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Indian Trust Fund Litigation: Legislation to Resolve Accounting Claims in Cobell v. Norton

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The Cobell v. Norton litigation has been before the courts since 1996. Cobell is a class action lawsuit alleging federal government mismanagement of accounts held in trust for individual Indians. To date the litigation has not been able to secure from the Department of the Interior sufficient data in the form of an historical accounting to determine the accuracy of the payments to individual account holders. Although a full historical accounting is unlikely to be judicially required, the prospect that pursuit of an accounting through litigation will be costly, protracted, and elusive has resulted in the introduction of S. 1439/H.R. 4322 and a concerted effort by Indian representatives to develop principles for a legislative settlement. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the development of a legislative solution. Updates will occur as warranted by legislative activity. Background information on the history, major developments and issues in the Cobell litigation is provided in CRS Report RS21738, The Indian Trust Fund Litigation: An Overview of Cobell v. Norton, by Nathan Brooks and M. Maureen Murphy.