Thursday, August 4, 2011

Should California Recognize Tribal Court Rulings?

Can some tribes be trusted to follow the law?  We know first hand that Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians doesn't even follow their own constitution.  Malcolm Maclachlan has the story in Capitol Weekly:

An initiative undertaken by George last year may lead California to formally recognize civil judgments from tribal courts.

Of the 109 federally recognized tribes in the state, nearly 20 operate their own court systems. Another dozen or so have started running limited court systems, or are actively exploring the idea. These courts oversee tribal members on tribal lands. Their authority rests on the limited sovereignty of Indian tribes, who operate as semi-autonomous nations within U.S. borders.

The proposed bill would use a lesser standard — comity. This means that non-tribal members could appeal judgments against them in state court on the grounds that they did not receive due process or that the court showed bias. This is the same system used in other courts that recognize tribal civil judgments, including Maine, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“Due process questions can be reviewed by the state superior court in deciding whether to recognize the tribal court judgment,” Gede said. “This is reasonably well-written and well thought out, and provides pretty solid protections for a defendant in civil matters.”

The law would also recognize tribal courts from other states. There are about 650,000 American Indians living in California, and over half of them are members of tribes based in other states. In fact, the numbers of Cherokee and Navajo tribal members living in the state dwarfs the membership of many California tribes.

There is an existing state law that technically makes some monetary judgments in tribal courts enforceable on non-Indians. The Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgment Recognition Act covers only some types of judgments. It also flips the equation, forcing a tribe or individual Indian who has won a judgment to essentially litigate the case all over again in state courts, according to an AOC analysis.

“There’s a history here,” Edwards said. “The state courts didn’t trust tribal courts, traditionally. They didn’t think due process was going on there.”      OP:    Pechanga denied due process to both the Apis and Hunter Clan....

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