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US Interior Department 'unreasonably delayed' Indian Trust accounting: judge

[JURIST] A federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia Wednesday ruled [PDF text] that the US Department of the Interior (DOI) [official website] "unreasonably delayed" the accounting of billions of dollars of American Indian money [DOI Indian Trust Fund website], adding that it is now impossible for the DOI to remedy the breach. The decade-old Indian Trust case [Cobell v. Norton litigation website; JURIST news archive] returned to court [JURIST report] in October when US District Judge James Robertson held an evidentiary hearing. The class-action suit involves the DOI's alleged mismanagement of Native American money, including lease and sales revenues, permit fees and interest received and held for Native Americans by the US government over the last 120 years. Lead Plaintiff Elouise Cobell called the ruling "a great day in Indian Country" [press release], and said the plaintiffs looked forward to the next hearing in February to form a solution.

In March, the Native American plaintiffs rejected [JURIST report] a $7 billion settlement proposal from the US government. Some read the offer as a governmental acknowledgment of liability, but DOI officials disputed that interpretation. The plaintiffs criticized the settlement offer as "pennies on the dollar" in respect of the value of their claim as well as for its attempt to preclude further claims. AP has more.

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