn't use R-word in person (11/20)
USDA Blog: Youth from Angoon Tribe carry on their traditions (11/20)
Editorial: County and critics must stop fighting Chumash Tribe (11/20)
Editorial: Oklahoma Indian museum benefits the entire state (11/20)
Muscogee Nation finally starts work on $365M gaming project (11/20)
Two tribes making push for off-reservation casino in California (11/20)
Mashantucket Tribe hires new executive for gaming operation (11/20)
Opinion: Catawba Nation makes a sneak attack with casino bid (11/20)
Opinion: Poarch Creek gaming deal won't help state's economy (11/20)
Native Sun News: Northern Cheyenne activists push for change (11/19)
Mark Trahant: Historic election in Alaska with Native candidate (11/19)
Audio: Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on child trauma (11/19)
Republicans hold up action on Alaska tribal jurisdiction measure (11/19)
DOI official to give update on Cobell land consolidation program (11/19)
Center for Native American Youth hosts panel discussion in DC (11/19)
Sen. Heitkamp to host panel on child trauma in Indian Country (11/19)
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.