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Judge Removed from Indian Trust Case

By Daniel Kraker

Flagstaff, AZ – The federal judge overseeing the decade-long Indian trust fund lawsuit was removed from the case today. From KNAU's Indian Country News Bureau, Daniel Kraker reports.

The federal appeals court in Washington D.C. decided today to remove district court judge Royce Lamberth from the case. The justices ruled Lamberth had lost his objectivity. Lamberth had repeatedly sided with American Indian plaintiffs in the case. Who claim the government has mismanaged billions of dollars in federal trust accounts. Keith Harper is an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Harper: "It's a blow for the system, really. We have a situation here where we've had 100 years of delayed accounting, so on top of that we're going to remove the judge who's had great familiarity with the case. So it will in our view delay the proceedings further, and delay has been unconscionable already."

Over the past decade Lamberth has found interior secretaries Gale Norton and Bruce Babbitt in contempt of court for their handling of the case. The appellate court reversed Lamberth several times, including the contempt charge against Norton. The government petitioned to remove Lamberth after an especially harsh ruling last year. In that decision he suggested the interior department was racist. The district court in D.C. must now select a new judge to oversee the case.

For Arizona Public Radio, I'm Daniel Kraker