Cobell, with her lawyers, including lead lawyer Gingold (seated), in 2009

Three More American Indians File Cobell Settlement Appeals With U.S. Supreme Court

Rob Capriccioso

WASHINGTON – Three more tribal citizens have filed a joint petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to appeal the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement. Carol Eve Good Bear, a Fort Berthold Reservation citizen; Charles Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux citizen; and Mary Lee Johns, a Cheyenne River Sioux citizen, filed a writ of certiorari on September 19, asking the high court to review their case. They join Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate citizen Kimberly Craven, who filed her own petition with the court on August 20. She has claimed the settlement is unfair to Indian class members because it violates class-action law, and she has alleged ethical issues involving Cobell lawyers and their fees. Good Bear, Colombe, and Johns are making similar arguments to Craven based on a few legal issues, specifically whether Good Bear should have been allowed to opt out of the historical accounting class created by the settlement and whether the appeals court was right that class-action members in the trust administration class were similar enough to allow certification of the class. The petition draws attention to a 1988 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Bowen v. Massachusetts, which current justice, Antonin Scalia, had major problems with at the time. The Cobell case has been proceeding in district court under the findings of that ruling, according to the petition, which is authored by lawyer David Harrison. In relation to that ruling, the appellants believe that the overseeing court, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, lacks jurisdiction over the Cobell case. Scalia is the same justice who granted an extension in August for these three appellants to file their appeal.  Chief Justice John Roberts recused himself from that decision, having had close connections with both the current overseeing judge in the case, Thomas Hogan, and with one of the lawyers in the case, Adam Charnes, who works for Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton. The high court hasn’t confirmed whether one of those connections was the reason for his recusal, nor if he would recuse himself if the high court took on one or both of the appeals. A 2010 act of Congress authorized the Cobell settlement, but whether Congress could waive the requirements of due process in district court is for the Supreme Court to consider, according to the petition, referring to a May ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the Good Bear, Colombe, and Johns appeal. The new petition lets go an earlier argument made by the three appellants that Hogan should have stepped aside because he made out-of-court statements about the case. The Indian appellants have previously told various news outlets that they are concerned that most class members will receive less than $2,000 under the deal, while the lawyers in the case are battling over almost $100 million, and have argued they are due up to $223 million. When asked if she is happy to have company in appealing the settlement, Craven replied with a one-word answer: “Yes!” Dennis Gingold, lead lawyer for the Cobell plaintiffs, said, “[T]he Good Bear appellants have not provided us a copy of their petition. Accordingly, I have no idea what they have filed; however, on May 22, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit pointedly held in an explicit, unanimous per curiam opinion that those arguments are meritless and that their other arguments are ‘utterly meritless.’” In a recent letter to class members, Gingold noted that no payments can be made under the settlement until the appeals run their course. “Until their appeals are exhausted or withdrawn, no payments may be made to desperate class members, no scholarship money may be provided to needy Indian students, and no money is available to purchase fractionated interests in land that would be consolidated and transferred to tribes free of liens,” he wrote in the letter, e-mailed to class members earlier this month, and published online. “In short, another winter is approaching, but there is no money for you, your children, and grandchildren because of Craven, Colombe, Good Bear and Johns – as well as their attorneys.”

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waiting's picture
Submitted by waiting on
Again, more waiting. Now we must wait for the lawyers to fight over millions of dollars, while class members are waiting for their few thousand dollars. A few thousand dollars to me mean helping my daughter, who was recently diagnosed with a debilitating illness, with medical equipment and supplies. I was waiting patiently, as my mother waited patiently before she died without getting a penny. It will never get paid out will it...

indianproud's picture
Submitted by indianproud on
Unfortunately, this is a case where minority rules. The great many people that I have talked with in my tribe and across a few others couldn't be more disappointed. A lot of people were waiting and needing the payout. The appellants have a better chance of winning the lottery than winning their appeals, and they know it. I guess that we wait and see. Hopefully, not too many people are suffering, as I believe that a great many are:(

ignacio's picture
Submitted by ignacio on
This is just not right what is it these three individuals are trying to get out of this settlement why the wait and more wait.....I really dont undestand what the wait is all about and it is true most of our poeple are dying and not seeing a cent of this settlement Eloise Cobell fought for all of us and this is what we get in return we should be proud someone stood up and fought the U.S.government who are liars and thiefs AND NOW THIS WTF.....

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
What is really going on????????? Those of us who do not live on reservations haven't a clue what this settlement(supposed) is all about and would really like to know. Why is it that we as menbers of the first nations are the last to know? I always feel like and beggar and standing in line waiting for gov. cheese. Which wasn't good anyway. Why must we hold our hands out for the rest of our lives for a part of something that was ours anyway?? A system of justice? For whom? I voted for Obama, wish I"d of sent him a loaf of cheese. Roberta(Susie) LaFromboise

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
I thought there was a deadline for individuals who could file an appeal to the Cobell settlement. The appeals are holding up payment for other individuals who are waiting patiently. What's going on? Will this go on forever and be the "usual" in regards to American Indian people ... something that will slip under the rug where no payment will ever take place? The lawyers are lining their pockets each time an appeal is made while we continue to sit and wait. Anyone else out there thinking about appealing the judgment? Think twice. We all know we deserve more than is offered us. Should we all appeal? Then, what? Those who appeal, did you get more money from your appeal? Personally, I think it's greediness and disrespect for others.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
It is unjust that a few people can conbtrol the majority for their own selfish reasons. There are many nNative MAnericans who need this money,m who are suffering financialy. It is not right. They had their chance now its time for the Court to bring back to the majorityu of people and let them have theior say. We need the m,oneyu, not want need, theres a difference. Look at the suffering in Indian Country and tell me there is n o need and for these few people tpo hold this up, shame on you!.

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on
Unfortunately Cobell took ill while pursuing justice. We didn't hold out as a result. forevermore we are stuck with Cobell decision. We now cannot go back and insist on more. It is over FOREVER!

lorraine R Tarango 's picture
lorraine R Tarango
Submitted by lorraine R Tarango on
the settlement of the cobell settlment i have children my parent aren't on the vfair side im triing to find out how to enstate information to find out about the right to hold account information on my children and myself awardence for the cobell settlement under the accountable life style life to pit together the information for the native american settlement agreement my manr is Lorraine Renee Lopez Martinez Tarango 1955 Arapahoe str #403 Denver Colo 80202