October 13, 1999



FROM: Robert J. Freeman, Executive Director

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to issue advisory opinions.
The ensuing staff advisory opinion is based solely upon the information presented in your


I have received your letter of August 26 in which you expressed frustration concerning your inability to acquire information or attend meetings concerning negotiations relating to Indian land claims.

In this regard, an order issued by Judge McCurn of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York includes the following directive:

"The settlement process is a confidential process. That process, including any documents submitted to or prepared by the Settlement Master, and any statements made during that
process are for settlement purposes only, are confidential, and shall be treated as compromise negotiations under Rule 408 of the Federal Rules of Evidence."

In view of the court order, in my opinion, the negotiating process must be confidential, and I note that §108(3) of the Open Meetings Law exempts from its coverage "matters made confidential by state or federal law."

I hope that the foregoing serves to clarify your understanding of the matter and that I have been of assistance.