indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+
ph: 202 630 8439   fax: 202 318 2182
Fredericks Peebles & Morgan LLP
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines

Printer friendly version
Judge notes 'pattern of deceit' at Interior
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2003

The federal judge overseeing the Indian trust fund sanctioned the government on Tuesday for "misleading" his court by falsely claiming to have records of an historical accounting.

In court papers filed during the Clinton administration, the Department of Interior argued it wasn't required to account for the entire Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust, created in 1887 to keep track of oil, gas and other Indian assets. Attorneys for then-Secretary Bruce Babbitt said the General Accounting Office (GAO) reconciled funds as far back as 1951.

But senior officials possessed evidence to the contrary, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth wrote in a 15-page decision. Yet they went ahead and sought to limit an accounting owed to more than 500,000 American Indians, prompting Lamberth to punish the government for engaging in "egregious misconduct," a similar charge he laid when he held Secretary Gale Norton and former Indian affairs aide Neal McCaleb in contempt.

"Given the pattern of deceit by defendants that was demonstrated in the factual findings made at the conclusion of the second contempt trial in this case, the court is unwilling to turn a blind eye to yet another demonstration of defendants' misconduct and their willingness to mislead the court and to misrepresent the truth whenever it suits them," Lamberth concluded.

Lamberth declined to hold another contempt trial to address the government's actions. Keith Harper, a Native American Rights Fund (NARF) attorney representing the Indian account holders, said the ruling was a victory nonetheless.

"It's extraordinarily telling for a federal judge to note that the federal government lies at will," he said.

In the midst of her contempt trial more than a year ago, Norton withdrew the motions in question. Lamberth in March 2002 granted her request but questioned the government's truthfulness.

He confirmed those feelings with yesterday's ruling, castigating the government for trying to "deceive" the court by submitting an "affidavit containing false and misleading representations of fact." The affidavit, signed by a GAO official, repeated the claim that the GAO audited the trust fund accounts.

Lamberth also said the government tried to shift blame to the Cobell plaintiffs. "As dubious assertions go, this ranks down at the bottom with 'It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,'" he wrote.

Although the incident occurred primarily during the Clinton administration, officials involved still work for Norton. Bob Lamb, a deputy budget official, was confronted during the contempt trial about the GAO-related claims, but discounted the evidence against the department.

Lamb's superior, John Berry, the former assistant secretary for policy, management and budget, was told in an August 1999 letter that the GAO had no documents of IIM audits. When shown the letter, Lamb, who also received a copy, said: "I honestly don't recall the paragraph saying that."

The plaintiffs have 30 days to file a motion to recover attorneys' fees used to respond to the government's arguments. Harper said it would run in the tens of thousands.

Get the Decision:
Memorandum and Order (March 11, 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:
New Cobell ruling from Judge Lamberth (3/11)
Lamberth sanctions DOJ again (3/6)
Court blocks Norton's historical accounting scheme (3/4)
Trust fund judge sanctions 'repugnant behavior' (02/06)
Interior rebuffed on historical accounting (04/24)
Trust fund accounting tests federal judge (03/13)
Norton withdrawing accounting arguments (02/20)
Interior official denies trust fund 'conspiracy' (01/15)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Native Sun News: Indian farmers question Keepseagle attorneys (8/22)
Brandon Ecoffey: Navajo golfer Rickie Fowler is a fast-rising star (8/22)
Oglala Sioux leader and educator Gerald One Feather passes on (8/22)
Indigenous Fine Arts Market kicks off big weekend in New Mexico (8/22)
Gyasi Ross: Native people are all too familiar with police brutality (8/22)
Melanie Yazzie: Border town violence connected to colonization (8/22)
Ray Young Bear: No tribal member wants to be known by R-word (8/22)
Washington Post: Editorial board will no longer use R-word 'slur' (8/22)
Matthew Murguia: The facts are clear on Washington NFL mascot (8/22)
Three Indian artists selected as NEA's National Heritage Fellows (8/22)
President of Navajo Nation bans smoking in executive buildings (8/22)
Recently recognized Tejon Tribe to close enrollment next month (8/22)
Cowlitz Tribe pays $1.4M for building to be used as medical office (8/22)
Nooksack Tribe must answer to casino loan lawsuit in state court (8/22)
Menominee Nation remains confident with off-reservation casino (8/22)
Forest County Potawatomi Tribe parts ways with 'face' of casino (8/22)
Iipay Nation plans to offer real money Internet poker next week (8/22)
Seneca Nation shared $13.9M in casino revenue with community (8/22)
Native Sun News: DOJ backs tribes in ICWA case in South Dakota (8/21)
Jeffrey Whalen: Oglala Sioux Tribe's police force is in 'shambles' (8/21)
Ryan Wilson: Native language immersion programs need support (8/21)
Oklahoma City Indian Clinic celebrates grand opening of building (8/21)
Walt Lamar: Remove Gary Edwards from law enforcement group (8/21)
Secretary Jewell issues order and guidance on trust relationship (8/21)
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes see $7.4M for buyback (8/21)
North Dakota tribe accused of concealing data on pipeline spill (8/21)
Navy rejects transfer of surplus property to Narragansett Tribe (8/21)
Kake Tribe returns to site of 1857 deadly attack in Washington (8/21)
Opinion: Nez Perce Tribe defends its homeland from big energy (8/21)
KCUR: Modern and historic Indian art on display in Kansas City (8/21)
Mike Wise: Longtime NFL referee avoided Washington's games (8/21)
Enterprise Rancheria sues state over delayed Class III compact (8/21)
Santee Sioux Tribe working to bring more attractions to casino (8/21)
Mashantucket Tribe sees credit hit as casino competition grows (8/21)
Chumash Tribe to respond to concerns about casino expansion (8/21)
Travel: Smoking allowed at tribal casinos in northern California (8/21)
Native Sun News: Oglala Sioux Tribe gears up for uranium battle (8/20)
Eyapaha Today: J. Waylon Miller leads Friends of Cesar Romero (8/20)
Sandra Fox: Fixing the education system for our Indian children (8/20)
Albert Bender: US-backed genocide in Guatemalan spurs exodus (8/20)
Mark Chavaree: Penobscot Nation fights to save namesake river (8/20)
Mark Rogers: One more day with post-traumatic stress disorder (8/20)
Still no word on Cobell payments as end of August approaches (8/20)
Native boy found safe after going missing for nearly 24 hours (8/20)
9th Circuit allows Lummi Nation to pursue fishing rights claims (8/20)
St. Regis Mohawk Tribe gains support for land claim agreement (8/20)
Delaware Tribe to discuss plans for land with officials in Kansas (8/20)
Wind River Reservation students enjoy back-to-school haircuts (8/20)
Review: Native man serves as anti-hero in 'Winter In The Blood' (8/20)
Bill introduced to extend recognition to Clatsop-Nehalem Tribe (8/20)
Governor pressed on Menominee Nation off-reservation casino (8/20)
Group seeks referendum on Tohono O'odham Nation casino deal (8/20)
Lawmakers approve Class III gaming compact with Karuk Tribe (8/20)
Enterprise Rancheria awaits action on Class III gaming compact (8/20)
Wampanoag casino opponents hope to catch Obama's attention (8/20)
Opinion: Tribal gaming creates short term and long term benefits (8/20)
Native Sun News: Oglala man's business dealings under scrutiny (8/19)
Mark Trahant: Behind the scenes of Obamacare in Indian Country (8/19)
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.