FROM THE ARCHIVE
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In The Hoop
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30. 2001

Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

How Many Lawyers. . .
We've all heard the "How many lawyers does it to take to . . ." jokes. And we all laugh at them.

But Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and 38 other government officials, attorneys and senior management probably aren't chuckling after hearing what U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had to say during an update on the trust fund scandal that has threatened to derail her administration.

First, there was the issue of Norton's new legal eagles. No less than nine of them -- from the Department of Justice's civil division, the U.S. Attorneys office, the Department of Treasury and Norton's very own Solicitor Bill "The Intimidator" Myers -- showed up to Lamberth's courtroom today.

Being so fresh to the case, they asked for more time to answer to a laundry list of contempt charges filed against them. We recognize the "gravity" of the situation, they said, and we need time to provide an "accurate" and "comprehensive" defense.

But Lamberth was having none of it.

"If you weren't the third team of lawyers," he said, "I'd believe you."

Then, there was the issue of all those attorneys and senior management -- from Justice lawyer David Shuey to Deputy Commissioner of Indian Affairs Sharon Blackwell to former Secretary Bruce Babbitt -- whose questionable behavior might land them out of a job. (Well, Babbitt's already left his.) Who was there to defend them?

Not Norton's team. No less than 20 -- that's right -- 20 additional lawyers made their way up to Lamberth's podium in order to identify themselves.

Unlike Norton's lawyers, though, Lamberth didn't have harsh words for them. Perhaps he should have. The frat-like atmosphere they displayed before, during and after the hearing was more indicative of a happy hour than a serious proceeding.

"It's so good to see a friendly face," said one attorney upon encountering a colleague, realizing both of their clients are in a muddy mess.

"Everybody's here. This is great!" exclaimed another as if she had stepped into a college mixer instead of a court of honor.

"We're hanging together," concluded another.

And yet, there might be more of these attorneys showing up. Apparently not everyone has retained legal counsel -- which the Department of Justice conveniently used as part of the justification for the delay it was seeking.

In The Hoop has a suggestion. We, too, would like to delay something until the government can straighten this disaster out.

Our tax bills.

We, and every American taxpayer, are probably the ones footing the bill for these attorneys anyway.

God bless the trust fund.

In Your Hoop
What would you spend your unpaid taxes on? Email In the Hoop and let us know.

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