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Norton drops objections to court monitor

Updated: 1:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Secretary of Interior Gale Norton has dropped her objection to the reports of court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer III, a government attorney said today.

Worried about the pace of a contempt trial against her and threatened with depositions of 39 past and present government officials, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Nagle informed the court of the decision this morning. Nagle said the government would not object to all the reports being brought into the record of evidence even though Norton's defense team were challenging almost every single finding and conclusion contained within them.

Nagle's action would represent a breakthrough in the trial, which has been moving along in a tedious manner. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth had warned the government and attorneys representing 300,000 American Indian beneficiaries about the length of the proceedings.

In response to the government's decision, the plaintiffs said they might be able to end their examination of witness Tommy Thompson. The second highest-ranking official at the Department of Interior, Thompson has been the sole person to take the stand in nine days of the trial.

If the plaintiffs wrap up their questioning, the government would finally be able to cross-examine Thompson, who has supported most of the findings of the court monitor reports.

Although the Kieffer issue was a pressing one, Nagle indicated the potential for special master Alan Balaran to conduct depositions was the subject of intense discussion. Lamberth said he was considering directing Balaran to do that in order to speed things along.

Separately, the government and the plaintiffs are working on an agreement to drop the fifth contempt charge against Norton. The charge focuses on the lack of computer security protections of the assets of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

Lamberth is returning to his court at 2 p.m. this afternoon to hear what both sides have to say.

Today on Indianz.Com:
TAAMS: The Titanic Failure (12/20)
Judge questions role in trust fund 'circus' (12/20)
Failure of TAAMS traced to promoted manager (12/20)

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

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