U.S. District Judge James Robertson said he hopes to issue a ruling by mid-July on how much money Indian Trust beneficiaries failed to receive as a result of the government's mismanagement of their money in a long-running accounting case.
The judge made his announcement shortly before noon after the government concluded presenting evidence at an eight-day trial on the issue. The trial will resume Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. when lawyers for the Native American plaintiffs present a final rebuttal witness in the proceeding.
Lawyers for both the Native Americans and the government then will present closing arguments. Judge Robertson said both sides would be asked to submit written briefs outlining recommendations for his ruling.
The judge has stated previously that he hopes this proceeding will be the final trial in the 12-year-old class-action lawsuit. The suit dates back to 1996 when Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Indian from Montana, sued over improper accounting of trust accounts that the federal government established for an estimated 500,000 Native Americans.
Lawyers for the Native Americans have said that the government owes their clients $58 billion as a result of its use of Native American money since the trust was established in 1887. The government contests those figures, arguing that the Native Americans lost no more than $158 million over the 121 years that the trust has been in operation.
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