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Federal Judge to order accounting in Fletcher case

Federal Judge Gregory Frizzell is set to make a ruling in Fletcher v. United States and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear is in support of the case.

Standing Bear said even though the Osage Nation does not have an official role in the case he and his wife are shareholders and the case is for the benefit of Osage shareholders.

“As far as I’m concerned if the Fletcher team needs costs for the case, I’m not talking about attorney fees, costs such as mailing costs to Osage shareholders, I think the Osage Nation should assist,” Standing Bear said. “That may not sound like much of a contribution but as an attorney, but I can tell you any help you can get in litigation like this, when you are representing thousands of people, is appreciated.”

Since 2002 the Fletcher Case has languished in federal court, changing directions several times. It has seen seven dismissals, three amended complaints, a first and second successful appeal to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals sent it back to district court. The case started out with five plaintiffs and all but two have died during the course of the lawsuit. The only plaintiff left is William Fletcher, of Hominy.

The Fletcher Case has not received support from the Osage Nation or the Osage Minerals Council. However, after an Oct. 23 hearing attorneys for the shareholders are expecting Judge Frizzell to issue a ruling that protects the interests of the Osage shareholders.

“The judge did not order the U.S. to account yet and we do not yet know the scope of that accounting. But, it sounded to me that the Judge was going to order the USA to account,” said lead attorney Jason Aamodt of Indian & Environmental Law Group, PLLC. “We don’t know how far back the judge is going to require them to account for exactly. It could include lease income or bonuses, how much oil and gas was produced over time, whether the money received was handled reasonably, or whether interest was collected; those are the kinds of things that will be considered.”

Also possible is the judge could request an accounting going all the way back to 1906.

The Fletcher Case is a class-action lawsuit, with more than 5,000 plaintiffs – all Osage shareholders. The case is different than the Osage Trust Case, which was settled with the U.S. Government for $380 million in 2011. The Trust Case asked for damages for the United States not obtaining the highest posted price for oil production. The Fletcher Case asks whether the right payment was made to the right people. Non-Indians, entities and institutions have received royalty payments from the Osage Mineral Estate for decades, and the Fletcher legal team contends they shouldn’t have been.

Defunct corporations and entities are still receiving royalty payments from the Osage Mineral Estate, but until the Bureau of Indian Affairs is forced to do an accounting of the payments it is unknown where the royalties are going.

“We really think Judge Frizzell is working to bring justice in this case,” Aamodt said.


Shannon Shaw Duty

Original Publish Date: 2015-10-28 00:00:00


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Shannon Shaw Duty
Shannon Shaw Duty

Title: Editor


Twitter: @dutyshaw

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Culture, Community

Languages spoken: English, Osage (intermediate), Spanish (beginner)

Shannon Shaw Duty, Osage from the Grayhorse District, is the editor of the award-winning Osage News, the official independent media of the Osage Nation. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in Legal Studies with an emphasis in Indigenous Peoples Law. She currently sits on the Freedom of Information Committee for the Society of Professional Journalists. She has served as a board member for LION Publishers, as Vice President for the Pawhuska Public Schools Board of Education, on the Board of Directors for the Native American Journalists Association (now Indigenous Journalists Association) and served as a board member and Chairwoman for the Pawhuska Johnson O’Malley Parent Committee. She is a Chips Quinn Scholar, a former instructor for the Freedom Forum’s Native American Journalism Career Conference and the Freedom Forum’s American Indian Journalism Institute. She is a former reporter for The Santa Fe New Mexican. She is a 2012 recipient of the Native American 40 Under 40 from the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. In 2014 she helped lead the Osage News to receive NAJA's Elias Boudinot Free Press Award. The Osage News won Best Newspaper from the SPJ-Oklahoma Chapter in their division 2018-2022. Her award-winning work has been published in Indian Country Today, The Washington Post, the Center for Public Integrity, NPR, the Associated Press, Tulsa World and others. She currently resides in Pawhuska, Okla., with her husband and together they share six children, two dogs and two cats.

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