Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Crack in the Sovereignty Dam: Couple wins $1.3 MILLION

Tribes are finding that hiding behind sovereignty won't always work. Each case like this, creates a little crack in the dam of sovereignty and tribes will be responsible for losing sovereignty for ALL tribes. Tread lightly.

Couple Awarded $1.3M in Lawsuit

A federal jury has awarded $1.3 million in damages to an Anglo couple who farmed for 17 years on leased land at Santa Ana Pueblo before its then-governor barred them from baling hay at night. The couple, Bob and Sue Burrell, said the governor's order, stemming from a noise complaint, effectively curtailed their farm operations in 1997. Although there were initial efforts at resolving the dispute, the Burrells eventually filed two federal lawsuits. The jury verdict came in a trial this week before U.S. District Judge William "Chip" Johnson.

The Burrells' complaint alleged that the family was "run off their farm based on illegal discrimination based on race, national origin, color and religion" and caused significant financial harm.

The litigation had previously been dismissed by a tribal court judge (SURPRISE!) and by Johnson before making its way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The appeals court reversed Johnson, ruling that, while the pueblo was protected by sovereign immunity, pueblo officials acting outside the scope of their authority were not.

Read more HERE

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