FROM THE ARCHIVE

Commentary: Critics of Cobell Lamberth shortsighted

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MONDAY, JULY 21, 2003

Critics of the Cobell plaintiffs and federal district court Judge Royce Lamberth aren't seeing the big picture of the Indian trust fund fiasco, attorney Lee Helfrich contends.

Helfrich, who is in private practice, writes about the case for The Washington Post's opinion and commentary section. She say the problems it has uncovered show how a legal principle known as Chevron deference -- the practice of courts deferring to the federal agencies -- needs limits.

"The Indian Trust Fund case is not about bureaucratic business as usual. It is not about Interior and Justice executing their respective responsibilities with the comfort of knowing the 'Chevron deference' will apply," Helfrich says. "Instead it is about a standard of ethics. The U.S. government bears a fiduciary duty to Native Americans -- the highest duty recognized under law."

Those who question Lamberth's "peculiar dialogue" in the case are misplaced, she also says. "There is no room for 'sham' proceedings and 'sanitized' reports in the handbag of a fiduciary. Fiduciaries are required instead to 'defer' to the best interests of their beneficiaries."

Get the Story:
An Interior Case That Lays Bare Government as Usual (The Washington Post 7/20)

Today on Indianz.Com:
Contempt charges against Interior vacated (7/21)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

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