indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Native American Bank - Native people investing in Native communities
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

printer friendly version
Appeals court blocks Norton's appeal in trust case
Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A federal appeals court late Tuesday dismissed the Bush administration's second round of appeals in the Indian trust fund lawsuit, cutting short some of the federal government's options in the long-running case.

In a brief order, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the government's challenges with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again. Attorneys for Secretary of Interior Gale Norton asked to withdraw the arguments, but had wanted them preserved for a later date.

A three-judge panel also ordered Norton to show cause why a personal appeal, filed by a private law firm whose fees are being reimbursed at taxpayers' expense, should not be dismissed. The court gave her 30 days to respond "in light of the fact that the Department of the Interior's interests are fully represented" by government lawyers on the federal payroll.

The order, released after hours, means oral arguments that were scheduled for January 2004 are canceled. Norton was seeking to overturn two decisions from U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth that force the government to act more like a private trustee when handling funds belonging to hundreds of thousands of American Indians.

Dennis Gingold, a Washington, D.C., attorney for the plaintiffs, said the move from the appeals court "reinforces the trust" by applying, to the government, what is known in trust law as a fiduciary exception. Normally, the department can cite the attorney-client privilege or the work product doctrine to keep certain matters private during litigation.

But under the fiduciary exception affirmed in the case, Interior can't hide behind lawyers to keep information from Indian beneficiaries, Gingold said. "The books are wide open," he said.

Gingold also said the move has implications for contempt charges that are in dispute. There are enough judges on the D.C. Circuit in disagreement about the case to warrant reconsideration of sanctions, he argued.

"So we think it's a good sign," he said.

In July, a three-judge panel cleared Norton and former Indian affairs aide Neal McCaleb of lying about failed efforts to reform the trust. Three Republican appointees -- Chief Judge Douglas H. Ginsburg, A. Raymond Randolph and Karen Lecraft Henderson -- handled the contempt appeal.

A different panel made of two Republican appointees -- Harry T. Edwards and David B. Sentelle -- and David S. Tatel, a Democrat appointee, was set to hear the fiduciary exception appeal. Sentelle wrote the February 2001 decision that upheld Lamberth's historic ruling in the case.

The split leaves just three active judges with the potential to tip the case against Norton. That can only happen if the court agrees to hear the plaintiffs' motion to rehear the contempt appeal. The court also has three senior judges who don't normally handle cases.

The makeup of the D.C. Circuit has been a key battleground for the Bush administration since early 2001. Democrats blocked a Senate vote on nominee Miguel Estrada, who decided to drop out of consideration last week.

Another nominee, John G. Roberts Jr., has not come up for a vote. Roberts defended the state of Alaska in the historic Venetie Supreme Court case that determined there was no Indian Country in the state.

The Cobell case has been to the appeals court twice since its inception, costing taxpayers millions in the process. According to a Department of Justice disclosure, Norton's lawyer, Herbert Fenster, and his law firm were reimbursed $491,538.63 to argue on her behalf to the D.C. Circuit. Fenster's work largely consisted of a brief that was filed late and didn't play a role in the court's decision.

A Department of Justice spokesperson had no immediate comment on yesterday's order, which was not faxed from the clerk's office until after 6 p.m. A message was left for a Department of Interior spokesperson.

Get the Decision:
Cobell v. Norton (September 9, 2003)

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:
Cobell asks full panel to rehear contempt case (09/03)
Cobell: Taxpayers foot bill for private lawyers (09/01)
Cobell: Delay and deception in trust fund case (09/01)
Trust: 'At least someone is standing up for us' (09/01)
Tally for private attorney fees in Cobell case rises (07/24)
Contempt charges against Interior vacated (7/21)
Commentary: Critics of Cobell, Lamberth shortsighted (7/21)
Neal McCaleb happy court is off his back (7/21)
Editorial: DOI, Congress can't be trusted to do right (7/21)
Editorial: What about holding tribes accountable? (7/21)
Norton cleared of contempt on trust fund (7/18)
Congress hacks Bush's accounting funds (7/16)
Trust fund provision stripped from House bill (7/15)
Swimmer partly right on trust fund rider (7/14)
Hearsay: House sending message to Lamberth (7/14)
Bill could strip DOI of trust fund management (7/14)
Bush official balks at large settlement for Cobell (7/10)
House takes testimony on trust fund settlement (7/10)
Editorial: Shame on Bush and Congress for rider (7/10)
Judge Lamberth hears closing arguments in Cobell trial (7/9)
Closing arguments set in Cobell trust fund trial (7/8)
Dicks pins anti-Cobell language on Taylor (7/7)
Editorial: Trust fund settlement bill 'disgraceful' (7/7)
Swimmer to appear on Native America Calling (7/7)
Swimmer finally off the stand in Cobell trial (7/3)
Swimmer testimony in Cobell trial wrapping up (7/2)
Swimmer recalls 'fuzzy' Reagan years (7/1)
Lamberth questions Norton's trust limits (7/1)
Pombo targets trust fund settlement program (6/30)
Swimmer testifies on trust fund accounting (6/27)
Swimmer challenged on Bush reform plans (6/27)
Swimmer expected to take stand in Cobell trial (6/25)
Griles gets Cobell wish list from House (6/26)
Taxpayers fund private attorneys to tune of $3M (6/25)
Norton offered settlement funds for IIM trust (6/20)
Swimmer testimony to come at end of Cobell trial (06/05)
Cason to take stand in Indian trust fund trial (6/4)
Indian trust standards debated (6/3)
Suit aims to halt reorganization (6/3)
Norton starts defense in trust fund trial (6/2)
Tribes stress unity on trust reform solutions (6/2)
Cobell welcomes a settlement to trust case (5/29)
Lamberth criticizes interference with trust fund case (05/22)
Tribes oppose OST expansion into Indian County (5/22)
Swimmer: Don't fear changes at Interior (5/22)
On trust, Swimmer turns to private sector (5/14)
Trial in Cobell trust fund case kicks off (05/02)
Bush reform plans debated in trust fund trial (05/02)
Cobell v. Norton Recap: Day 1 of Trial 1.5 (05/02)
Court tackles trust accounting and reform plans (05/01)
Court hears Norton's trust fund appeal (4/25)

Copyright � 2000-2003 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Obama hosts his final White House Tribal Nations Conference (9/27)
More tribes settle trust fund lawsuits as Obama era nears end (9/27)
White House: Indigenous voices in the Obama administration (9/27)
President Obama praises Comanche Nation woman in speech (9/27)
Lakota Country Times: Clinic for Native veterans shut down (9/27)
Native Sun News Today: Statue brings community together (9/27)
Delphine Red Shirt: Start the healing process for our people (9/27)
Editorial: Newspapers shouldn't be beholden to government (9/27)
Sierra Club: More review needed for Dakota Access Pipeline (9/27)
Remarks by Obama at White House Tribal Nations Conference (9/26)
President Obama signs bill to promote Native tourism into law (9/26)
Lakota Country Times: #NoDAPL lands before United Nations (9/26)
Native Sun News Today: Rosebud Sioux group celebrates win (9/26)
Clara Caufield: Look around because Indians are everywhere (9/26)
Rodney Butler/Kevin Brown: Tribes committed to new casino (9/26)
Gyasi Ross: Obama's legacy on the line with Dakota pipeline (9/26)
Steven Newcomb: Statue on Kumeyaay territory based on lie (9/26)
Peter d'Errico: Book encourages return to a 'tribal' way of life (9/26)
Review: 'Inspiring' documentary about Elouise Cobell's battle (9/26)
More California tribes welcome labor unions at gaming facilities (9/26)
Ho-Chunk Nation starts work on major casino expansion project (9/26)
Obama administration asks tribes about infrastructure projects (9/23)
House passes measure to combat illegal sale of tribal property (9/23)
Mike Rounds: Righting historical wrongs against Native citizens (9/23)
Indian Health Service names new medical officer in Great Plains (9/23)
Interior Department finalizes rule for Native Hawaiian relations (9/23)
Native Sun News Today: Democrat accepts invitation to debate (9/23)
Jeffrey Whalen: A failed experiment in socialism at Pine Ridge (9/23)
Mary Annette Pember: A young boy's journey to Standing Rock (9/23)
Harlan McKosato: Obama must keep promise to Indian people (9/23)
Dean Suagee: Native input needed to guide future of our parks (9/23)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.