Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bureau of Indian Affairs: Federal Judge Removed After Speaking Out

Judge Who Ruled Government Accountable for Indian Trust Malfeasance Removed
FCNL Praises Judge Royce Lamberth
July 12, 2006

The U.S. Court of Appeals decision to remove District Court Justice Royce Lamberth from the Indian trust fund mismanagement case presents a new challenge for efforts to win justice for Native Americans, the Friends Committee on National Legislation said today.

Over a century ago, in 1887, the federal government insisted on collecting money owed to Native Americans for use of their land and holding it in trust. But the federal government failed to maintain a full accounting of tens of billions of dollars in rents and royalties and now states that a complete accounting is impossible. Working through the system, a half-million individual American Indians sued the federal government in the case originally known as Cobell v. Norton (now known as Cobell v. Kempthorne) to force the Department of the Interior to provide an accounting of their land-use money.

Judge Lamberth, in describing the situation, wrote: “The idea that Interior would either instruct or allow BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] to withhold trust payments, and then to stonewall the Indians who dared to ask why, is an obscenity that harkens back to the darkest days of United States–Indian relations.” In removing Judge Lamberth, the appellate court cited an opinion issued last July in which Judge Lamberth wrote passionately for justice for Native Americans trust account plaintiffs.

“Judge Lamberth has listened to people long ignored. We appreciate his heartfelt passion and his plain-spokenness,” said Joe Volk, Executive Secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. “It is difficult to think of another person who has risked so much professionally to stop egregious conduct against American Indians who have done nothing wrong and to encourage our government to demonstrate that this is a new era of reconciliation where it can be counted on by Native American people.” Volk expressed satisfaction that the higher court found the Indians’ case had merit and that reforming the Indian trust fund system was a worthy cause.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a non-partisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from many different races, religions, and cultures to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government. For more information:


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