The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROYCE C. LAMBERTH, United States District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on defendants' motion for
reconsideration of the Court's March 5, 2003 order directing payment to
Special Master Alan Balaran [1909-1], which was filed on March 19, 2003.
Upon consideration of defendants' motion, plaintiffs' brief in opposition
thereto, defendants' reply brief, and the applicable law in this case,
the Court finds that defendants' motion should be denied.
On February 22, 1999, this Court adjudged Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, and Interior Assistant
Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Gover to be in civil contempt of the
Court's discovery orders of November 27, 1996 and May 4, 1998. Two days
later, in accordance with Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
and with the consent of both parties, this Court appointed Alan Balaran
to serve as a special master in this litigation. The order of appointment
specified that Special Master Balaran "shall be compensated at the
prevailing market rate for his services and shall be reimbursed for all
expenses incurred in connection with the appointment. The defendants
shall bear these costs." Order dated February 24, 1999, at 1.
On February 13, 2003, the 108th Congress hastily approved a
consolidated appropriations bill for the fiscal year ending September
30, 2003, which the president signed into law on February 20, 2003.
Contemporaneous news accounts reported that, owing to the haste with
which the bill was passed, few Members realized the implications of the
three-thousand-page bill that they were signing into law. David Obey
(D-Wis.), the ranking Democratic member of the House Appropriations
Committee, was quoted as stating: "Ninety percent of this package has
never been debated on the floor before. All of the money that's in the
bill is the result of a backroom deal." Jim VandeHei & Juliet
Eilperin, Record Appropriations Bill Is Approved, WASH. POST, Feb. 14,
2003, at A5.*fn1
Section 132 of the appropriations act provides:
None of the funds in this or any other Act for the
Department of the Interior or the Department of
Justice can be used to compensate the Special Master
and the Special Master-Monitor, and all variations
thereto, appointed by the United States District Court
for the District of Columbia in the Cobell v. Norton
litigation at an annual rate that exceeds 200 percent
of the highest Senior Executive Service rate of pay
for the Washington-Baltimore locality pay area.
Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, Pub.L. No. 108-7, 117
Stat. 11 (Feb. 20, 2003).
Section 134 of the act provides:
The Secretary of the Interior may use discretionary
funds to pay private attorneys fees and costs for
employees and former employees of the Department of
the Interior reasonably incurred in connection with
Cobell v. Norton to the extent that such fees and
costs are not paid by the Department of Justice or by
private insurance. In no case shall the Secretary make
payments under this section that would result in
payment of hourly fees in excess of the highest hourly
rate approved by the District Court for the District
of Columbia for counsel in Cobell v. Norton.
On March 19, 2003, defendants moved for reconsideration of this Court's
March 5, 2003 order directing them to compensate Special Master Balaran
in the amount of $38,623.77. Plaintiffs filed their opposition brief on
April 2, and defendants submitted a brief in reply on April 14.
"District courts have broad discretion to grant or deny a motion for
reconsideration. The court may invoke its discretion and deny such a
motion unless it finds an intervening change in controlling law, the
availability of new evidence, or the need to correct clear error or
manifest injustice." Cobell v. Norton, 226 F. Supp.2d 175, 177 (D.D.C.
2002) (citations omitted). Defendants assert that section 132 of the
Consolidated Appropriations Resolution represents an intervening change
in controlling law that entitles them to a reconsideration of the Court's
order directing them to pay Special Master Balaran for services that he
rendered during the month of February 2003. Defendants are incorrect.
Section 132 prohibits only the use of "funds in this or any other Act for
the Department of the Interior or the Department of Justice" to
compensate the Special Master. However, the order appointing the Special
Master clearly states that "[t]he defendants [in this action] shall bear"
all expenses incurred in connection with the Special Master's
appointment. Section 132 places no restriction upon funds appropriated for
the use of the Department of the Treasury, a named defendant in the
present action. Therefore, if the Department of the Interior refuses to
bear the expenses incurred by the Special Master, the Treasury Department
will foot the bill for the services rendered by the Special Master.
However, defendants claim that the Treasury Department cannot be
ordered to comply with the plain language of the Special Master's
appointment order, and advance two arguments in support of this claim.
Their first argument, that the words "funds in this or any other Act for
the Department of the Interior or the Department of Justice" somehow also
includes funds appropriated for the use of the Department of the
Treasury, is patently absurd. Section 132 makes no mention of ...