Ask Elouise week of November 7, 2012
November 7, 2012
Dear Indian Country
This open letter discusses the events in the Cobell case since my last letter to you. In that letter, I discussed the fact that your trust payments have been withheld by appeals filed by four class members: Kimberly Craven, Charles Colombe, Carol Eve Good Bear, and Mary Lee Johns. Now, I am pleased to report that both appeals have now been successfully resolved.
How were the appeals resolved? On October 29, 2012, the Supreme Court denied Kimberly Craven’s petition that asked the Supreme Court to hear her appeal and set aside the settlement, bringing her obstruction of your settlement to an end. On November 2, Good Bear, Colombe, and Johns agreed to dismiss with prejudice their Supreme Court petition in return for Class Counsel’s agreement to pay their attorney's fees and expenses out of attorneys’ fees we expect to receive. A stipulation of dismissal was filed with the Supreme Court on November 6 and the Supreme Court officially dismissed their petition today.
Because of the Supreme Court's rejection of Craven's petition, we believe the other appellants have realized what everyone else had known all along: that their appeal had no merit and no chance of success. However, because it had the potential to delay further your settlement payments, we, Class Counsel, offered to pay the three petitioners their attorney’s fees and expenses out of our attorneys’ fees. This will greatly increase the likelihood that we can begin to disburse settlement funds to you before Christmas and before winter is fully upon you. Most importantly, we also wanted to finalize the settlement before more Class Members die without realizing any measure of justice. Sadly, it is estimated that 12,000 class members have died since the settlement's record date of September 30, 2009. As you know, the year and one half delay caused by the appeals prevented Elouise from seeing the results of her extraordinary efforts. In addition, each month that finality has been delayed has cost class members at least $300,000 out of their recovery.
With winter here, Class Counsel were committed to doing everything we reasonably could do to help you receive your Historical Accounting Class payments by Christmas. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth said “justice delayed is justice denied,” and we did not want the four objector appellants to obstruct your recovery any longer.
What steps remain to starting the distribution? Within the next month or so, the government will pay into the Cobell account at J.P. Morgan, the approved settlement bank, settlement funds out of the Claims Judgment Fund of the United States. However, before that payment is made, the Attorney General must certify that the case is final and an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury must certify that it is proper to access the Judgment Fund to make that payment. Secretary Salazar has assured Indian Country that the government is “ready to hit the ground running as soon as the Supreme Court makes a decision.” We believe him. Accordingly, there is good reason to be optimistic.
I keep hearing about some sort of $7 billion dollar settlement offer that was rejected by Elouise. What is that? It is a false contention that Craven made repeatedly in her meritless arguments. Unfortunately, that myth was perpetuated by irresponsible news organizations. Let me be clear one last time: No one rejected a $7 billion offer to settle the case. Indeed, no administration made a $7 billion settlement offer to settle Cobell. Nor did Congress. Until the 2009 settlement negotiations, which resulted in your $3.4 billion tax-free settlement, the government never offered a single penny to settle our litigation. Further, the government made it clear that $3.4 billion is the absolute maximum amount that it would pay to you and fellow class members. It would not pay one penny more. The district court reviewed the facts and pointedly found Craven’s contention to be utterly meritless.
How will I receive my trust funds? Your trust funds will be sent to the last address on file with the Garden City Group. Please contact the Garden City Group to ensure that your correct information is provided. The Garden City Group can be contacted via mail, phone, and email at:
Indian Trust Settlement
Dublin, OH 43017-4877
This and other Ask Elouise letters can be found on the settlement website: http://cobellsettlement.com/class/ask_elouise.php. There is also a "frequently asked questions" section to answer the most common questions received: http://cobellsettlement.com/faq.php.
Lead Counsel, Cobell Plaintiffs