Judge holding hearing on contempt trial
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A federal judge today has scheduled a hearing in preparation for Secretary of Interior Gale Norton's contempt trial for her handling of the Individual Indian Money (IIM) trust.

Among the issues to be discussed is how reports of court monitor Joseph S. Kieffer and opinions of special master Alan Balaran will be used as evidence. Despite agreeing to the oversight of both, Norton is challenging their authority.

Also expected discussed are witness lists for the plaintiffs representing 300,000 American Indian account holders and the federal government. Norton, Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb and their predecessors from the Clinton administration -- Bruce Babbitt and Kevin Gover -- are sought for their testimony.

Babbitt's former chief of staff, Anne Shields, is wanted in help shed light on why the Clinton administration did not tell U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth that a $40 million accounting system was failing before he made his landmark ruling in December 1999. Lamberth has mentioned the lack of disclosure in court several times.

Also sought is Tommy Thompson, a senior official within the Office of the Special Trustee and a manager for a trust reform project. The plaintiffs said he is a "credible witness."

The plaintiffs also plan to call Mona Infield, a Bureau of Indian Affairs computer analyst who has been earning a $80,000 salary despite never having stepped into an office in more than a year. Dom Nessi, the BIA's former top computer official who had a hand in Infield's decision and knowledge of the department's security vulnerabilities, is also wanted.

Tex Hall, president of the National Congress of American Indians, would round out the plaintiffs witnesses.

The Interior has been mum on its stance on testimony. But an attorney representing Norton indicated she and McCaleb might be in court.

Additionally, the attorney said a couple of Interior employees and contractors handling BIA data cleanup would be called.

The hearing takes place today at 10 a.m. in federal court in Washington, D.C. The contempt trial is set to begin on Monday, December 10 and coule last a couple of weeks.

Today on Indianz.Com:
Judge orders Interior to cut Internet access (12/6)

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

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