Unable to win in court on the merits of its argument, the Interior Department has attacked U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth as "intemperate" and someone who has been reversed three times in the course of overseeing nearly 10 years of litigation [Federal Page, July 13]. Far from being intemperate, this judge repeatedly has given the government every opportunity to mend its errant ways in its treatment of Native Americans.

As to Judge Lamberth's three "reversals," two were on minor points that in no way limited the court's broad authority to address the department's breaches of trust. The third vacated the civil contempt conviction of Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton -- but on grounds that the proceedings were "functionally criminal," rather than civil. The reversal did not challenge any of the judge's more than 100 pages of findings revealing "a pervasive scheme aimed at defrauding the court and preventing the plaintiffs from learning the truth about the administration of the trust accounts." Any lawyer would welcome such reversals.



The writer, a reporter for The Post from 1975 to 1999, is a spokesman for attorneys representing Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Indians of Montana. Ms. Cobell brought the class-action lawsuit against the Interior Department seeking an accounting of the money collected and distributed in the trust accounts dating to 1887.