The trial lawyers representing American Indians in the Cobell Settlement now say they want $223 million in attorney’s fees, and the move appears to be rankling their prior allies across Indian Country.
Indian Country Today has this:
The Cobell lawyers are stoking the ire of political power players and Indians who are alarmed by their growing requests for remuneration. The requests, if granted, would take a major percentage of the settlement funds away from some of the poorest citizens in the nation.
The settlement agreed to by the Obama administration in 2009 and approved by Congress last fall caps the fees for the lawyers who represented the Indian beneficiaries at between $50 million to $100 million. Individual Indians are expected to receive, on average, less than $2,000 from the $3.4 billion deal, which is supposed to redress the Department of Interior’s mismanagement of trust funds it has held for some Natives since the 1800s.
However, in December 2010, soon after Congress signed off on the deal and President Barack Obama signed it into law, the lawyers presented an argument in court that the fees they had agreed to were too small. In papers filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on December 14, they said “fair compensation” would be $223 million. They further argued that the court would be within its purview to increase their payment.
Click here to read the full article. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) discusses how Congress would not have approved the settlement if attorney’s fees were higher. Plus, former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) pleaded with the Court to keep the fees set as establoshed in the settlement.
Interesting article on a number of fronts. First, they agreed to capping the lawyer’s fees in the first place? Remember when they tried to limit attorney’s fees in the asbestos lawsuits? Second, can the Court even give the lawyer’s a larger share of the money than Congress even agreed to? Add to that, the fact that each Indian household is only going to get about $2,000. And here we thought the federal government was supposed to be the answer to all of our problems.