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Federal judge promises to set dollar figure on US mismanagement of Indian trust

[JURIST] US District Judge James Robertson said Monday in a court hearing that he would set a dollar figure [plaintiffs press release] on the US government's alleged mismanagement of trust funds for a group of some 500,000 Native Americans in a 12-year class action lawsuit [plaintiffs website; JURIST news archive] against the US Department of the Interior [official website]. Plaintiffs led by Eloise Cobell have argued that federal government owes them $58 billion, representing its profits from land use violative of trust terms. Congress established the Indian trust in 1887 to hold proceeds from government-arranged leases of Indian lands. Lawyers for the US government have argued that little trust monies are missing from its accounts and have discouraged Robertson from setting any kind of figure. Robertson has scheduled additional hearings for June, telling the parties in the meantime that "My stewardship of this case will be something with a dollar sign." AP has more.

In an incendiary opinion [text] in 2005, District Court Judge Royce Lamberth required the Interior Department to apologize to the plaintiffs [JURIST report] for its handling of the trust, and to admit that information being provided to them regarding outstanding lost royalties on earnings from Indian land may be unreliable. In 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit removed Lamberth [JURIST report] and reassigned the case to Robertson.

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