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The federal courthouse in Washington tends to quiet down as the winter holidays draw near. But this year, Judge James Robertson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is not likely to have much of a break. The reason? He’s taking over one of the court’s most protracted and mountainous pieces of litigation, the Indian trust-fund case stemming from the government’s failure to account for land seized from Indians in the late 19th century. The reassignment of Cobell v. Norton is part of a July order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which pulled Judge Royce Lamberth off the case for overstepping the judicial bounds of objectivity. The court directed Chief Judge Thomas Hogan to find a replacement. Hogan’s assistant Sheldon Snook says the choice of Robertson was based purely on scheduling availability. But the Indian tribes’ attorneys aren’t quite ready to give up on Lamberth, who vociferously and repeatedly rebuked the government’s actions toward the tribes. They plan to file for certiorari in the Supreme Court in a last-ditch effort to keep Lamberth on the case. For now, though, the case is scheduled for a Dec. 20 status conference in Robertson’s courtroom.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected].

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