Interior ripped on Indian royalties - Judge orders agency to admit its information lacks credibility

(Note: You've got to give this judge credit for his candor and honesty in the face of this apparent Medusa of Endless Excuses! One could almost call his courtroom "critical Babbittat!")
July 12, 2005
Associated Press
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Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Interior was ordered Tuesday -- by a judge who called it a "pathetic outpost" -- to admit it can't provide accurate information about lost royalties owed to American Indians.

In a scathing condemnation of the government's treatment of American Indians, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth directed the department to enclose notices in its correspondence saying information provided on trust assets may not be credible.

Interior Department officials called Lamberth's language "intemperate rhetoric uncommon to jurisprudence but made common in this case."

The notices also are meant to alert people that they may be members of the class-action lawsuit brought by lead plaintiff Eloise Cobell in 1996.

Cobell filed a lawsuit on behalf of 300,000 American Indians.

Under Lamberth's order, the notices must say: "Evidence introduced in the Cobell case shows that any information related to (American Indian trust accounts) ... from the Department of the Interior may be unreliable."

Lamberth has been locked in a nine-year battle with Interior Department leadership -- both Secretary Gale Norton and her Clinton administration predecessor, Bruce Babbitt -- over the department's inability to come up with an accurate accounting of what American Indians are owed.

The judge has held both administrators in contempt of court.


Copyright 2005, The Houston Chronicle.