Cobell v. Norton, No. CIV.A.96-1285(RCL).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtLamberth
Citation283 F.Supp.2d 66
PartiesElouise Pepion COBELL, et al. Plaintiffs, v. Gale A. NORTON, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.96-1285(RCL).
Decision Date25 September 2003
283 F.Supp.2d 66
Elouise Pepion COBELL, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
Gale A. NORTON, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
No. CIV.A.96-1285(RCL).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
September 25, 2003.

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Keith M. Harper and Lorna K. Babby, Washington, DC, Robert Meyer Peregoy, Ronan, MT, Elliott H. Levitas, Kilpatrick Stockton, LLP, Dennis Marc Gingold and Mark Kester Brown, Washington, DC, for plaintiffs.

Robert D. Luskin, Patton Boggs LLP, Tom C. Clark, Susan Virginia Cook, Brian L. Ferrell, Andrew M. Eschen, Charles Walter Findlay, III, Sarah D. Himmelhoch, Sandra Marguerite Schraibman, Connie S. Lundgren, Edith R. Blackwell, Washington, DC, John Charles Cruden, Annandale, VA, Lewis Steven Wiener, Sutherland, Asbill & Brennan, L.L.P., J. Christopher Kohn, Mark E. Nagle, Robert Craig Lawrence, Scott Sutherland Harris, Jo-Ann Shyloski and Barry Weiner, Henry A. Azar, Jr., Washington, DC, Terry M. Petrie, Denver, CO, Seth Brandon Shapiro, Jonathan Brian New, Sandra Peavler Spooner, David J. Gottesman, Peter Blaze Miller, Cynthia L. Alexander, Mathew J. Fader, John Stemplewicz, Amalia D. Kessler, John S. Most, Jennifer R. Rivera, Phillip Martin Seligman, Michael John Quinn, Gino D. Vissicchio, John Warshawsky, John J. Siemietkowski, John R. Kresse, Timothy E. Curley, Tracy Lyle Hilmer, Dodge Wells, Daniel Gordon Jarcho, Herbert Lawrence Fenster, Christina M. Carroll and Michael James Bearman, McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP, Elizabeth Wallace Fleming, Trout & Richards, P.L.L.C., B. Michael Rauh Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, L.L.P., Washington, DC, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION
("Historical Accounting")

LAMBERTH, District Judge.


Table of Contents
I. Introduction ........................................................ 72
                 A. Factual Background ............................................. 72
                 1. The Removal of the American Indians ......................... 72
                 2. The Allotment Process ....................................... 74
                 3. The Individual Indian Money (IIM Trust) ..................... 76
                 B. Procedural Background .......................................... 81
                 1. The Filing of the Present Case .............................. 81
                

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 2. The Phase I Trial ........................................... 82
                 3. The Second Contempt Trial ................................... 83
                 4. The Phase 1.5 Trial ......................................... 85
                II. An Overview of Institutional Reform Litigation ...................... 86
                 A. A Model of an Institutional Reform Case ........................ 87
                 B. Major Settings of Institutional Reform Litigation .............. 92
                 1. Schools ................................................... 92
                 2. Prisons ................................................... 95
                 3. Mental Health Facilities ................................. 100
                 4. Public Housing ........................................... 101
                 5. Other Settings ........................................... 104
                 C. Conclusion .................................................... 107
                III. Separation of Powers ............................................... 108
                 A. Introduction .................................................. 108
                 B. Judicial-Executive Separation of Powers Cases ................. 110
                 C. Analysis ...................................................... 118
                 D. The Role of the Courts in Trust Cases ......................... 127
                 1. Introduction .............................................. 127
                 2. American Trust Law ........................................ 127
                 E. Conclusion .................................................... 134
                IV. The Mandates of the D.C. Circuit ................................... 136
                 A. Cobell VI ..................................................... 136
                 B. Cobell VIII ................................................... 140
                 C. The Nature and Scope of the Court's Review .................... 141
                V. The Plans .......................................................... 147
                 A. An Overview of Interior's Accounting Plan ..................... 147
                 1. Introduction .............................................. 147
                 2. The Collection Process .................................... 148
                 a. Indexing of Trust Records ............................. 148
                 b. Collection of Missing Trust Records from Third Parties. 148
                 c. Compilation of Transaction Histories .................. 149
                 3. The Accounting Process .................................... 149
                 a. The Three Categories of Accounts ...................... 150
                 b. Verification of Transactions .......................... 151
                 4. The Reporting Process ..................................... 151
                 5. The Quality Control Process ............................... 151
                 a. Tests of the IIM Trust Systems ........................ 151
                 b. Other Quality Control Measures ........................ 151
                 B. Adequacies and Deficiencies of Interior's Accounting Plan ..... 152
                 1. The Collection Process .................................... 152
                 a. The Availability of Adequate Records .................. 152
                 b. Collection of Missing Trust Records from Third Parties. 155
                 c. Indexing of Trust Records and Compilation of Transaction
                 Histories ............................................. 161
                 2. The Accounting Process .................................... 166
                 a. Introduction .......................................... 166
                 b. Special Deposit Accounts (SDAs) ....................... 166
                 c. Judgment and Per Capita Accounts ...................... 168
                 d. Land-Based Accounts ................................... 169
                 (1) Proposed Termination Date of the Accounting ....... 169
                 (2) Proposed Start Date of the Accounting ............. 172
                 (3) Deceased Beneficiaries ............................ 173
                 (4) Assets ............................................ 175
                 (5) Direct Pay ........................................ 177
                 (6) Contract/Compact/Cooperative Agreement ............ 180
                

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 (7) Land Escheatment .................................. 181
                 e. Method of Verification ................................ 183
                 (1) Accounting Standards Manual ....................... 184
                 (2) Statistical Sampling .............................. 187
                 3. The Reporting Process ..................................... 198
                 4. The Quality Control Process ............................... 200
                 a. System Tests .......................................... 200
                 b. Other Quality Control Measures ........................ 204
                 C. Plaintiffs' Accounting Plan ..................................... 207
                VI. Relief to Be Ordered ............................................... 211
                 A. The Four-Part Test ............................................ 211
                 1. Substantial Likelihood of Prevailing on the Merits ........ 211
                 2. Irreparable Injury ........................................ 212
                 3. Balance of Hardships ...................................... 212
                 4. Furtherance of the Public Interest ........................ 212
                 B. Structural Injunction ......................................... 213
                 C. Appointment of a Monitor ...................................... 214
                 D. Timetable ..................................................... 220
                 E. Retention of Jurisdiction ..................................... 224
                VII. Conclusion ........................................................ 224
                

This matter comes before the Court after a forty-four day bench trial. Having undertaken a careful review of all the evidence presented and all representations made during that trial, of the record in this case, and of the applicable law, the Court now enters a structural injunction and appoints a monitor to oversee its implementation.

This memorandum opinion is the first of two opinions issued this date. The present opinion deals solely with the further relief ordered by this Court relating to the historical accounting owed by defendants to plaintiffs. The second opinion will treat the further relief ordered by the Court relating to the obligation of the Interior defendants to bring themselves into compliance with the fiduciary duties owed to plaintiffs as the trustee-delegate of the United States for the individual Indian money trust.

A decent respect for all who will be affected by today's rulings makes it appropriate that the Court should provide a full explanation of the reasons compelling it to order such relief. Only an appreciation of the full context in which the present trial emerged will make clear precisely why this Court has determined such relief to be necessary. Part I of this opinion provides a synopsis of this litigation to date. Part II examines the tradition of institutional reform cases, and explains how the present case fits within that tradition. Part III analyzes relevant separation-of-powers issues. Parts IV and V present in detail the Court's specific findings of fact and conclusions of law. Part VI describes the relief ordered this date. Finally, in Part VII, the Court provides a brief explanation of the profound necessity for the entry of a structural injunction in this matter.

I. INTRODUCTION1

A. Factual Background

1. The Removal of the American Indians

The forced removal of American indigenous peoples from their ancestral lands is

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one of the darkest chapters in American history. Perhaps few today realize, however, that this forced removal did not result from isolated acts of Western settlers; rather, it was set in motion by the federal government. Moreover, few recall the clash between the executive branch and the federal judiciary over the policy of removal, in which the executive branch refused to enforce the mandate of the Supreme Court that American Indian Tribes were to be treated as sovereign entities.

In 1827, the Cherokee nation, located within the boundaries of the state of Georgia, adopted a written constitution modeled after the U.S. Constitution, which declared them to be a...

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16 practice notes
  • PERRY-BEY v. CITY OF NORFOLK, VA., Civil Action No. 2:08cv100.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 15, 2009
    ...was not an "institutional reform" litigation consent decree since it did not purport to manage an institution. See Cobell v. Norton, 283 F.Supp.2d 66, 86-108 (D.D.C.2003) (conducting in-depth review of structural injunctions and consent decrees in institutional reform litigation and describ......
  • Cobell v. Kempthorne, Civil Action No. 96-1285 (JR).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • January 30, 2008
    ...Cobell v. Norton, 240 F.3d 1081, 1086-94 (D.C.Cir.2001); Cobell v. Norton, 226 F.Supp.2d 1, 11-20 (D.D.C. 2002); Cobell v. Norton, 283 F.Supp.2d 66, 72-86 (D.D.C.2003). Those seeking Cliffs-Notes can even consult the Cobell v. Kempthorne Wikipedia entry (though the Court, of course, cannot ......
  • Chickasaw Nation v. Dep't of the Interior, No. CIV–05–1524–W
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Western District of Oklahoma
    • April 16, 2014
    ...As the Nations have argued, this duty to account encompasses trust assets, including non-monetary assets. E.g., Cobell v. Norton, 283 F.Supp.2d 66, 176–77 (D.D.C.2003) (" Cobell X "), partially vacated on other grounds, 392 F.3d 461 (D.C.Cir.2004) (allotted lands themselves are the "trust c......
  • Ramirez v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Civil Action No. 18-508 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 21, 2021
    ...injunctions, in 2003 and again in 2005, seeking to overhaul the Department of Interior programs at issue. See Cobell v. Norton , 283 F. Supp. 2d 66, 87–95 (D.D.C. 2003) (" Cobell III"), Cobell v. Norton , 357 F. Supp. 2d 298, 302–07 (D.D.C. 2005) (" Cobell V"). While both injunctions would ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
16 cases
  • PERRY-BEY v. CITY OF NORFOLK, VA., Civil Action No. 2:08cv100.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • January 15, 2009
    ...was not an "institutional reform" litigation consent decree since it did not purport to manage an institution. See Cobell v. Norton, 283 F.Supp.2d 66, 86-108 (D.D.C.2003) (conducting in-depth review of structural injunctions and consent decrees in institutional reform litigation and describ......
  • Cobell v. Kempthorne, Civil Action No. 96-1285 (JR).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • January 30, 2008
    ...Cobell v. Norton, 240 F.3d 1081, 1086-94 (D.C.Cir.2001); Cobell v. Norton, 226 F.Supp.2d 1, 11-20 (D.D.C. 2002); Cobell v. Norton, 283 F.Supp.2d 66, 72-86 (D.D.C.2003). Those seeking Cliffs-Notes can even consult the Cobell v. Kempthorne Wikipedia entry (though the Court, of course, cannot ......
  • Chickasaw Nation v. Dep't of the Interior, No. CIV–05–1524–W
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Western District of Oklahoma
    • April 16, 2014
    ...As the Nations have argued, this duty to account encompasses trust assets, including non-monetary assets. E.g., Cobell v. Norton, 283 F.Supp.2d 66, 176–77 (D.D.C.2003) (" Cobell X "), partially vacated on other grounds, 392 F.3d 461 (D.C.Cir.2004) (allotted lands themselves are the "trust c......
  • Ramirez v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Civil Action No. 18-508 (RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 21, 2021
    ...injunctions, in 2003 and again in 2005, seeking to overhaul the Department of Interior programs at issue. See Cobell v. Norton , 283 F. Supp. 2d 66, 87–95 (D.D.C. 2003) (" Cobell III"), Cobell v. Norton , 357 F. Supp. 2d 298, 302–07 (D.D.C. 2005) (" Cobell V"). While both injunctions would ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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