Attorneys who represented Eloise Cobell, the lead plaintiff in the Indian Trust Fund case, are seeking to more than double their fee request for their role in winning the $3.4 billion dollar settlement.
According to an article by Mike Scarcella in The National Law Review, Dennis Gingold and lawyers from the firm Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton have filed a fee petition in federal court in Washington D.C. that seeks to increase their originally agreed upon fee cap of $100 million to $233 million.
Former Senator Byron Dorgan, D-North Dakota described the request as a “cruel irony” in an article by Rob Capriccioso of Indian Country Today. In his role as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Dorgan has been a long time supporter of American Indians and a proponent of settling the trust fund case.
“It’s a profound disappointment to me that the lawyers are trying to go beyond the agreement reached by Congress,” said Dorgan.
“It is a cruel irony that the very lawyers who are supposed to be fighting for Indian interests are now “chipping away at their justice… The case was about trying to get money to Native Americans—not to lawyers,” he said, adding that there is already, “plenty of money within the context of the settlement for the lawyers.”
Dorgan said that the “nearly one-quarter of a billion dollars” the lawyers are now requesting would have “never gotten through Congress in the first place” had the lawyers been clear with their intentions from the outset.
Capriccioso notes that Justice Department officials are describing the fee request as “defective and not in compliance with the letter of spirit of the Settlement Agreement that the parties jointly submitted on December 10, 2010, for the Court’s consideration and preliminary approval.”
Capriccioso reports that a Justice Department spokeswoman said it’s safe to assume that the agency will continue to argue that the funds included in the settlement should go directly to the plaintiffs, and not to the lawyers in the case.