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October 05, 2011

Cobell case judge warns lawyers

An unhappy judge is chastising lawyers in the massive Cobell  #nativeamerican asset case, and he warns that sanctions could come next.

Cobell, remember, is the case in which the judge finally approved a $3.4 billion settlement to resolve complaints about how the Interior Department managed assets for some 450,000 Indians. A Ms. Kimberly Craven is seeking to challenge the settlement; the Cobell attorneys asked the judge to order Ms. Craven to first post an $8.3 million appeal bond.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan in a 16-page opinion told attorneys for the Cobell plaintiffs that he'll want answers to some tough questions. After rejecting their request that he order Ms.Craven to post an appeal bond, Judge Hogan goes on to note, witheringly,

"While the Court is sympathetic to the plaintiffs’ concern that the appeals will delay the administration and distribution of the settlement to so many people who have waited so long for justice, that does not translate into a willingness by this Court to quietly overlook the misleading case citations and unsupported legal argument throughout the plaintiffs’ motions and reply brief."

It gets better worse. After citing multiple examples, Judge Hogan states that "the plaintiffs’ motion and reply brief go beyond fair advocacy and border on misrepresentation." While allowing that he does not believe sanctions are warranted "at this time," he ordered the Cobell attorneys to prepare a written response to his critique.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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