Skip to comments.Panel orders judge removed from case - Federal Judge Royce Lamberth
Posted on 07/11/2006 6:28:23 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - Federal Judge Royce Lamberth has long been known for speaking his mind most notably in rulings siding with American Indians in their battle with the government over their trust funds. But Lamberth went a step too far, an appeals court said Tuesday, citing one particularly harsh decision last July in which he accused the government of racism.
In a rare move, a panel of judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered Lamberth removed from the 10-year-old Indian trust case, saying he had lost his objectivity.
"We conclude, reluctantly, that this is one of those rare cases in which reassignment is necessary," the judges wrote in a decision reversing two other Lamberth rulings.
When he lambasted the Interior Department in a decision last July, the government petitioned to remove him from the case, arguing he was too biased to continue.
The department, Lamberth wrote in the opinion, "is a dinosaur the morally and culturally oblivious hand-me-down of a disgracefully racist and imperialist government that should have been buried a century ago."
Writing for the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge David Tatel said Lamberth was understandably frustrated. But the July decision combined with eight rulings the court said were evidence of bias went too far, Tatel wrote.
Lamberth did not immediately return a call to his office for comment.
Led by Blackfeet Indian Elouise Cobell, the plaintiffs claim the government has mismanaged oil, gas, timber and other royalties from their lands since 1887 costing them tens of billions of dollars.
Her lawsuit was filed in June 1996 and was assigned to Lamberth, a conservative Reagan appointee from Texas. Over the past decade, Lamberth has surprised many with his severe rulings accusing the government of malfeasance and incompetence in its dealings with Indians.
The case has bounced between the district and appeals courts. Lamberth has held interior secretaries Gale Norton and Bruce Babbitt in contempt and twice ordered the Interior Department to disconnect its computers.
Many of his decisions have been overturned by the appeals court, including the contempt charge against Norton.
Lawyers familiar with Lamberth say he is known for holding the government to a high standard, a principle he developed in the U.S. Attorney's office and later as a judge overseeing wiretap warrants for the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
But they also said he had become very invested in the Indians' case.
Tatel wrote that the appellate ruling "presents an opportunity for a fresh start" and urged both sides to work on a solution.
Interior officials said they look forward to moving on.
But Cobell said the plaintiffs will appeal part of the decision. She added: "With any new judge, we will continue to prevail."
Congress may ultimately decide the case, however. The plaintiffs have offered to settle, and are working with Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., to come up with an amount.
Joining Tatel in the ruling were Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, appointed by President George W. Bush, and Senior Circuit Judge Laurence H. Silberman, appointed by President Ronald Reagan. Tatel was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
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Wow, I'll say it's rare. Judges are just as much of a tribe as "journalists."
Looks like he ate all the Indians.
I always thought he was nutty, and this Panel certifies him. Most of what he brought were harrassment suits, much as his protege, Tom Fitton, is doing with the Bush White House.
Yeah, well I once voted for Jimmy Carter. People DO change.
I'm surprised Lambeth kept his cool as long as he did. The Interior Department has just treated the whole case with utter contempt and arrogance from day 1. Concealing records, destroying records, perjury, endless delays, and generally just blowing off their responsibilities. You can't make us do anything we don't want to.
I have never heard of a federal judge who swallowed so much abuse without going postal. Several of those Interior attorneys would have been serving years in jail if I had been on that bench. For the last seven years I would have been issuing bench warrants when any of those bureaucrats tried to pull my chain or blow me off.
Let's see how responsive an undersecretary can get when federal marshals haul him to court in handcuffs to testify under oath.
I love reading that!
IMHO, her Heinousness Hillary finally got some of her own back...http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/hillary_rodham_clinton/index.html?query=LAMBERTH,%20ROYCE%20C&field=per&match=exact
Regardless of all else - anyone who has researched and read documents and evidence on how the gov't continues to skim all but pennies on the dollar from the royalties due the Indian landowners -know what a disgrace it is.
The Indians 'own' their land in name only = they have no say in who 'leases' it for what reasons and, even then, they are not allowed to deal directly with the leasee - because the gov't, still operating under 100+ year old rulings, deem the Indians incapable of handling their own affairs.
The American Indian: the unseen minority
This case is, and always has been, about money.
The whole ball of wax.
If any other 'monority' were treated as the American Indian - the unseen minority = there would be hell to pay
Given how easily they were duped by Jack Abramoff, I'd say the government has a pretty good case.
If being duped by operators like Abramoff means you are incapable of being treated like a human being = where does that leave at least half the country? And who gets to decide who needs to be ruled and who does the ruling
The more responsible Native Americans left these hellholes the minute they could thumb a ride out and have never returned.
They do know how to run a good casino operation, however.
Finally! Lamberth has been the chief enabler of one of the all time great scams in lawyerdom. These Indian allottees have, with the help of Lamberth, managed to turn a $67 audit finding into a $178 Billion claim. They are hoping to settle for around $30 billion, without one single shred of evidence to support them. And the tribal claims are not far behind.
Interior Department employees and managers have spent tens of thousands of hours attempting to comply with the orders of the special master. The BIA, MMS, OST, and BLM have worked relentlessly to attempt to protect records (forever, under the orders), and to attempt to recreate what existed more than a hundred years ago. Every effort to make a reasonable settlement has been turned down, in spite of a complete lack of any evidence of any underpayment to the allottees. Lamberth has shut down computer systems time and again, delaying accurate accounting and payment to the very Indians he is (for all intents and purposes) representing.
Special offices were set up in Interior, high level officials appointed, new procedures established, and million of dollars spent on trying to comply with the numerous one sided decisions of this absurd judge.
But Cobell and her attorneys, with the help of Lamberth has turned this $67 finding into a $178 billion claim. No evidence, nothing. Interior has done audit after audit, using most of the big name audit firms as well as Interior audit resources.
Please explain exactly how that skimming of Indian royalties takes place.
All the $$$$$$ will be shifted to the Soc. Sec "Fund" so they can give benefits to illegal liens. Thought everyone knew that.
Sorry, folks, that's not how government records are maintained over long periods of time.
For the most part records are placed in boxes, labels showing agency and date are placed on the boxes, and they are shipped off to a federal records center, somewhere, somehow.
Water seeps in. Fires happen. Paper crumples. Ink fades. Boxes are misplaced (among millions of other boxes).
I think Judge Lamberth forgot about the "passage of time" and what it does to boxes of paper.