It was another triumphant day in court for those whose lives have been wrapped up in the Cobell vs. Salazar case for more than 15 years, as a district judge gave final approval to the settlement Monday.
Although the case’s champion, couldn’t be there because she continues a fight against cancer, Elouise Cobell called the judge during the hearing to express her sentiment that the settlement will bring hope to Indian Country.
Barring an appeal, the ruling gives the Interior Department the lease to begin making payments to entitled parties.
The AP covered the story, and here’s the rundown of the Indian trust mismanagement from Elouise Cobell’s camp:
From Bill McAllister:
WASHINGTON – Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan has given final approval to a $3.4 billion settlement over the federal government’s acknowledged long-running mismanagement of the Indian Trust.
Unless appealed, the ruling will give Native Americans the largest settlement ever reached with the federal government.
Once Hogan enters a written opinion on the ruling he gave from the bench Monday, the Interior Department may be able to begin making payments to the nearly 500,000 Native Americans as early as August. Only 92 individuals filed papers to object of the settlement.
Those numbers indicate that an overwhelming number of Native Americans approve of the settlement, the judge said.
“I am certainly not convinced that a better result could be achieved by taking it to all the way to trial,” the judge said. “It’s hard to see there could be a better result.”
If the case had not been settled, Judge Hogan predicted it would linger in the courts for another 15 years.
After presiding over a daylong fairness hearing on the settlement, Hogan said in an oral ruling he would give final approval to the settlement, holding it to be “fair, reasonable and adequate.”
The judge also gave high praise to Elouise Cobell, the Blackfeet woman from Montana whose name became synonymous with the class action lawsuit she and four other Indians filed against the government in 1996.
“She has done more for the individual Native American than any other person in recent years,” said the judge.
Cobell has shown “unusual effort and courage” in leading the lawsuit, the judge said.
Lead attorney Dennis M. Gingold said, Cobell “has dedicated her life to righting this wrong.”
Earlier in the day Cobell told the judge by telephone that the courts had been willing to help Native Americans when the other branches of the federal government failed them.