FROM THE ARCHIVE
Trust fund accounting tests federal judge
Facebook Twitter Email
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 13, 2002

A federal judge has accepted Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's request to drop historical accounting arguments made during the Clinton administration but questioned the government's truthfulness on the controversial matter.

In an order signed last week and filed in federal court on Monday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth gave permission for Norton's current legal team to withdraw three motions affecting the scope of the historical accounting. Citing significant "developments," the attorneys claimed the Bush administration no longer wanted to limit its obligations to 300,000 American Indians who still don't know if their trust account balances are correct.

But Lamberth didn't buy their explanation. Although he agreed to drop the arguments, he doubted why they were advanced at all.

"While the court disagrees with defendants' contention that intervening matters have made it appropriate to withdraw these motions (since that position presupposes that the motions were appropriate in the first instance), it will nonetheless grant defendants leave to withdraw the motions," he wrote on March 8.

The decision highlights a particularly troublesome area of a case that has dragged on more than five years. Although charged by federal law and ordered by Lamberth's court to do so, the Department of Interior has failed to start an accounting of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

Yet both the Clinton and Bush administrations have resisted the effort, albeit to different degrees. Norton's former defense team -- whom she fired last October -- only wanted to examine trust records dating back to 1994, or alternatively, to the 1950s.

Norton's Office of Historical Trust Accounting (OHTA) has widened its scope but not by much. Even though the IIM trust was created in 1887, the department is looking back to "at least" 1938, according to a court document filed last month.

The obstinance has tested Lamberth's patience. In the order filed this week, he took Norton's attorneys to task for not recognizing his December 1999 ruling on the accounting and warned that the government's behavior "will remain part of the record" in the case.

A 1994 trust reform law, Lamberth wrote, "requires defendants to provide plaintiffs an accurate accounting of all money in the IIM trust held in trust for benefit of plaintiffs, without regard to when the funds were deposited."

The order also speaks to Lamberth's forthcoming finding in Norton's contempt trial. Of the five charges she and Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb face, two are related directly to the failure to provide an accounting to the Indian beneficiaries.

A finding is expected in the coming weeks. Fines and potential jail time have been requested by attorneys representing the account holders.

The OHTA is expected to release a plan for a plan for the accounting in June. The office has asked third-party accounting firms for assistance and intends to award a three-year contract for the effort.

Relevant Documents:
Historical Accounting Memorandum and Order (3/11)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior - http://www.doi.gov/indiantrust
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton - http://www.indiantrust.com
Trust Reform, NCAI - http://130.94.214.68/main/pages/
issues/other_issues/trust_reform.asp

Related Stories:
Judge urged to reject Norton who cried 'wolf' (3/5)
Norton trial closes with arguments (2/22)
Judge mulls contempt finding (2/25)
Defense on security charge lacking (2/22)
Closing arguments wrap up trial (2/22)
Judge says 'duped' by government (2/21)
Judge blasts Interior 'deception' (2/21)
NCAI President testifies on shutdown (2/21)
Contempt testimony concludes (2/20)
Norton dropping Clinton policy (2/20)
McCaleb talks trust with Sam (2/19)
Norton recounts shaky year in trust (2/15)
Norton tries to convince judge on trust reform (2/14)
Norton says plaintiffs' accounting complete (2/14)
Griles has hope on contempt (2/13)
Norton concludes testimony (2/13)
Norton takes the stand in contempt (2/13)
Norton agrees to testify (2/12)
Norton set for trial testimony (2/12)
Trust fund mess blamed on Babbitt (2/11)
Norton ordered to testify (2/8)
Trust system takes center stage in contempt (2/1)
Federal judge resuming Norton contempt trial (1/31)
Norton effort 'too little, too late' for judge (1/16)
Interior official denies trust fund 'conspiracy' (1/15)
Witness testifies against software corruption (1/15)
Dom Nessi expected as Norton witness (1/14)
Norton launches contempt defense (1/11)
Cobell plaintiffs rest case (1/10)
End in sight for Norton contempt trial (1/10)
Top trust official lacks 'confidence' in reform (1/9)
Babbitt, others dropped as witnesses (1/9)
Trial resumes with trust testimony (1/7)
Contempt trial resumes in federal court (1/4)
Cobell: Justice for Indian Country (12/24)
Contempt trial breaking for Christmas (12/21)
IIM checks being delayed at Interior (12/21)
Interior can't find proof of corruption (12/21)
Tribal leaders blast Norton proposal (12/21)
Reports crucial to Norton contempt (12/21)
TAAMS failure traced to first manager (12/20)
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
Judge questions role in trust fund 'circus' (12/20)
Norton drops objections to court monitor (12/20)
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
Judge questions role in trust fund 'circus' (12/20)
TAAMS failure traced to promoted manager (12/20)
Ruling on court monitor put off (12/20)
Norton ordered to submit trust fund report (12/18)
Judge rebuffs Norton challenge (12/17)
Week two of trial continues today (12/17)
History of neglect drives trust case (12/17)
Judge eager for Norton testimony (12/13)
Editorial: Bad faith, wasted dollars (12/13)
Confusion, conflict detailed at Interior (12/12)
Exclusive: Trust reform assessment (12/12)
Lamberth pokes fun at government (12/12)
EDS trust reform report online (12/12)
Coverage of Contempt Trial, Day 2 (12/12)
Contempt trial continues (12/11)
Contested reports focus of contempt trial (12/11)
The Trial: Witnesses to Contempt (12/11)
Coverage of Contempt Trial, Day 1 (12/11)
Norton contempt trial opens (12/10)
Norton attacks court monitor (12/10)
Norton set for contempt trial (12/10)

Stay Connected
Contact
Search
Most Read
News Archive
2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

About This Page

You are enjoying stories from the Indianz.Com Archive, a collection dating back to 2000. Some outgoing links may no longer work due to age.

All stories are available for publishing via Creative Commons License: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)