Lawyers are "in discussion regarding possibly extending the deadline" to finalize a $1.41 billion settlement in long-running Indian trust litigation, a lawyer for lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell confirmed.
The settlement agreement required Congress to pass legislation by Dec. 31 authorizing payment to the plaintiffs, something that didn't happen before legislators left town for the holidays. Kilpatrick Stockton partner Keith Harper, one of the lawyers for Cobell, said in an e-mail that he wasn't at liberty to confirm anything beyond the ongoing discussions.
Obama administration officials hailed the settlement earlier this month. It would end the massive case, which began more than 13 years ago. The plaintiffs, a class of more than 300,000 American Indians, have demanded an accounting of how the government handled a fund set up for the collection and dispersal of billions of dollars in natural resources royalties flowing from American Indian land. Read a recent story in The National Law Journal about the settlement here.
To make the settlement work, lawyers for the plaintiffs agreed to cap legal fees at $100 million (read a previous BLT post on that here). But they also filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court last week, preserving their options because the settlement is not final.