Trust fund trial scheduled
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Update: Judge Lamberth has postponed the hearing. A new date has not been set.

The federal judge overseeing the Cobell v. Norton case has scheduled a trial to address a number of outstanding issues affecting the trust fund lawsuit.

Pending any changes due to the tragedy in the Capitol, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth will hold the hearing tomorrow at 11 AM at the District Court for the District of Columbia. All federal agencies and buildings are open for business today and are expected to be open tomorrow.

Lawyers for the Cobell plaintiffs have made repeated requests to hold Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and other administration officials, both past and present, in contempt of court for their handling of the trust fund. Allegations of harassment against Interior employees for speaking against the government formed the basis of contempt motions filed earlier this year.

A number of recent court reports have also opened up additional claims. The destruction of e-mail despite court orders against doing so, the delay of an historical accounting for an estimated 300,000 American Indian beneficiaries and the failure of officials to inform Lamberth about the problems of a $40 million software system have spurred on further contempt requests.

Government lawyers have opposed taking action against Interior officials. While claiming progress on behalf of Norton, attorneys are seeking to delay their defense of her and other top aides.

The Interior has already fallen behind schedule on reporting to the federal court. A court-mandated status report is now overdue as the government awaits approval from Lamberth to submit the document a month late.

Previously, Lamberth has held members of the Clinton administration in contempt of court. Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover were slapped with charges and the government was fined $600,000.

As a result of the incident, Lamberth indicated he would consider personal sanctions. The plaintiffs have repeatedly told Indianz.Com they would request jail time for officials.

Besides Norton, among the officials targeted for contempt include:
  • BIA Deputy Commissioner Sharon Blackwell
  • Former BIA Deputy Commissioner Hilda Manuel.
  • BIA Director of Management and Administration Deborah Maddox.
  • Former BIA Chief of Information Officer Dominic Nessi.
  • Former Interior Solicitor John Leshy.
Interior officials could not be reached yesterday.

Relevant Links:
District Court for District of Columbia -
Office of the Special Trustee -
Trust Management Improvement Project -
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Norton -

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Interior loses challenge to trust fund probe (8/30)
Trust fund holders call for contempt (8/28)
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Internal trust fund investigation sought (8/22)
Court report criticizes trust fund software (8/10)
Trust fund holders want trial against Bush officials (8/7)
Court monitor sets sights on software system (8/1)
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Attempt to limit trust fund probe rejected (7/24)
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