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US Interior Secretary Norton resigns, leaving legal problems behind

[JURIST] US Interior Secretary Gale Norton [official profile] resigned from the Bush cabinet Friday after a five-year run, and will officially leave office at the end of March. In her resignation letter [DOI press release], the former Colorado Attorney General told the President that her decision was motivated by a desire to return home to Denver.

While notorious in some quarters for leading the push [JURIST report] to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website] to oil drillers, Norton was also involved in an ongoing lawsuit brought by American Indian plaintiffs [Indian Trust website] alleging that the Interior Department grossly mismanaged trust funds earmarked for compensating American Indians for land use. In an incendiary opinion [text] last year, the presiding judge in that case required the Norton-led Interior Department to apologize to the plaintiffs [JURIST report], and to admit that information being provided to them regarding outstanding lost royalties on earnings from Indian land may be unreliable. Norton's name also surfaced during recent investigations into indicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST website], who has been accused of stealing millions from American Indian tribes who hired him to push the Interior Department [official website] for favorable decisions on casinos. MSNBC has more.

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