In the winding history of the Indian land trust case, Cobell v. Kempthorne, few witnesses were as damning to the government as Robert McCarthy, a field lawyer in the Interior Department’s Office of the Solicitor. Without putting too fine a point on it, McCarthy’s October testimony battered the Interior Department’s central defense that it could account for leases it manages on behalf of 300,000 Indian landowners.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson was listening, and in a whimsical 165-page opinion last month, he pronounced the 12-year case closed, finding that the Interior was incapable of managing the trust.
The day after McCarthy notified the agency that he was a potential witness in the Cobell case, the Solicitor’s Office issued a proposal to fire him, allegedly for disclosing confidential information to a reporter back in April.
In a joint statement today, McCarthy and the Interior announced they had reached a settlement “that resolves all outstanding cases and controversies between them.” Per the agreement, which according to the statement "does not admit any liability or wrongdoing on the part of either party," McCarthy left the Interior on February 16.
“We could not be happier for Robert McCarthy,” said Paula Dinerstein, PEER's senior counsel.