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Special master Balaran resigns from Cobell lawsuit

Special master Alan Balaran has resigned from the Indian trust fund lawsuit, citing the Department of Interior's ongoing attempts to disqualify him.

In a three-page letter to U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, Balaran said his resignation was effective immediately. "This is an extraordinarily important case," he wrote yesterday. "I have been privileged to work on it."

"For the past several months, however, my efforts have been undermined by a series of motions lodged by the Department of the Interior," he added, "seeking my disqualification."

Balaran said the department stepped up its campaign to disqualify him just as he was beginning to uncover 'systemic" failures in the management of individual Indian trust assets. He cited a crucial visit Bureau of Indian Affairs office on the Navajo Nation, where an appraiser admitted to assigning lower values to Navajo-owned land. The visit later became the subject of a highly critical report.

"This report was just the beginning," he wrote. "I soon began to uncover evidence that Interior was putting the interests of private energy companies ahead of the interests of individual Indian beneficiaries."

Lamberth accepted Balaran's resignation "with profound regret" in an order signed today.

Relevant Documents:
Special Master Letter | Judge Lamberth Order

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice -
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -