Dennis Gingold, the lead lawyer for the long-running Cobell Indian trust litigation against the U.S. Department of the Interior, has left the case, according to court documents.
In his years of representing the case, first filed in 1996, the private practitioner had been a vocal critic of the federal government for its failure to conduct an accounting of mismanaged Indian trust.
After a $3.4 billion settlement was announced in December 2009 between the Cobell team and President Barack Obama’s administration, Gingold became an equally vocal critic of anyone who questioned terms of the settlement, including four Indians who appealed it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying it was unjust based on class-action law, fees, and other issues.
Late last month, the Interior Department announced that the appeals had run their course, and that checks should soon be mailed to class members.
Some administrative details are left to be handled on the case, so Gingold’s exit before all class members received their payments from the settlement was surprising to some long-time case observers.
“He must have gotten his money,” reflected Kimberly Craven, one of the Native American appellants of the settlement. Lawyers in the case were due to receive up to $100 million, according to the settlement terms. Gingold had previously argued that the lawyers were due almost $225 million. Most class members are scheduled to receive less than $2,000, so the lawyers’ fees have remained controversial.
Gingold has not responded to multiple requests for comment on why he left now and how much he was paid in the end.
Documents filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on December 4 say that Gingold, along with lawyer Thaddeus Holt “hereby provide notice of their withdrawal as attorneys in this action in accordance with LCvR 83.6(b).”
The filing indicates that class representatives James Louis LaRose, Thomas Maulson and Penny Cleghorn have consented to the withdrawal.
“William E. Dorris, Keith Harper, David C. Smith and other attorneys from Kilpatrick Townsend and Stockton, LLP will continue as Class Counsel in this case,” according to the documents.