Cobell Lawsuit: Plaintiffs, U.S. Agree to Mediators
Steady Progress in Cobell v Norton Class Action Lawsuit: Plaintiffs, U.S. Agree to Mediators in Trust Fund Lawsuit
From: Resources Communications 

[email protected] 

April 6, 2004

Subject: Cobell Lawsuit: Plaintiffs, U.S. Agree to Mediators

Paul Moorehead 202-224-2251 (Chairman Campbell),
Patricia Zell 202-224-2251 (Vice-Chairman Inouye),
Nicole Andrews or Brian Kennedy 202-226-9019 (Chairman Pombo),
Kristen Bossi 202-226-1736 (Ranking Member Rahall)
Steady Progress in Cobell v Norton Class Action Lawsuit: Plaintiffs, U.S. Agree to Mediators in Trust Fund Lawsuit
Washington, DC - After months of encouragement from the Senate Indian Affairs and the House Resources Committees, on Friday attorneys for the class of several hundred thousand Indian plaintiffs and representatives for the United States agreed to have Judge Charles Renfrew and Mr. John Bickerman serve as co-mediators of the eight-year old Cobell v Norton lawsuit.
Beginning in December 2003, the plaintiffs, defendants, and congressional staff have held a series of intense discussions designed to reach a mediated settlement. Renfrew and Bickerman have indicated their availability and willingness to serve as co-mediators and were selected from among eight candidates interviewed by the parties.
"I am very pleased the parties have come together and agreed to have these two distinguished men help bring a reasonable end to this case," said Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
"I commend the parties for agreeing to have these two gentlemen, known for their fairness and equity, aid in the long overdue resolution of this case," said Committee on Resources Chairman Richard W. Pombo. "This is another hopeful step in a very complicated case in which hundreds of thousands of individual Indians await a final and just conclusion."
Charles Renfrew was appointed as a Federal district court judge in California by President Nixon and served as Deputy Attorney General of the United States during the Carter Administration. He has also served as general counsel of Chevron Corporation and is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of CPR Institute for Dispute Resolution.
Mr. Bickerman is a full-time attorney-mediator in Washington, DC. Over the past 10 years he has mediated complex environmental, public policy, and commercial disputes, including disputes involving Indian tribes. He has taught dispute resolution courses, written articles and edited a book on the subject, focusing on the ethical issues confronting the dispute resolution profession. He is the Secretary of the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association.
The Individual Indian Money Account system was created in the late 19th century when vast tracts of tribally owned lands were broken up and allotted to individual Indians. The revenues from oil, gas, timber and other resources were deposited in accounts managed by the United States Department of Interior for the Indians.
Daniel K. Inouye, Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said, "I pray that we are finally on our way to resolution of this long-standing litigation. Too many beneficiaries have died while waiting for this matter to be resolved."
U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, (D-WV), the Ranking Democrat on the House Resources Committee, said, "I am pleased that mediators have been selected so that negotiations can move forward in good faith, as the eyes of Indian Country will be watching to see who is serious about resolving this lawsuit. We cannot fail in this endeavor as the scars of this injustice are so deep and a resolution is so close."