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March 6, 2003
COBELL v. NORTON: Court Memorandum and Order.
Court has denied defendants' motion to curtail the authority of the Special Master-Monitor in Cobell v. Norton.
"Apparently not content with impugning the authority of the Monitor, defense counsel inserts a footnote tacitly accusing the Court of unethical behavior: “This development is even more troubling in light of the Court’s statement, in its January 17, 2003 Memorandum and Order, that it meets regularly with the Special Master-Monitor to, inter alia, instruct ‘the Monitor which task he should perform next . . . .’” Id. at 13 n.9. Given the recent conduct of defense counsel in this litigation, it is certainly ironic that defense counsel would presume to lecture the Court on the subject of legal ethics." Id. at 10 n 5.
"The fact that defense counsel would misrepresent a legitimate inquiry by the Monitor, in response to an invitation for followup questions, as the issuance of “discovery demands” on a deputy assistant attorney general only confirms the Court’s fear that the Justice Department attorneys in charge of the instant litigation have lost any sense of perspective about the manner in which this litigation should be conducted." Id. at 17 n 6.
"[T]he Court concludes that it is manifestly within the scope of the Monitor’s powers to recommend to the Court that a show cause order be issued, if the Monitor has reason to believe that counsel has violated any law, including the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct.9 Taking into account the recent conduct of defense counsel, the Court considers the authority of the Monitor to file such a report and recommendation to constitute a necessary corrective to any unethical or obstructive behavior engaged in by counsel during discovery proceedings." Id. at 23.
"The correspondence between the Monitor and defense counsel demonstrates that in response to the Monitor’s repeated requests for documents to assist him in his monitoring duties, defense counsel repeatedly stonewalled in response to the Monitor’s requests and challenged the Monitor’s legitimate authority, prior to filing the motion for a protective order. Additionally, during the course of a deposition ordered by this Court, defense counsel repeatedly made baseless assertions of attorneyclient privilege, ignoring the finding of the Special Master-Monitor that plaintiffs’ questions were appropriate, in an attempt to obstruct plaintiffs’ legitimate inquiry into whether her co-counsel had lied to the Court during a recent hearing. It was this unethical conduct that led the Monitor to propose the rule that defendants have challenged in the motion presently before the Court. In short, the filing of defendants’ motion represents the culmination of a series of displays of obstinacy, recalcitrance, and unprincipled behavior on the part of defense counsel.
The Court fails to discern any circumstances in relation to the present matter that would make an award of sanctions against defendants and their counsel unjust. In fact, the Court concludes that it would be unjust not to sanction defendants and their counsel for wasting plaintiffs’ time and resources by requiring them to respond to a completely frivolous motion. Accordingly, the Court will order sanctions to be imposed." Id at 27.
Court orders Sandra P. Spooner, Assistant Attorney General Robert D. McCallum, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart E. Schiffer, and Justice Department attorneys J. Christopher Kohn and John T. Stemplewicz to pay plaintiffs reasonable expenses, including attorneys’ fees.
Cobell v Norton is a class action suit against the federal government regarding mismanagement of IIM [Individual Indian Monies] trust accounts (billions of dollars in oil, gas, coal, timber and other revenue derived from more than 11 million acres of land held in trust for the benefit of 500,000 current individual Indian trust beneficiaries)
This Site first became aware of this IMPORTANT lawsuit (for everyone) when an email with the following article arrived the first of March, 2001.
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