The deadline for congressional approval of the settlement of a long-running class action suit filed on behalf of more than 300,000 American Indians has been extended until May 31, The Blog of Legal Times reported Thursday.
Senior Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia announced the new deadline for approval of the Cobell v. Salazar settlement in court Thursday following a 45-minute meeting with Justice and Interior lawyers and the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
The congressional deadline for endorsing the $1.41 billion deal has now been extended three times since Justice Department and Interior Department officials announced in December that they had reached a deal with the American Indian plaintiffs on the mishandling of thousands of individual Indian trust fund accounts over more than a century.
“The need for Congress to act is real,” Robertson said, according to The BLT. “It needs to get done.”
Robertson said he will hold a public hearing if Congress fails to approve the settlement by the May deadline.
Keith Harper, a lead attorney for the plaintiffs including Elouise Cobell, said he is frustrated that Congress hasn’t held floor votes on the legislation to endorse the settlement. Harper said the “vast majority” of people contacted by the plaintiffs support the deal.
Obama administration officials, including Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli and Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes, have encouraged Congress to move on the settlement legislation quickly.
“The message from the judge today is this needs to get done,” Hayes told The BLT. “We welcome the message.”
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