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Norton ordered to trust fund contempt trial

Last Updated: 3:55 p.m.

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton and Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb have just been ordered to stand trial to face civil contempt charges for their handling of trust fund.

For "failing to comply" with court orders and for "committing a fraud on the court," U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth has called the pair to trial starting Monday, December 3. He will hold a hearing this Friday to discuss witness lists and to schedule times for testimony.

In granting the contempt motions, Lamberth sided with the plaintiffs in the billion dollar class action against the government on a number of issues, including:
  • Failure to conduct an historical accounting of the assets of American Indians
  • Failure to inform court of true status of the accounting
  • Failure to disclose true status of two key trust reform projects
  • Submission of a "false and misleading" status report on trust reform
Additionally, he said the government -- despite the claims of Norton's attorneys -- cannot challenge on a factual basis findings presented by court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III in four blistering reports and a supplemental document except to those issues raised in a November 15 filing.

Attorneys representing approximately 300,000 American Indian beneficiares were bouyed upon receipt of the judge's order. Dennis Gingold said he expects Lamberth to grant additional motions calling other past and present officials to trial.

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover were held in civil contempt in February 1999 for not producing documents relevant to the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

Get the Order:
Order to Show Cause (11/28)

Today on Indianz.Com:
Norton sees GOP support on overhaul (11/28)
Trust fund settlement talks fail (11/28)
NCAI shoring up Norton opposition (11/28)
Tribal leaders challenging Norton (11/28)
Norton wants to cut Interior jobs (11/28)

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

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