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© 2001 Indian Country Tomorrow
Fees Sought in Indian Trust Fund Case
Indianz.Com Request is for 'Millions'


U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth for the Distrist of Columbia. (File U.S. Courts)
By Brian Takes-Any-Story
Tomorrow Staff Writer
Monday, April 1, 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Indianz.Com has asked a federal judge to award the Internet news service "millions of dollars" for covering the Indian trust fund scandal.

In a motion filed in federal court yesterday, Kenneth Starr, the web site's attorney, made the unusual request. The fees are based on more than two years of research, phone calls, e-mails, court hearings and conversations with inept Department of Interior officials, according to the document.

"This Court’s orders have been violated; and deception has been, and continues to be, practiced regularly on this Court and its judicial officers," Starr wrote in the 152-page motion. "Defendants’ willful misconduct and their counsel’s unethical behavior has not changed since this case was filed in June 1996."

U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in the past has awarded fees to attorneys representing 300,000 American Indian beneficiaries. The Clinton administration was fined $600,000 in legal and dry cleaning costs for refusing to turn over a dress worn by former Attorney General Janet Reno when she rebuffed February 1995 advances to probe the debacle by lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell.

But awards to a news organization would be a first, acknowledged Todd York, the litigation director for Indianz.Com. "We feel that our non-responsive AOL Instant Messenger conversations with [Interior spokesperson] Mark Pfeifle and our numerous invites, always refused, to AOL Chat should not go unpunished," he told ICT.

When contacted, Pfeifle referred calls to John Wright, who could not comment on the request for sanctions, since he had not seen the motion and said he didn't plan on reading it any time soon. Calls were then placed to Tanna Chattin, another department representative.

Chattin said she would take down the information and get back to ICT as soon as an historical accounting for the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust was complete. Bureau of Indian Affairs spokesperson Nedra Darling said trust reform and litigation wasn't her area.

Frank Quimby, another Interior mouthpiece, declined to comment but divulged numerous details about Secretary Gale Norton's weekend with Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman. "They really had some good times out at Klamath," he said, referring to this past week's release of arsenic-laced water to thousands of non-Indian farmers.

© 2001-2002 Indian Country Tomorrow