around the bar
February 8, 2011

Atlanta Law Firm Honored by for Historic Victory Against Discrimination of American Indians

50500_320267007204_4441818_nLawyers from the Atlanta law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP will be awarded the 2011 _ Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section Pursuit of Justice Award for their efforts in the historic class action lawsuit of Cobell v. Salazar. This class action remedied years of discrimination against American Indian farmers.

The Pursuit of Justice Award recognizes outstanding merit in lawyers and judges who have excelled in providing access to justice for all. The 2011 award will be presented Thursday, Feb. 10 at the “TIPS Corporate Counsel Networking, Diversity in the Profession and Pursuit of Justice Award Reception” at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, during the 2011 ABA Midyear Meeting.

After 14 years of litigation and months of negotiations, lawyers from Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP of Atlanta won a settlement of $3.4 billion for American Indians who were victims of theft and mismanagement of their trust assets by the U.S. government. The settlement required congressional approval and on Friday, Dec. 8, 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, ending years of discrimination and providing funding and statutory authorities for the settlement agreements.

This case was fiercely litigated through the courts with more than 3,600 filings in the district court alone, as well as more than 80 published judicial opinions. Plaintiffs asserted that U.S. Department of Interior officials mismanaged royalties from leases of tribal land used to harvest oil, minerals and timber and that discriminatory USDA policies resulted in disparate access to agency resources, such as federal loans.

The Kilpatrick Townsend team of lawyers who represented the Cobell plaintiffs include: Elliott H. Levitas, Keith M. Harper, David C. Smith, Adam H. Charnes, William E. Dorris, G. William Austin III, Justin M. Guilder, Michael Alexander Pearl and James J. Hefferan Jr. Additionally, Washington, D.C., solo practitioner, Dennis Gingold was also key in representing the plaintiffs in this historic class action.

“We are honored to present this team of lawyers with the ABA Pursuit of Justice Award for their tireless efforts in this case. Due to their willingness to seek justice, light has been shed on past injustice and equality has been ensured for future generations,” said Jennifer “Ginger” Busby of Birmingham, Ala., current ABA Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section chair.

Comments (1)

  • Jim Lamenti
    4:33 PM February 9, 2011

    It is my understanding that presentations are being provided to tribal members, i.e., White Mountain Apache Reservation, Navajo Nation, etc.
    My American Indian members from Oklahoma, Nebraska, midstate are affected; however, relocation brought them to the urban areas, Oakland, CA for instance. Will there be presentations provided to the American Indian populations in the urban areas. Oakland would be a great place start with urban presentations and could possible be carried out at the Intertribal Friendship House in Oakland. The Director is Carol Wahpepah at (510)836-1955. I can be contacted at (925) 689-5808