Home > News > More Headlines > Judge notes 'pattern of deceit' at Interior
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

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

Supreme Court puts an end to another tribal jurisdiction dispute (6/28)
Native women hail Supreme Court decision on domestic violence (6/28)
Navajo Nation leaders reflect on historic Supreme Court session (6/28)
Lakota Country Times: Runners take 500-mile Black Hills journey (6/28)
Mark Trahant: Navajo Republican drops out of race for Congress (6/28)
Brandon Ecoffey: Oglala Sioux Tribe must update its constitution (6/28)
Editorial: Lakota treaty council supported work at Wounded Knee (6/28)
Alex Jacobs: Our elected leaders do little to address gun violence (6/28)
St. Croix Chippewa Tribe ousts 10 people from rolls amid debate (6/28)
Film exposes police harassment of Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (6/28)
Northern Arapaho Tribe asserts more control over health system (6/28)
Trump rehashes 'Pocahontas' slur as Warren hits road for Clinton (6/28)
Schaghticoke Tribal Nation still fighting for recognition and casino (6/28)
Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe casino foes lose big source of funding (6/28)
Big Sandy Rancheria remains optimistic on plan for second casino (6/28)
Little River Band credited with sharing $30.4M in casino revenues (6/28)
Editorial: Let's leave gaming to tribes and kill Arkansas casino bid (6/28)
Supreme Court deals setback to tribes in labor sovereignty dispute (6/27)
Washington tribes win major fishing rights decision at appeals court (6/27)
Shinnecock Nation hits the end of the line with ancestral land claim (6/27)
Supreme Court won't hear Pauma Band compact negotiation case (6/27)
Witness list for Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing on 3 bills (6/27)
Lakota Country Times: Teams compete for Indian horse relay title (6/27)
Native Sun News: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation through education (6/27)
Vi Waln: Don't be afraid to come pray with your Lakota relatives (6/27)
Clara Caufield: Out fishing on the Upper Boulder River in Montana (6/27)
Opinion: Supreme Court exposes Indian people to federal powers (6/27)
Anonymous: Fighting back against victimization in Indian Country (6/27)
Michael Sandoval: San Felipe Pueblo respects rights of neighbors (6/27)
Andre Cramblit: Fond memories of growing up with Muhammad Ali (6/27)
Linda Greenhouse: Supreme Court goes silent in high-profile case (6/27)
Partial land-into-trust fix being watched by non-Indian interests (6/27)
Omaha Tribe cooperates with federal investigation into payments (6/27)
Northwest tribes take a stand against oil terminal in Washington (6/27)
Indigenous Digital Archive Project wins grant for online database (6/27)
Donald Trump fares poorly against Hillary Clinton in national poll (6/27)
Senate provision targeted tribes with commercial gaming plans (6/27)
Poarch Creeks in deal to acquire commercial casino in Louisiana (6/27)
Kootenai Tribe hopes to lure Canadian customers back to casino (6/27)
Tribes rest easy as Supreme Court wraps up a surprising session (6/24)
Tribes in northern California take action to protect salmon runs (6/24)
Aaron Payment re-elected as chairman of Sault Ste. Marie Tribe (6/24)
Gun Lake Tribe hosts annual Sweet Grass Moon Powwow in July (6/24)
Native Sun News: First Native hockey referee 'Butchy' passes on (6/24)
Delphine Red Shirt: Lakota people denied voting rights on our land (6/24)
Ruth Hopkins: Saving sacred Bear Butte from a massive biker bar (6/24)
more headlines...

Advertisement

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.