April 06, 2010 –
The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation attorney’s office is urging tribal members who may have an interest in individual Indian trust land or are an Individual Indian Money (IIM) Account Holder or are an heir of one, to register for court-ordered communication about what is happening on their accounts or other trust assets by going to www.cobellsettlement.com.
Indian people are also being urged by Elouise Cobell, who first filed the lawsuit in 1996,to write or call their congressional representatives about making sure the legislation is passed that will authorize the settlement.
Last December U.S. government leaders announced a settlement of the long-running Cobell class-action lawsuit regarding the government’s trust management and accounting of over three hundred thousand American Indian trust accounts. Congress is now getting ready to decide if and when it will administer the settlement since the U.S. government is the Trustee for all funds earned on Indian lands.
According to the website, if and when the legislation passes, the Parties will ask the Court to preliminarily approve the agreement and certify the Trust Administration portion of the litigation as a class action. (In a class action, representative plaintiffs sue on behalf of one another who are in the same or a similar situation.) Another group, the Historical Accounting Class has already been certified by the Court so in order to proceed, the Court must determine if the Trust Administration aspects of the class action meet requirements outlined by Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
If the Court grants the approval and certifies the class action, notice will be given to Class Members through a Direct Class notice. According to the website, many of the IIM Account Holders and other Class Members or those with interests in individual Indian trust land are not identifiable or their addresses are not up to date. Therefore, Tribal members who believe they might be due funds earned on Indian lands should go online and sign up with the Register to Get Notice with the Claims Administrator atwww.cobellsettlement.com/class/index.php#register as those identified will be sent a Direct Class Notice.
After Class Members get notice they must decide whether or not to participate in the Trust Administration Class. If Class Members decide not to participate, they must tell the Claims Administrator they are not participating. Otherwise, no action is needed on their part.
Next, the Court will hold a Fairness Hearing to decide if the Settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate after the notice period is complete. Following that, there will be an appeal period and lastly, final approval will be made and money distributed to Class Members as outlined in the Settlement Agreement.
Much more information is available on the website or call toll free at 1 (800) 961-6109.