My favorite judge
Royce Lamberth, of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia is one of my favorite judges. Conservative, intemperate, and highly critical of both Republican and Democratic administrations.
For the last few years, he has presided over litigation arising from the Department of Interiors management of the Indian Trust Funds - these were set up by the Federal Government to look after the monies owned to Native Americans from the use of their lands for numerous purposes, but mostly minerals extraction. They grew out of the treaties signed with the various indian nation's in the late 1800s. Not surprisingly, back then , they trusts weren't managed well. What is surprising (or not) is that they are still managed in the same negligent fashion - with an assumption that the Indians will never ask for any of the money they are owed.
He held Bruce Babbit in comtempt over the failure of the Clinton Adminsitration to produce the records interior was supposed to maintain, and he is now hitting the Bush administraion hard for the faults of interior.
His most recent ruling is a doozy, and should be read by everyone with a suspcion of the Government. Here's some highlights.
Our 'modern' Interior Department has time and again demonstrated that it 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, the last pathetic outpost of the indifference and anglocentrism we thought we had left behind
. . . .
For those harboring hope that the stories of murder, dispossession, forced marches, assimilationist policy programs, and other incidents of cultural genocide against the Indians are merely the echoes of a horrible, bigoted government-past that has been sanitized by the good deeds of more recent history, this 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
. . . .
Perhaps Interior's past and present leaders have been evil people, deriving their pleasure from inflicting harm on society's most vulnerable
. . . .
Interior may be consistently populated with apathetic people who just cannot muster the necessary energy or emotion to avoid complicity in the department's grossly negligent administration of the Indian Trust. Or maybe Interior's officials are cowardly people who dodge their responsibilities out of a childish fear of the magnitude of effort involved in reforming a degenerate system.
Of course, he dismissed these as mere theories, finding instead that
Perhaps Interior as an institution is so badly broken that even the most well-intentioned initiatives are polluted and warped by the processes of implementation
. . . .
Giving up on rehabilitating Interior would signal more than the downfall of a single administrative agency
It would constitute an announcement that negligence and incompetence in government are beyond judicial remedy, that bureaucratic recalcitrance has outpaced and rendered obsolete our vaunted system of checks and balances, and that people are simply at the mercy of governmental whim with no chance for salvation.
The Court clings to a slim and quickly receding hope that future progress may vitiate the need for such a grim declaration
All hail Royce Lamberth!!!