Before she sued the government nearly 14 years ago over the mismanagement of a trust set up for Native Americans, Elouise Cobell wanted assurance from her lead lawyer, Dennis Gingold, that he was in it for the long haul. According to Gingold, he didn't hesitate. "No matter what it takes, I'll be there till the end," he told her.
Gingold was true to his word. According to Bill Dorris, co-managing partner of Kilpatrick Stockton, which teamed up with Gingold a few years after the case was filed, Gingold has worked on the case every day since it was filed. It’s easy to understand why it required such effort. Gingold told us that throughout the litigation, he was up against, among others, the civil and environmental divisions of the Justice Department; the U.S. attorney's offices in Washington, D.C., and Denver; and more than 50 law firms representing government officials. Throughout the case, Gingold says there have been more than 3,600 filings at the district court level, more than 80 published opinions, and ten appeals.
"We knew that if we didn't do this and do it right, it was highly unlikely anyone would have done anything for these people," said Gingold.
Cobell acknowledged Gingold's work at a press conference inside the Department of Interior building in Washington, D.C., this week where the government announced that it would spend $3.4 billion to settle the historic suit. "None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the concerted efforts of an extraordinary legal team and the support of generous funders," said Cobell in prepared remarks. "I am particularly grateful for the insight, vision, hard work, and sense of justice that Dennis M. Gingold understands so clearly. I dedicate this settlement to him. It was his understanding of the historic mismanagement and his incredible, superhuman commitment to seeking justice for Individual Indian Money account holders that brought us to this point today. And while compromise is not in his DNA, those who benefit from his long, hard work on this case will always honor his contribution."
During her remarks, Cobell also credited lawyers from Kilpatrick Stockton. One of them, Keith Harper, who heads the firm's Native American Affairs practice group, worked on the case from the beginning. Back then, he was a young attorney with the Native American Rights Fund. He was eventually named class counsel alongside Gingold. "Keith was one of the bright young guys who jumped on the case and did a very fine job," said Gingold.
Gingold and Harper complemented each other well, according to Dorris. Gingold, who had been a partner at major firms such as Kirkland & Ellis and Dickstein Shapiro, was an expert in banking and trust laws. He was also the architect of the legal strategy, which included the novel approach of suing the government in district court instead of federal claims court. And Harper provided the necessary expertise in Native American laws.
Gingold and Harper both praised their colleagues, which include retired attorney Thaddeus Holt and Kilpatrick attorneys Bill Dorris, Adam Charnes, David Smith, Elliott Levitas, and Justin Guilder. "It's been fantastic to work with this exceptional team," said Harper.
They'll still have time to work with each other. The settlement must be approved by Congress and the district court in Washington, D.C.
Solo Practitioner Dennis Gingold and Keith Harper of Kilpatrick Stockton
The Litigation Daily