I LOVE the smell of Justice in the Morning, it SMELLS like....VICTORY.
Law360 reports: The Nooksack Tribal Court of Appeals on Wednesday said attorneys from Galanda Broadman PLLC must be allowed to practice in tribal court and represent members in a pending disenrollment battle, ruling a lower tribal court illegally denied them their right to challenge disbarment.
Gabriel S. Galanda, Anthony S. Broadman and Ryan D. Dreveskracht, who are seeking to represent disenrolled members of the tribe in another tribal court suit, haven’t been able to contest their disbarment, even after the appeals court previously found the tribe's chief of police in contempt for refusing to jail a clerk for the Nooksack Tribal Court who wouldn’t let the attorneys file their suit, according to the appeals court's order.
A three-judge panel ruled Wednesday that while it was unclear whether the attorneys have already been disbarred by the tribal council or disbarment proceedings are underway, the attorneys clearly had standing to bring their due process claims against the council.
Until the lower court makes a “full and fair review” of those claims, “no action of disbarment is to be taken against the plaintiffs and, if it appears on the record of the tribal council by resolution or otherwise that they have already been disbarred, the disbarment is stayed and the plaintiffs are reinstated as advocates permitted to practice before the Nooksack Tribal Court,” the panel said.
The Galanda Broadman attorneys lost the ability to represent their clients in a disenrollment fight between factions of the Nooksack tribe when the tribe’s council passed a pair of resolutions in February that allowed the tribe to disbar lawyers and blocked Galanda and his firm from appearing in tribal court or doing business on tribal lands.
Galanda Broadman filed the current case as a pro se complaint on March 24, asking for an injunction preventing officials from enforcing the resolutions. But on April 5, the court clerk told the attorneys by email that their complaint and motion had been rejected.
At the end of May, the appeals court ordered the clerk to accept the Galanda attorneys’ pleadings or face jail time for failing to comply. When the clerk still refused, the appeals court held her in contempt.
On Aug. 15, the appeals court found the tribe's chief of police in contempt for refusing to jail clerk Betty Leathers, saying it was “astounding” that Nooksack Chief of Police Rory Gilliland had ignored a court order.
In a proposed amicus brief submitted to the court Tuesday, a group of six law professors had urged the appeals court to overturn the attorneys’ disbarment, although a tribal court clerk rejected the filing on Wednesday.
Professors Robert Williams, Eric Eberhard, Colette Routel, Robert Hershey, James Diamond and David Wilkins in their brief asked the court “to restore the rule of law at Nooksack” to protect the more than 330 Nooksack members the attorneys seek to represent and argued that the lower court’s refusal to accept the attorneys’ filings risked reinforcing non-Indian judges’ negative views of tribal courts.
The professors pointed to a Ninth Circuit decision on Aug. 30 that overturned a Gila River Indian Community member's tribal court domestic violence and assault conviction for violations of his due process rights under the Indian Civil Rights Act, in which a concurring judge said the tribe's justice system had a "rat's nest of problems.”
“The suspicions and denigration of tribal courts as second-class forums will gain credence among those who are hostile to tribal sovereignty,” the professors said. “But that loss of credibility is not simply shameful and embarrassing for tribal sovereigns and we attorneys and judges who serve them, it wounds every tribal court. And when tribal courts lack respect and comity from their non-tribal sister courts, they cannot perform the absolutely critical function demanded of them.”
Nooksack court clerk Deanna Francis rejected the brief Wednesday, saying in an email to Eberhard and others that the professors couldn’t file the brief because they weren’t admitted to the court and don’t have the required business license, and because electronic filing of briefs isn’t allowed without agreement in advance by the parties involved.
The appeals court said Wednesday in reinstating the Galanda Broadman attorneys that the court’s previous efforts to provide them relief had been “unlawfully ignored and the rule of law on the reservation, at least within the scope of this case, has completely broken down.”
In a separate order, the same panel ordered the tribe’s police chief to pay nearly $2,800 in fees that the Galanda Broadman attorneys incurred in filing a motion in July.
In an order in the tribe members' suit challenging their disenrollment, the panel added 17 of the scores of plaintiffs in the suit to a June order that required the tribal council to appoint a judge to hear the case of tribe member Michelle Roberts or stop taking actions to disenroll her.
Galanda said in a statement Wednesday that the firm's attorneys "could not be happier" about again being counsel of record for the tribe members.
"This is an enormous moral victory, meaning a win against wholly immoral tribal forces," Galanda said in the statement. "We and our clients will take full advantage of all three orders issued by the appeals court today."
The firm's attorneys have already resumed representing their Nooksack clients and will take steps to enforce the fees award against the tribe's police chief, possibly in state court, according to the statement.
Representatives for the tribe and the tribal court were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.
The Galanda Broadman attorneys are representing themselves.