ATLANTA – Lawyers from the Atlanta law firm of Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP were awarded the 2011 American Bar Association 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 Indians.
The Pursuit of Justice Award was presented 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.
The ABA Pursuit of Justice Award recognizes outstanding merit in lawyers and judges who have excelled in providing access to justice for all. The award will be presented during the “TIPS Corporate Counsel Networking, Diversity in the Profession and Pursuit of Justice Award Reception” at the ABA Midyear Meeting Feb. 10 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
The ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section unites plaintiff, defense, insurance, and corporate counsel to advance the civil justice system. TIPS is a national source of expertise in tort, trial and insurance practice and brings lawyers together to share information and speak out on issues of importance. The section has about 30,000 members and 32 general committees that focus on substantive and procedural matters in areas across the broad spectrum of civil law and practice.
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.