Native Sun News Today: Appeals court takes up Keepseagle lawsuit

A water tower bearing the name of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Photo: Keith Ewing

Appeal in Keepseagle case heard in DC Circuit Court
Ruling expected in March
By Ernestine Chasing Hawk
Native Sun News Today
Managing Editor

WASHINGTON –– Last week attorneys Marshall Matz and John Dillard issued a letter updating litigants in Keepseagle vs. Vilsack, a class action lawsuit originally filed in 1999 by Marilyn and George Keepseagle, members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe from Fort Yates, North Dakota.

The lawsuit alleged discriminatory loan practices by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Loan Program. The lawsuit covered Native Americans with discrimination claims against USDA for the years 1981 to 1999.

However, after the government compensated all class action members, a surplus amount of $380 million dollars was left undistributed.

A new settlement, approved in April 2016 by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, provided for an additional payment of $18,500 to each prevailing claimant, along with $2,775 to the IRS on behalf of each claimant.

Another $38 million would go to nonprofit groups chosen by lawyers who represented those in the class action, and the remaining $265 million would endow a Native American-led trust to be distributed to nonprofit groups over 20 years.

Keith Mandan, of the Three Affiliated Tribes and Craig Tingle of Florida appealed the April decision disagreeing about how the leftover settlement monies would be distributed.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Oral Arguments in Keepseagle v. Vilsack

“The relief Keith is seeking is to have a per capita distribution of all the remaining settlement funds to the original litigants. That is not a possibility; this court does not have authority to do that. That is why we worked out a settlement agreement for $18,000 plus tax relief,” Dillard said.

“On Friday, [January 13, 2017] the DC Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the Keepseagle case. The decision before the court was whether to approve the settlement worked out between Mrs. Keepseagle, class counsel, and USDA that would provide additional funds to successful claimants. We remain cautiously optimistic that the court will uphold the new settlement,” attorneys stated in the letter.

The DC Circuit usually averages a little over two months between hearing oral arguments and issuing a decision. They expect to hear from the court by mid to late March, but stated they have no guarantee on when the court will issue a decision.

“If the appellate court upholds and approves the settlement then we will have the settlements within 75 days of the court approving it. Unless Keith Mandan appeals again,” Dillard continued. “I think Mrs. Keepseagle like everyone wants this to be over and wants the money to go out to the class holders and we are confident and cautiously optimistic what the court will agree with Mrs. Keepseagle.”

Attorney’s stated that if they win at the DC Circuit, the supplemental payments to successful claimants will be distributed within 2.5 months of the court’s decision, unless Keith Mandan or Craig Tingle appeal to the Supreme Court.

“If Mr. Mandan or Mr. Tingle appeal the case, payments will be delayed several months. If we do not win at the DC Circuit, we will evaluate our options and strongly consider an appeal to the Supreme Court,” the law firm stated. If the case is appealed to the Supreme Court and whether or not the Supreme Court decides to hear the case will be decided sometimes between October and December.

“The Supreme Court is unlikely to take up this case. Some cases are warranted some are not,” Dillard said.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Appeal in Keepseagle case heard in DC Circuit Court

(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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