U.S. Supreme Court Denies Hearing of Kimberly Craven’s Cobell Appeal
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that Kimberly Craven’s petition for an appeal of the $3.4 billion Cobell settlement on grounds that it violates class-action law is denied. In announcing the denial on October 29, the high court said on its website that both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Elena Kagan “took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.” Craven, a Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate citizen, appealed the settlement in August, telling Indian Country Today Media Network then that Indians “are just not getting our fair share for all the historical injustices, [and] loss of culture and economic opportunity for our people.” “Obviously we're disappointed by the denial, but we knew going in that the Supreme Court takes a very limited number of cases each year,” said Andrew Trask, a lawyer for Craven with the McGuireWoods firm. “The silver lining is that this brings closure to the questions Ms. Craven raised about the settlement, and should expedite the class members' receiving the relief their attorneys negotiated for them.” The court has not announced yet if it will take up a second Cobell settlement appeal filed by three other tribal citizens in September. Those appellants are Carol Eve Good Bear, a Fort Berthold Reservation citizen; Charles Colombe, a Rosebud Sioux citizen; and Mary Lee Johns, a Cheyenne River Sioux citizen. “We are one step closer to finality and having individual Indians paid,” Keith Harper, one of the Cobell lawyers with the Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton firm, said in a posting on Facebook in response to the denial. The Cobell lawyers argued in a September filing with the court that there was no conflict among the circuit courts on the legal issues Craven identified, so they said the Supreme Court should reject the petition. Dennis Gingold, lead Cobell lawyer, noted in a letter to Indian class members in September that a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals previously rejected all of Craven’s arguments, saying they were without merit. Secretary of the Department of the Interior Ken Salazar said at a recent gathering of the National Congress of American Indians in California that he expected all of the petitions for appeal to be denied, and he anticipates that payments to Indian class members could go out by the end of the year. Under the deal, most Indian class members will receive less than $2,000, while the Cobell lawyers will receive nearly $100 million.