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Federal judge sets June trial date in Indian Trust lawsuit

[JURIST] A federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday scheduled a June trial to resolve the decade-old Indian Trust case [Cobell v. Norton litigation website; JURIST news archive]. In January, US District Judge James Robertson ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] 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], saying it was impossible for the DOI to remedy the breach. 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. Robertson said Wednesday that he means for the upcoming trial to bring final resolution to the dispute, and a lawyer for the plaintiffs told AP that he was optimistic that the trial would determine the value of the trust accounts.

Last 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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