Appeals in the landmark case of Cobell v. Kempthorne are likely to be argued before the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Spring of 2009. The first briefs are to be filed on Jan. 21 and the last by April 7, 2009, with oral argument to be set at the earliest practical date thereafter. At issue is a District Court order that awarded $455.6 million to thousands of Native American plaintiffs, who are pursuing claims that the government breached its trust responsibility to an estimated 500,000 Native Americans who had individual Indian Money Accounts managed by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Treasury. In terms of the number of plaintiffs and the dollars sought, the case has been called the largest class-action lawsuit in American history. The plaintiffs have appealed on the basis that the award is far too small to adequately compensate Native Americans across the country for the loss of funds that were to be handled by the government for their benefit; the government has also appealed, asserting that the plaintiffs are owed nothing and that the federal departments are immune from suit.
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