Bittersweet Courtroom Win for American Indians
Last Thursday, Judge Federal District Court Judge James Robertson decided in favor of a group of Native Americans who had sued the Department of Interior
for the mismanagement of a government trust fund, finding that the state had shown gross negligence in its supervision of the fund. The suit was originally filed in 1996, and the descendants of the initial trustees (those looking for compensation in the case) now number 500,000. While Robertson decried the government’s conduct, he found that the trustees were only owed $455 million of the $48 billion that they claimed, arguing that the laws for government trusts differed than those for the private sector. The plaintiffs had claimed the larger figure represented the amount of money that the Department of Interior had made from fraud and misuse of the trust’s wealth.
Nevertheless, the judge was harshly critical of the government’s many blunders, which included the misplacement of important financial records. Robertson did not mandate that the Department of Interior pay the sum, but hearings deciding the details will follow in August.