(CN) - The government must produce records allegedly showing how it mismanaged the trust assets of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled in a case that's been pending since 2002.
The government argued that the records were protected by attorney-client privilege, but the tribe countered that Indian trust matters are subject to a fiduciary exception to that privilege.
The claims court agreed with the tribe and ordered the government to produce the documents by July 13, 2009, a deadline that was then extended to Aug. 10.
The Federal Circuit temporarily stayed the production order pending appeal, but lifted that stay in December 2009 and rejected the government's appeal last month. Undeterred, the United States sought a stay in claims court.
Judge Francis Allegra said the documents had remained in limbo long enough, and it was time for the government to produce them.
"Any significant further delay ... threatens the loss or destruction of evidence relevant to this case," Allegra wrote. Further delay also "threatens to postpone" the settlement of more than 90 similar pending cases, the ruling states.
"Simply put, with little likelihood of success and equities weighted toward [the tribe], there is little reason for the court to accommodate defendant's request for an extended stay," Allegra concluded.
The claims court ordered the government to produce the documents by Wednesday, Feb. 17.
"Absent the entry of a stay by another court, this deadline will not be extended for any reason," the court added.
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