Tribal Court Cases of Note pre-2016
*Synopsis: Members filed appeal of decision by Enrollment Committee to remove members from membership.
*Holdings: The Tribal Court of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community, David D. Shaw, C.J., held that:
1) removal of members was to correct error at the time of enrollment, rather than disenrollment action;
2) decision to remove members from tribal membership to correct error at the time of enrollment was not arbitrary and capricious; and
3) members' due process rights were not violated during procedure to remove them from tribal membership.
Related Law Review article: Christman v. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde: A chapter in the disenrollment epidemic
Author: Minke, Tabitha
Source: 41 Am. Indian L. Rev. 201 (2016)
*Synopsis: Father brought custody action, seeking joint legal custody with primary physical custody with him, with reasonable access and visitation to mother, and mother subsequently filed custody proceeding in state court.
*Holdings: Following hearing on jurisdiction, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court, Thomas J. Londregan, J., held that:
1) tribal court had jurisdiction over custody proceeding, and
2) tribal court would not defer to Connecticut's jurisdiction.
*Synopsis: Candidate for Tribal Council Chairman filed action against Election Board, alleging improprieties and seeking to stay certification of election results.
*Holdings: The Tribal Judiciary, en banc, held that:
1) Election Board's failure to follow Election Regulations violated due process, and
2) special election for chairman was warranted.
*Synopsis: Tribe brought declaratory judgment action to determine validity of referendum petition presented by a group of unsponsored tribal members.
*Holdings: The Tribal Court, Thomas J. Londregan, J., held that:
1) court would not invalidate the petition on procedural grounds alone, and
2) petition was not the proper subject matter for a referendum under the Constitution.
Neff v. Port Susan Camping Club
2008 WL 7321995 (Tulalip Tribal Court of Appeals.)
Nos. TUL-CV-GC-2005-0368, TUL-CV-GC-2005-0390
Tulalip Tribal Court of Appeals.
May 29, 2008
In re Village Authority to Remove Tribal Council Representatives
2008 WL 8929354 (Hopi C.A.)
Appellate Court of the Hopi Tribe
April 4, 2008
*Synopsis: Village filed certified question of law asking whether villages, regardless of their form of government, had the authority to remove or decertify their duly-certified tribal council representatives.
*Holdings:The Appellate Court held that:
1) village had standing to file certified question;
2) power to remove tribal council representatives was allocated solely to tribal council; and
3) villages had constitutional right to petition tribal council to remove tribal council representative.
Neff v. Port Susan Camping Club
8 NICS App. 32
Tulalip Indian Reservation
December 10, 2007
*Summary: Following remand of its original order, trial court issued supplemental findings of fact and conclusions of law, ruling that a private association had followed proper procedures in terminating a membership, and that the record contained substantive evidence supporting the association’s decision. Court of Appeals holds that trial court’s reference to the record as a whole, without citation to specific evidence in the record, does not provide a basis for the Court of Appeals to affirm the trial court. Matter remanded for entry of findings citing specific evidence in the record for support.
Skokomish Indian Tribe v. Mosbarger
7 NICS App. 90
No. I 11834
Skokomish Tribal Court of Appeals
June 26, 2006
*Summary: Trial court (1) ruled that it had civil jurisdiction over non-Indian motorists cited for speeding on state highways within a state-owned right-of-ways passing through the interior boundaries of the reservation, and (2) found Defendants in two separate incidents guilty and imposed civil fines on them. Court of Appeals holds (1) a non-Indian motorist speeding through a restricted speed school zone for the school attended by virtually all of the tribe’s children is subject to tribal jurisdiction, even though the infraction occurred on state-owned land; and (2) where Tribe failed to prove precisely where an infraction occurred and failed to establish facts about the character of the area where the infraction occurred, the tribal court lacked a basis for asserting jurisdiction over a non-Indian. Trial Court order affirmed as to one Appellant and reversed as to the other.
Champagne v. Little River Band of Ottawa Indians
35 Indian L. Rep. 6004
Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Court of Appeals
June 6, 2007
*Summary: The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Court of Appeals affirms the defendant's, conviction of- the crime of attempted fraud.
*Synopsis: Former lessee of grazing rights brought action against lessor and new lessees seeking reimbursement of prepaid rents. The Tribal Court ordered new lessees to make payments otherwise due to lessor into trust escrow account. Lessor appealed.
*Holdings: The Court of Appeals held that:
1) order was appealable final order under collateral order rule, and
2) lessor's due process rights were violated by attachment order.
Cooke v. Yurok Tribe
7 NICS App. 78
No. YTCV 04-12
Yurok Tribal Court of Appeals
September 29, 2005
*Summary: Tribal court entered summary judgment in favor of Tribe, which had denied Plaintiff’s application for enrollment in the Tribe. Court of Appeals holds that there is no distinction between a “deceased” member of a tribe and a “former” member of a tribe for purposes of interpreting Constitutional provision denying membership to a person who is a lineal descendant of a former member of another tribe and is without a parent enrolled in the Yurok Tribe. Trial court grant of summary judgment affirmed.
Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde v. Strategic Wealth Management, INC.
32 Indian Law Rep. 6148
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon Tribal Court
August 5, 2005
*Summary: The Confederated Tubes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon Tribal Court finds that the Tube did not waive its sovereign immunity with respect to the affirmative award of prevailing party attorney fees and costs in any of the agreements it entered into with respondents, nor when it chose to file suit under the Oregon Securities Laws or when it stipulated to arbitrate its claims with respondents, and thus the arbitrators lacked authority to award prevailing party attorneys fees and cost~ and the court concludes that absent a waiver of sovereign immunity, the court lacks jurisdiction to enforce an award.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians v. Torres
2005 WL 6437828 (Eastern Cherokee Sup.Ct.)
Nos. CR 03–1443, CR 03–1529, CR 03–1530, CR 03–1531, CR 03–1819.
Supreme Court of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
April 12, 2005
*Synopsis: Defendant, a citizen of Mexico, was charged with driving while impaired and other offenses. The Cherokee Court, J. Matthew Martin, J., ––– Am. Tribal Law ––––, 2004 WL 5806990, denied defendant's motion to dismiss charges for lack of jurisdiction. Defendant appealed.
*Holdings: The Supreme Court, Martin, C.J., held that, as matter of first impression, Cherokee Court had jurisdiction to try and punish non-Indian citizen of Mexico. Affirmed and remanded.
Snowden v. Sahinaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan
32 Indian L. Rep. 6047
Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan Appellate Court
January 7, 2005
*Summary: The Appellate Court of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan reverses the ruling of the Community Court holding that the implied constitutional power to disenroll tribal members is limited to matters of fraud and mistake, and that due process requires that the exercise of implied powers must be set out in an appropriate ordinance that defines the substantive grounds for disenrollment and complies with procedural guarantees of tribal Jaw.
Bank of Hoven v. Long Family Land and Cattle Company, INC.
32 Indian L. Rep. 6001
No. 03-002-A and R-120-99
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court of Appeals
November 22, 2004
*Summary: The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Court of Appeals affirms the trial court and the jury's award in an action relating to land within the exterior boundaries of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
Menefee v. Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
2004 WL 5714978 (Grand Traverse Tribal Ct.)
Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Court
May 5, 2004
*Synopsis: Parents filed action challenging denial of petition for enrollment of minor. Tribe moved to dismiss. The Tribal Court, Petoskey, J., ––– Am. Tribal Law –––––, 1999 WL 34986335, granted motion. Parents appealed. The Tribal Appellate Court, Ronald G. Douglas, J., ––– Am. Tribal Law ––––, 2000 WL 35750183, reversed and remanded.
*Holdings: The Tribal Court, Wilson D. Brott, J., held that:
1) term “Indian Blood” was limited to Indian blood from tribes which were recognized by United States government within boundaries of continental United States, and
2) term “federally recognized” in constitutional provision prohibiting dual membership referred to recognition of existence of tribal nation by United States government.
Maltos v. Sauk-Suiattle Tribe
6 NICS App. 132
IN THE SAUK-SUIATTLE TRIBAL COURT OF APPEALS
February 27, 2004
*Summary: In suit for damages, injunction and other relief brought against Tribe and Tribal officials by Tribal member who was disenrolled by Tribal Council, trial court ruled (1) Tribal officials acted in their official capacity; (2) claims against Tribe and Tribal officials are precluded by sovereign immunity; (3) Tribal membership is a property right to which due process rights attach; (4) Tribal Enrollment Committee’s failure to provide adequate notice to Tribal member subject to disenrollment deprived member of due process; and (5) appropriate remedy is to grant the disenrolled Tribal member a rehearing as provided for in the Tribal Enrollment Ordinance, despite Tribal member’s failure to request a rehearing or appeal the original decision. A majority of the Court of Appeals, in a two-to-one decision, rules (1) the Tribal member’s suit was effectively a request for an administrative rehearing, and so the doctrine of sovereign immunity does apply, and (2) because the Enrollment Ordinance is vague regarding whether an appeal is available to a member who is dis-enrolled, trial court should hold a hearing to determine whether Appellee received correct information regarding his appeal rights and whether he waived any such rights by failing to exhaust administrative remedies. Dissent argues (1) it was error for trial court to dismiss the suit based on sovereign immunity and then remand for further action; (2) while Enrollment Ordinance does not provide for judicial review of disenrollment; neither does Enrollment Ordinance preclude a new application for enrollment following disenrollment, and therefore, disenrolled Tribal member’s “remedy” is to simply file a new application for enrollment and avail himself, if necessary thereafter, of the right to appeal which attaches to one who is “denied” enrollment. By Order of the majority, case is remanded for fact-finding hearing by the trial court regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies.
*Synopsis: Property owner sought review of a decision from the Tribe's Board of Directors denying her planned residential development (PRD) proposal for a permit to rezone and subdivide her property. Action was initially dismissed, but the Tribal Court of Appeals, ––– Am. Tribal Law ––––, 2002 WL 34506022, vacated and remanded. On remand, the Tribal Court affirmed the denial of the permit. Property owner appealed. The Board cross-appealed.
*Holdings: The Tribal Court of Appeals held that:
1) denial could be properly based on noncompliance with Zoning Ordinance despite compliance with Comprehensive Plan;
2) the Tribal Court of Appeals would affirm the Board's decision despite lack of express findings of Ordinance noncompliance in adopted findings of fact;
3) the Department of Community Development staff report supported denial on the basis that the PRD did not meet Zoning Ordinance specifications for environmental impact assessment and unit density;
4) owner's tribal economic and Indian civil rights were not violated; and
5) due to one Director's bias, he was required to abstain from voting on owner's PRD proposal.
Affirmed and remanded.
Legal Topics: Tribal Governmental Powers
*Synopsis: Connecticut State Police detective and sergeant sued Tribe, Tribal Council, and Gaming Enterprise for malicious prosecution, libel and defamation, libel per quod, negligent interference with contractual obligations, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, in connection with allegations of illegal break-ins by state police at tribal offices. Trial was held.
*Holdings: The Tribal Court, Londregan, J., held that:
1) as matter of first impression, no prosecution occurred upon which detective could base claim of malicious prosecution;
2) as matter of first impression, detective was public official and thus was required to establish actual malice in order to prove libel;
3) statements in Tribal Chairman's letter to state governor asking for investigation were absolutely privileged against defamation claim;
4)language in newspaper articles, quoting tribal officials in relation to allegations of illegal break-ins, fell into fair comment or opinion category and thus was not libelous;
5)newspaper advertisement paid for by Tribal Council did not libel detective;
6)as matter of first impression, Tribe was not liable to detective for libel per quod; and
7)Tribe was not liable for negligent infliction of emotional distress.
Judgment for defendants.
Estate of Hoover v. Colville Confederated Tribes
29 Indian Law Rep.6035
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation Court of Appeals
March 18, 2002
*Summary: The Colville Confederated Tribes Court of Appeals affirms the trial court's entry of an order permanently enjoining the appellant and those acting in concert with him from developing, improving, or otherwise changing the land use of his property within the Hellsgate Reserve without first obtaining the necessary permits from the Colville Confederated Tribes in conformity with the provisions of the Colville Land Use and Development Codes
Chamberlain v. Peters
27 Indian L. Rep. 6085
Appellate Court of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan
January 5, 2000
*Summary: The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Appellate Court finds: (1) the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs violated both tribal and federal law in his August 10, 1999 recognition of the "Interim Peters Council" and therefore the Peters Council was not lawfully holding office; (2) the Chamberlain Council violated the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Constitution in its holdover actions and therefore is not entitled to relief; (3) the tribal council officials sworn into office on December 6, 1999 as a result of the November 2, 1999 general election properly and lawfully hold office in accordance with the laws and Constitution of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian nibe of Michigan.
Deckrow v. Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
1999 WL 35000425 (Little Traverse Trib.Ct.)
Tribal Court of the Little Traverse Bands of Odawa Indians.
September 30, 1999
*Synopsis: Tribal member brought action against tribe, seeking to disallow ballot results for tribal plan. The Tribal Court dismissed action. Member appealed and the Tribal Appellate Court, ––– Am. Tribal Law ––––, 1998 WL 35301007, remanded.
*Holdings: On remand, the Tribal Court, Michael Petoskey, C.J., held that:
1) member's complaint could not be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies;
2)action was not barred by sovereign immunity;
3)tribal court had authority to hear tribal member's action.
Louchart v. Mashantucket
27 Indian L. Rep. 6176
Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court
June 17, 1999
*Synopsis: The Employee Appeal Division of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court finds that there was no reasonable basis for concluding that the plaintiff violated the applicable work rules, standards, or other conditions of employment established for the position held by the plaintiff.
Means v. District Court of the Chinle Judicial District
26 Indian L. Rep. 6083
Navajo Nation Supreme Court
May 11, 1999
*Synopsis: The Navajo Nation Supreme Court finds that: (1) the Chinle District Court has jurisdiction over the petitioner, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, under the Treaty of 1868; (2) the petitioner has consented to criminal jurisdiction over him; and (3) he is not denied the equal protection of the law.
IDM Financial, LLC v. Napeahi
5 NICS App. 78
Tulalip Tribal Court of Appeals
July 28, 1998
*Summary: The Court of Appeals finds that the trial judge acted reasonably in proceeding with the Appellant’s case despite the fact Appellant, IDM Financial, received its counterclaim just prior to trial. Any error was harmless because the Appellant had opportunity to, and did, present evidence from the only witness it would have called in response to the counterclaim. It is the responsibility of unrepresented parties in tribal court proceedings to be familiar with the rules of the court and the procedures to be followed in handling cases before that particular court.
*Synopsis: Action was brought to remove tribal officer. The Tribal Court appointed legal counsel and referred to Tribal Judiciary on removal issue.
*Holdings: The Tribal Judiciary, Michael Petoskey, C.J., held that:
1) appointment of counsel for tribal officer was warranted, and
2) removal from office was warranted.
Hoffman v. Colville Confederated Tribes
24 Indian Law Reporter 6163
Colville Confederated Tribes Court of Appeals
May 5, 1997
*Summary: The Colville Confederated Tribal Court of Appeals affirms the trial court, holding that the appellant has failed to prove that under tribal law, he is entitled to an increase in blood quantnm based upon factnal proof of additional Indian blood.
Legal Topics: Constitutional Law
Hall v. Tribal Business Council
Three Afiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold Reservation Tribal District Court
January 5, 1996
*Summary: The District Court of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation orders the tribal business council to meet in special session to consider appeals of grazing range unit applications and further orders that any member of the council who has a range unit application or who has an immediate family member who has a range unit application may not participate in the consideration of appeals and outlines the procedures for conducting the appeal for each contested range unit.
Hoh Indian Tribe v. Hudson
3 NICS App. 304
Hoh Tribal Court of Appeals
March 25, 1994
*Summary: Criminal appeal of judgment in bench trial on grounds that prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the factual elements of the crime of "interference with fishermen."Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court is best suited to determine factual issues as it has first-hand opportunity to hear and observe testimony and determine reliability and credibility of witnesses. Consequently, in appeal of trial court factual determinations, the standard of review by an appellate court is "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the Tribe, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt."The Appellate Court, in applying this standard, reversed the conviction after finding that there was no evidence in the record to support the finding of a prima facie element of the charge.
Burns Paiute Indian Tribe v. Dick
3 NICS App. 281
CV-15-93, CV-16-93, CV-17-93
Burns Paiute Tribal Court of Appeals
February 14, 1994
*Summary: Appeal of Trial Court exclusion order on grounds that: (1) Trial Court denied Appellants equal protection because other persons with similar crimes were not excluded; (2) the exclusion ordinance was overly vague; and (3) exclusion violates Appellants' liberty interest in maintaining close relationships with loved ones.Court of Appeals reversed exclusion order upon finding that Appellants had established an equal protection claim by showing both selective enforcement and improper motive by Tribe in seeking exclusion. Appellate Court also held that exclusion does impinge on liberty interest of maintaining close relationships, and that ordinance was overly vague because it did not inform persons of what conduct might result in exclusion.
Chilkat Indian Village v. Johnson
20 Indian L. Rep. 6127
Chilkat Indian Village Tribal Court
November 3, 1993
*Summary: In an action brought by the Chilkat Indian Village, IRA against .an individual and a corporation and individuals comprising the "Whale House Group" for the conversion of tribal trust property and violation of a tribal ordinance which prohibits the removal of such property from the village without prior notification of and approval by the Chilkat Village
Council seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and monetary damages. the Chilkat Indian Village Tribal Court orders
the return of artifacts and the payment of expenses for the artifacts' return as well as costs and fees of litigation.
Colville Confederate Tribes v. St. Peter
20 Indian L. Rep. 6108
No. AP92-15400, AP92-15507-15510
Colville Confederated Tribes Court of Appeals
September 28, 1993
*Summary: The Colville Confederated Tribes Court of Appeals finds that nothing in tribal law or in the tribal constitution, the Indian Civil Rights Act, or the Colville Tribal Civil Rights Act prohibits the tribal court from imposing consecutive sentences on a defendant convicted of multiple offenses and that the tribal court did not abuse its discretion by imposing consecutive jail terms in the instant cases.
Hoopa Valley Indian Housing Authority v. Gerstner
22 Indian L. Rep. 6002
Hoopa Valley Court of Appeals
September 27, 1993
*Summary: The Hoopa Valley Court of Appeals affirms the trial court's ruling upholding the Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance Commission's reinstatement decision in a wrongful termination of employment action, and remands to the trial court for a determination of amounts owed to the respondent.
In the Matter of a Minor Child L.J.Y v. T.T.
8 SWITCA 4
Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals for the Fort Mojave Tribe
March 3, 1993
*Summary: During the hearing on appellee's petition for custody of his child, held the same day as the petition was filed and after appellee alleged that appellant was a negligent parent, the trial court, with no supporting evidence,treated the matter as a neglect petition by the Tribe, and
removed the child from appellant's custody to that of the paternal grandparents, first temporarily and thereafter,permanently. The trial court refused to reconsider appellant's petition for reconsideration for the reason that the grounds raised were, by tribal Jaw, left to the jurisdiction of the appellate court. Appellant appealed.alleging substantial violations of tribal and federal Jaw
which denied appellant due process and equal protection.
Reversed and remanded.
In the Interest of A.A.M.B v. Williams
4 SWITCA 1
Southwest Intertribal Court of Appeals for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe
January 7, 1993
*Summary: The State of Colorado filed suit under an assignment of rights executed by the child's guardian who receives Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). The state sought to establish paternity of the child in order to obtain contribution and reimbursement for the financial assistance paid to the child's guardian for the benefit of the child. The trial court established
the paternity of the child based upon the father's admission and awarded child support, but
denied past child support. The trial court ruled that past decisions of the court established that
child support cannot be imposed retroactively after determination of paternity in the absence
of legislative authority. The Appellate Court reversed the decision of the trial court and held
that nothing in the Southent Ute Indian Tnoal Code prevents the suit by any party supporting
the child to obtain retroactive child support from a parent.
Arizona Public Service Co. v. Office of Navajo Labor Relations
17 Indian L. Rep. 6105
Navajo Nation Supreme Court
October 8, 1990
*Summary: The Navajo Nation Supreme Court affirms the finding of the Navajo Labor Relations Board of marital status discrimination by the Arizona Public Service Company in violation of Navajo tribal law, 15 Nav. T.C. §§ 204(b)(7) aud (9), and the Board's ruling prohibiting the discrimination.
In Re: Validation of Marriage of Francisco
16 Indian L.Rep. 6113
Navajo Nation Supreme Court v
August 2, 1989
*Summary: The Navajo Nation Supreme Court affirms the district court's refusal to validate appellant's common-law marriage on the grounds that Navajo law does not recognize commonlaw marriage.
Legal Topics: Tribal Sovereign Immunity; Civil Rights
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