Saturday, March 26, 2016

Separation of Powers In the Nooksack Tribe: Corrupt Council Runs Afoul of Tribal Law

“No Indian tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws or deprive any person of liberty or property without due process of law.”
 
Tribes laugh at this portion of the Indian Civil Rights Act, and deny with impunity, Native Americans rights under this act. An article in Indian Country Today, by Peter D'Errico detail the issue:

Let's look at how the Nooksack case plays into the negative stereotypes about Native legal systems:

On February 29, the Nooksack citizens targeted for “disenrollment” won an important motion in Nooksack Tribal Court, when Judge Susan Alexander affirmed their right to vote in the upcoming 2016 elections. But, apparently unbeknownst to these citizens, their lawyer, and the court itself, the Nooksack Tribal Council had taken steps on February 24 to disbar their lawyer.

On March 7, when the lawyers tried to file motions to get copies of council resolutions and related documents, the tribal judge said the council disbarment move prevented the court from accepting the motions, and that the citizens were now in a pro se status, i.e., they had to represent themselves.

The council did not directly deprive the Nooksack citizens of all legal representation, but it derailed their representation in the middle of the case. According to a statement filed in tribal court by the lawyers, the tribal council convened a special meeting during which it “resuscitated” a tribal resolution on business license procedures that had not been enforced for 30 years. The lawyers told the tribal judge their application for a business license had been returned by the Nooksack Chief Financial Officer, with a statement, “We…are not able to issue the requested license.”

The right to be represented by a lawyer in criminal cases has long been seen as fundamental, but representation in civil cases stands on a lower rank. Nevertheless, many jurisdictions provide a right to counsel in the most serious types of civil cases, such as termination of parental rights and commitment proceedings.
Read more at Indian Country Today  
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