Department Of Interior

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Contact:Eric Ruff (202)208-6416)
For Immediate Release: July 18, 2003
Dan Dubray (202) 208-7163


In response to today's ruling by the United
States Court of Appeals overturning the
September 17, 2002 contempt ruling
by the U.S. District Court in the Cobell litigation

The Department of the Interior is gratified by the Court of Appeals ruling today. The Court of Appeals overturned all findings of contempt by the District Court against Secretary Norton and Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb. The appellate court also dismissed a Special Master appointed by the District Court for inappropriately injecting himself in the business of the Department of the Interior.

Through the Department of Justice, we strenuously disagreed with the September 17th ruling for the principal reasons cited by the appellate court in its decision today. This decision is a significant milestone for the American Indians and Alaska Natives served by the Department.

Well before the District Court's September 17th contempt ruling, Secretary Norton and the senior leadership of the Department were already fully engaged in efforts to reform, reengineer and reorganize the way it carries out its trust duties. Today, we remain committed to that goal. As a result of our efforts, the Department is currently implementing a major reorganization of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians. We have built our plan on the foundation of unprecedented joint meetings held last year in partnership with tribal leaders across the nation. Today's court ruling allows us to continue to focus on this vital mission without the distraction of contempt allegations.



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