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Lamberth defends special master against attack
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth on Monday rejected the Department of Interior's attempt to kick special master Alan Balaran off the trust fund case.

Balaran has written a series of reports critical of the department. He issued one in April 2003 finding that senior Interior officials stripped a status report of negative information about the Trust Asset and Accounting Management System (TAAMS).

Attorneys for Secretary Gale Norton didn't challenge the report at the time but later questioned Balaran's impartiality, alleging that he engaged in improper contacts with an ex-employee of Native American Industrial Distributors. The company was the one who claimed the department gave misleading information about TAAMS to the court.

The department's evidence consisted of invoices Balaran submitted in order to be reimbursed for work he and his employees and outside contractors perform. The documents, Interior alleged, showed that "secretly hired" the ex-NAID employee, who allegedly drafted parts of the April 2003 report.

In a 34-page ruling, Lamberth rejected Interior's allegations as "meritless." He said the department failed to object in time to what little work the ex-NAID employee performed. He also said the department failed to show that Balaran was biased.

Get the Decision:
Denying Motion to Disqualify Special Master (March 15, 2004)

Special Master Report:
Interim Report of the Special Master Regarding the Filing of Interior's Eighth Quarterly Report (April 21, 2003)

Relevant Documents:
Draft 8QR: TAAMS (November 2001) | Final 8QR: TAAMS (January 2002)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice - http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/cases/cobell/index.htm
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust

Related Stories:
Court investigator slams Interior's trust fund report (04/22)
Norton gets another day in court (4/22)
Court looks into TAAMS 'concealment' (11/07)
Court probes Norton's trust fund report (10/11)
Norton's witness on TAAMS does damage (09/23)
Top trust reform official comes under fire (05/21)
Feisty memos at heart of trust reform feud (05/20)
On trust, the problems remain the same (05/13)
A super assistant secretary, in all but name (05/03)
Memo sounded early warning on TAAMS (2/4)
Trust system takes center stage in contempt (2/1)
Trust reform update sheds some light (1/22)
Norton: Trust reform blueprint 'obsolete' (1/18)
Under watch of Swimmer, TAAMS halted (1/18)
Norton signs trust reform update (1/17)
Witness testifies against software corruption (1/15)
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
TAAMS failure traced to promoted manager (12/20)
Norton ordered to submit trust fund report (12/18)
Official: Trust fund fix at 'great risk' of failure (10/10)
Memo: Solicitor's order was 'intimidating' (10/10)
Interior delaying trust reform report (9/6)

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