- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Federal Judge Royce C. Lamberth long has 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 Judge Lamberth went a step too far, an appeals court said yesterday, citing a 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 Judge 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 that he was too biased to continue.

The Interior Department, Judge 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.”

He also said the case “serves as an appalling reminder” of “the evils that result when large numbers of the politically powerless are placed at the mercy of institutions engendered and controlled by a politically powerful few” and an echo of “the stories of murder, dispossession, forced marches, assimilationist policy programs and other incidents of cultural genocide against the Indians.”

Writing for the three-judge panel, Circuit Judge David S. Tatel said Judge Lamberth understandably was frustrated. But the July decision — combined with eight rulings that the court said were evidence of bias — went too far, Judge Tatel wrote.

Judge Lamberth did not return a call to his office for comment.

Led by Blackfeet Indian Elouise Cobell, the plaintiffs say the government has mismanaged oil, gas, timber and other royalties from their lands since 1887, costing them tens of billions of dollars.

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