Cobell v. Salazar

573 F.3d 808 (2009)

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Cobell v. Salazar

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
573 F.3d 808 (2009)

Facts

[Editor’s Note: This case was the last case of the lengthy Cobell litigation. The original appellate case in this litigation was Cobell v. Norton, 240 F.3d 1081 (D.C. Cir. 2001). For additional factual information, a summary of Cobell v. Norton can be found at https://www.quimbee.com/cases/cobell-v-norton.] Beneficiaries (plaintiffs) of Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust accounts brought a class-action suit against the Department of the Interior and others (the government) (defendants) to force the government to conduct a trust accounting to ensure the government was not mismanaging the trust accounts. A district court held that the government was obligated to determine the methodology and scope of such an accounting and perform the accounting pursuant to its statutory and fiduciary duties. Thereafter, however, the government determined that it lacked the resources to conduct a sufficient trust accounting, so it did not conduct any accounting. The district court gave deference to the government’s determination of both the methodology and scope of an accounting, and the district court therefore held that—although the government continued to breach its statutory and fiduciary duties by failing to conduct an accounting—an accounting was impossible as a matter of law. Due to the government’s failure to properly allocate and pay the trust funds to the beneficiaries, the district court awarded restitution to the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries and the government filed cross interlocutory appeals, respectively challenging the district’s holdings that a full accounting was impossible and that the government continued to breach its fiduciary duty.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Sentelle, C.J.)

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