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Activity in Cobell case keeps everyone busy

Activity in the Indian trust fund case heats up today with the start of a two-day contempt proceeding.

Special master Alan Balaran is holding oral arguments to help determine whether 39 past and present government officials should be held in contempt for destroying trust fund records. The affair will last all day in Washington, D.C., today and part of Thursday.

Also on Thursday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments on another contempt matter. The Bush administration is challenging a ruling that held Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and former Indian affairs aide Neal McCaleb in contempt for misleading U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth about trust reform. Attorneys for both sides were busy preparing a pre-trial statement last night.

Today's contempt proceeding will involve the Department of Justice, which is representing the 39 officials in their official capacities. But a number of the named contemnors also have hired private attorneys, whose fees -- up to $200 an hour -- are being picked up by taxpayers.

The schedule for today includes Philip A. Brooks, Charles W. Findlay, Jim Simon and Lois Schiffer. all former DOJ officials. Willa Perlmutter, a Department of Interior attorney whose handling of the Cobell case was investigated internally but brought no punishment, is also being reviewed.

On Thursday afternoon, former Interior solicitor Ed Cohen, a Clinton appointee, and Edith Blackwell, a current Interior solicitor who has been kicked off the Cobell case, will be considered.

Relevant Documents:
Special Master Day 1 | Special Master Day 2

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:
Norton gets another day in court (4/21)
Lamberth tempted by disqualification campaign (01/21)
Lamberth rejects request to disqualify himself (1/17)
Interior admits to more destruction of e-mails (10/22)
Probe raises more questions than answers (08/07)
No one to punish for destroyed e-mails (04/10)
Norton faces more scrutiny on trust fund (4/5)
More sanctions expected on trust fund (4/4)
Audit exposes big holes in trust fund (4/3)
Interior holding back security documents (4/2)
Sanctions awarded on trust fund (4/1)
Interior cited for destroyed e-mails (7/30)

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