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Indian Trust case plaintiffs considering $8 billion settlement

[JURIST] Native Americans participating in the ten-year-old Indian Trust case [Cobell v. Norton litigation website] involving the alleged mismanagement of American Indian money [DOI Indian Trust Fund website] by the US Department of the Interior [official website] have indicated they may be willing to settle their lawsuit for $8 billion. The $8 billion offer is much lower than the $27.5 billion figure [JURIST report] that the plaintiffs demanded for settlement last year, but the plaintiffs seem ready to end the long court battle. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit ten years ago, accusing the government of mismanaging an Indian trust [advocacy website; JURIST news archive] in their names for a period of 120 years.

Earlier this month, the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday directed that US District Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile], the outspoken jurist presiding over the case, be removed from the case [JURIST report]. The settlement, if agreed upon, will be included in the Indian Trust Reform Act [HR 4322 summary; Missoulian report], which the Senate has scheduled for markup [Indianz.com report] on August 2. AP has more.

4:22 PM ET - Elouise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the Indian trust case, released a statement [text] Tuesday emphasizing that she does not believe that an $8 billion settlement for the claims is "equitable." Cobell nonetheless said "it would be foolish to ignore political realities while our people continue to go without the basic staples of life. That is why I and the other representative plaintiffs -- in consultation with class members -- are considering this settlement offer. We have not come to any conclusions whether to support this or not. Our deliberations are on-going."

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