Defendants in the seven-year-old Fletcher v. USA gave attorneys a bit of a surprise at a scheduling conference in Tulsa Sept. 10.
“It turns out after 100 years, all we had to do in some cases was ask,” said Amanda Proctor, of Sneed Lang, P.C. and attorney for the plaintiffs. “We can report that there has been one settlement, involving the relinquishment of a Section 8 royalty interest, which is what is commonly referred to as a [share].”
“We actually have several defendants who have expressed interest to relinquish their shares,” Proctor said.
The scheduling conference was held to discuss the procedure the court will use to hear the case. Several defendants requested that the case be certified as a class action lawsuit, in which case all the defendants would be tried at once.
“I can say that many of the defendants [have gotten lawyers]. I think there were as many as 25 lawyers at the scheduling conference,” Proctor said. “One lawyer entered in an appearance for multiple defendants.”
Fletcher v. USA seeks an accounting and restoration of Osage trust shares from non-Osage shareholders. The plaintiffs in the case – Bill Fletcher, Charles Pratt, Cora Jean Jech, Juanita West and Betty Woody – do not seek money damages in the lawsuit but instead seek an accounting and the restoration of any and all trust assets the Defendants wrongfully depleted by improperly distributing the trust property generated from the Osage Mineral Estate during the case.
Proctor, Osage, explained that the court has the option of organizing the defendants into classes according to the categories of defendants. Because of the large number of defendants in the case, organizing the case as a class action lawsuit may be one option for managing the litigation.
“We are not prepared to indicate one way or another whether we will oppose,” Proctor said.
Fletcher attorneys have dismissed a group of about 50 defendants from the case, mostly people who shouldn’t have been on the non-Osage list the Bureau of Indian Affairs provided. The list contained 1,747 names of individuals, churches, colleges, institutions and organizations that they allege are in illegal possession of Osage mineral shares because of their non-Osage status. Unfortunately, the list wrongly named some non-Osages as in illegal possession and attorneys for the Fletcher case have been diligently working to dismiss anyone that is in rightful possession of a share.
“We’re preparing to dismiss another group of legally adopted children, who inherited from their direct ancestors,” Proctor said. “We will continue to dismiss anyone else that falls into one of the proper categories.”
Fletcher attorneys are required by the court to file a third amended complaint in the next 20 to 30 days to the Federal District Court in Tulsa, Proctor said. There also may be motions filed by the various defendants and legal issues to be addressed when the motions are made, Proctor said. At that time attorneys will also be dealing with the class certification.
“I think this is watershed moment for us as a tribe, speaking as a tribal member,” Proctor said. “I think our clients are concerned with the pursuit of justice for themselves and for the Nation and I think we’re moving in that direction.”
For more information on the list contact Amanda Proctor at (918) 583-3145.