DOI officials ordered to testify
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The federal judge overseeing the trust fund lawsuit rejected an attempt by the Bush administration to delay the testimony of top Department of Interior officials.

Government attorneys said acting Special Trustee Donna Erwin and Office of Historical Trust Accounting Director Bert T. Edwards were too busy to appear before the court. Both officials are helping to prepare a trust reform plan due early next year.

But U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said the pair had ample warning that they may face questioning. "They've had since September 17 to work on the plan," he said during a court hearing on Friday afternoon.

"I'm not persuaded that a one-day deposition will be an interference," Lamberth noted.

By January 6, 2003, the Interior is to submit a plan to fix the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust and the standards by which the 500,000 IIM accounts accounts will be managed. The department must also specify how it will conduct an historical accounting.

Attorneys for the account holders want to question the officials in advance of the deadline because they also hope to submit a plan of their own. "These depositions are critical for our January 6 plan," Keith Harper, a Native American Rights Fund (NARF) attorney told Lamberth.

Harper added that Erwin and Edwards "know the facts on the ground" and their testimony "is our only avenue of gaining that information."

Lamberth ordered Edwards, who works in Washington, D.C., to testify on Tuesday. The deposition will be overseen by special master-monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III.

Erwin will be deposed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this coming Friday. Although the Special Trustee is normally based in D.C., she has worked in Albuquerque full-time since she replaced Tom Slonaker, was ousted for being too critical of the Bush administration.

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust, Department of Interior -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -
Cobell v. Norton, Department of Justice -
Trust Reform, NCAI -

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