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Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma


Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma Tribal Code
Chapter One. District Court



Section 101. Judges of the District Court

The District Court shall consist of the Chief Judge, and such District Judges, Special Judges, and Magistrates as may be appointed according to law.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 101, AST COURTS Code Section 101

Section 102. Minimum Qualifications of Judge of the District Court

A Judge shall:

(a) be either

(1) an enrolled member of the Tribe, or

(2) the parent, child, or spouse of an enrolled member of the Tribe, or

(3) actually domiciled within the territorial jurisdiction of the Tribe, or

(4) an attorney, or

(5) a lay advocate who has regularly practiced before the Court as a member of the Bar of the Court for a period of five years, or

(6) an Indian graduate of an American Bar Association approved Law School, or a Paralegal program approved by the Supreme Court; and

(b) have demonstrated moral integrity and fairness in his business, public and private life, and

(c) have never been convicted of as felony, whether or not actually imprisoned, and have not been convicted of any offense, except traffic offenses, for a period of two years next preceding his appointment. The two year period shall begin to run from the date the person was unconditionally released from supervision of any sort as a result of a conviction.

(d) have regularly abstained from the excessive use of alcohol and any use whatsoever of illegal drugs or psychotoxic chemical solvents.

(e) be not less than twenty-five (25) years of age.

(f) not be a member of the Executive Committee, or the holder of any other elective Tribal Office of the Tribe, provided, that a candidate who is a member of the Executive Committee, or the holder of some other elective Tribal Office, may be confirmed as a Judge subject to his resignation. Upon resignation from his office, he may be sworn in as and assume the duties of judicial office.

(g) if less than fifty (50) years of age, have completed at least thirty (30) semester credit hours at an accredited college or university, or at least two years of previous experience as a Judicial Officer for some recognized Court.

(h) and non-lawyer judges must attend the National Judicial College.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 102, AST COURTS Code Section 102

Section 103. Manner of Selection of Justices and Judges

Justices and Judges of the Tribe shall be selected by the Executive Committee upon a vacancy occurring in a judicial office in the following manner:

(a) Within thirty days after a vacancy occurs the Governor shall cause a notice of the vacancy stating the minimum qualifications, salary, and any other pertinent information to be published once in the Tribal newspaper and once each week for two (2) consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the tribal jurisdiction. Copies of the notice shall be posted at the Tribal Office, the nearest Agency of the Bureau of Indian of Affairs, the Tribal Housing Authority office, and such other places as the Governor shall direct. The notice shall direct that inquiries, nominations and applications be directed to the Tribal Secretary who shall keep a permanent record of responses to such notices.

(b) No sooner than twenty (20), nor more than thirty (30) days after the date on which last required notice was published or posted, the Secretary shall deliver the names and files of all persons nominated or applying for the Judicial Office to the Governor, who shall select no more than three qualified candidates for each vacant Judicial Office and place consideration of the candidate(s) he nominates on the agenda of the next regular or special meeting of the Executive Committee.

(c) The Executive Committee shall review the qualifications of the nominees, and may interview nominees at their meetings at their discretion. In making a selection, the Executive Committee shall give preference to those candidates who:

(1) have more formal education and experience in the legal field.

(2) by written examination conducted by the Supreme Court or by interview have shown that they are familiar with the Constitution, Code and Common laws of the Tribe.

(3) have demonstrated decision making ability.

(d) If the nominee for the Judicial Office is confirmed by the Executive Committee, the nominee shall be sworn into office by the Chief Justice, or the next ranking available Justice of the Supreme Court.

(e) If the nominee(s) is not confirmed, the Governor shall either republish the notice and establish a new list of eligible candidates, or he may reconsider the candidates on the list gathered from the previous notice. The Governor nomination--Legislative confirmation process shall continue until some nominee be confirmed.

(f) Upon the expiration of a judicial term of office, the Judicial Officer is entitled upon request, filed with the Secretary not less than sixty days prior to the expiration of his term, to be considered for confirmation to a new term at the next meeting of the Executive Committee at which a quorum is present. If the Legislature, a quorum being present, does not confirm the outgoing officer, they shall so declare and direct the Governor to begin the selection process. The outgoing judicial officer's term shall expire upon confirmation of the new Justice of Judge.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 103, AST COURTS Code Section 103

Section 104. Term of Office

All Judges of the District Court shall serve six (6) year terms of office beginning from the date of their confirmation and until their successors take office, unless removed for cause, or by death or resignation.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 104, AST COURTS Code Section 104

Section 105. Oath of Office

Before assuming office each Judge, Special Judge, and Magistrate shall take an oath to support and protect the Constitution of the Tribe and to administer justice in all causes coming before him with integrity and fairness, without regard to the persons before him to be administered by the Chief Justice or the next ranking available Justice of the Supreme Court as soon after confirmation as may be practical.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 105, AST COURTS Code Section 105

Section 106. Duties and Powers of Judges

All Judges of the District Court, and Special Judges in cases within their authority, shall have the duty and power to conduct all court proceedings, and issue all orders and papers incident thereto, in order to administer justice in all matters within the jurisdiction of the Court. In doing so the Court shall:

(a) Be responsible for creating and maintaining rules of the Court, not in conflict with the Tribal Code or the Rules of the Supreme Court regulating conduct in the District Court, for the orderly and efficient administration of justice. Such rules must be filed in the office of the Tribal Secretary and the District Court Clerk before becoming effective.

(b) Hold Court regularly at a designated time and place.

(c) Have the power to administer oaths, conduct hearings, and otherwise undertake all duties and exercise all authority of a judicial officer under the law.

(d) Hear and decide all cases properly brought before the Court.

(e) Enter all appropriate orders and judgments.

(f) Issue all appropriate warrants and subpoenas.

(g) Keep all Court and other records as may be required.

(h) Perform the duties of the Clerk in his absence.

(i) Subject to the confirmation of the Supreme Court, to appoint such Magistrates as may be necessary for the convenient functioning of the Court. These Magistrates shall have the authority to issue arrest and search warrants, search warrants for the protection of children, emergency custody orders in children's cases, temporary commitments of persons accused of offenses, to conduct arraignments in criminal or juvenile delinquency cases, and to act on such ex parte, summary, or other matters as may be determined by Rule of the Supreme Court. Magistrates shall meet the minimum qualifications for Judges of the District Court except that Section 102(a) and (g) shall not apply.

(j) Unless a coroner is appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Tribal Code, any Judge designated by the Chief Judge shall have the authority to perform the duties of a coroner.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 106, AST COURTS Code Section 106

Section 107. Trial Panel

In any case to be tried by a Trial Panel, the Chief Judge shall assign by random lot at least three Judges to try the case, one of whom shall be designated as the Presiding Judge. The Presiding Judge assigned to the case shall have the duty before, during and after trial of making procedural and evidentiary rulings on issues raised by the case, after conferring with the other assigned Judges when he feels it necessary to, do so. All assigned Judges shall have an equal vote on the merits of each case. The panel's deliberations on the merits shall be held in strict privacy and no one shall disclose anything said during the deliberation. A majority of the assigned Judges may take action on the merits of any matter, but no one shall reveal the vote of any of the Judges on the panel or the final numerical vote of the panel, the decision should simply reflect that it is the decision of the Court.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 107, AST COURTS Code Section 107

Section 108. Special Appointments

Whenever, due to vacancies in office, disqualification of Judges, or other cause, a trial panel cannot be convened from the available Judges, or an additional Judicial Officer is needed to efficiently dispense with the business of the District Court, due to vacancies in office, disqualification of Judges, or other cause, the Supreme Court may designate by Court Order one or more duly qualified magistrates or Justices to sit on the trial panel, or may make one or more special appointments from among the members of the Bar of the Court to act as a Special Judge to hear specific named cases, or cases filed prior to the date a trial panel of regular Judges can be convened, the vacancy is filled, or the Special Judge is no longer needed. No special procedure need by followed in making such appointments and such Special Judges need not meet the qualification of Section 102(a) or (g) of this Title. Whenever a Justice of the Supreme Court sits on the trial panel, that Justice may not participate in any appeal of the case to the Supreme Court. Special Judges may be compensated from the Court fund in such reasonable amounts as the Supreme Court shall order.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 108, AST COURTS Code Section 108

Section 109. Compensation of Judges

(a) The compensation of all Judges of the District Court shall be set by appropriate legislation of the Executive Committee. No Judge shall have his compensation reduced during his term of office, except that if funds be unavailable for appropriation, the compensation of all judicial officers may be reduced proportionally to the availability of funds.

(b) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the Executive Committee from contracting or agreeing with the Bureau of Indian Affairs or any other government, agency, or organization that such government, agency, or organization shall provide all or part of the compensation of a Judge or Magistrate of the District Court, and shall in return have control over the compensation of such Judges or Magistrate. In such situations the Executive Committee shall recommend to the funding party the compensation of District Judges and Magistrates.

(c) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to Magistrates. The compensation of all Magistrates shall be set by order of the Supreme Court from available appropriated funds, or from funds made available pursuant to an agreement entered into according to Subsection (b) of this section.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 109, AST COURTS Code Section 109

Section 110. Removal of Judges

(a) The Judges of the District Court shall be removed only for cause by the Executive Committee upon the recommendation of the Supreme Court. Neither the Supreme Court, nor the Executive Committee may remove a Judge of the District Court independently, but the Supreme Court must first recommend the removal, and the Executive Committee must then concur. The term “cause” shall include any reason sufficient for disbarment of an Attorney from the Bar of the Supreme Court, or a violation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics promulgated by the American Bar Association.

(b) Magistrates shall serve at the pleasure of the Judges of the District Court.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 110, AST COURTS Code Section 110

Section 111. Disqualifications, Conflict of Interest

(a) No Judge shall hear any case when he has a direct financial, personal or other interest in the outcome of such case or is related by blood or marriage to one or both of the parties as: husband, wife, son, daughter, father, mother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, or any other legal dependent. A Judge should attempt to prevent even the appearance of partiality or impropriety.

(b) Either party of interest in such case or the Judge may raise the question of conflict of interest. Upon decision by the Judge concerned or the Supreme Court that disqualification is appropriate, another Judge shall be assigned to hear the matter before the Court.

(c) Any Judge otherwise disqualified because he is related to one or more of the parties in one of the relationships enumerated in subsection (a) of this Section, may hear a case if all parties are informed of the blood or marriage relationship on the record in open Court and of their right to have a different Judge hear the case, and consent to further action by that Judge in the case in open Court upon the record, or in a writing filed in the record, in spite of the conflict of interest.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 111, AST COURTS Code Section 111

Section 112. Decisions

(a) Each decision of the District Court at trial shall be recorded on a form approved by the Supreme Court for such purpose, or embodied in written findings of fact and conclusions of law containing all the information required by the approved form. The form shall provide for recording the date of the decision, the case number, the names of all parties, the substance of the complaint, the relevant facts found by the Court to be true, the Court's decision, and the conclusions of law supporting the Court's decision.

(b) In a case tried to a Judicial Panel, the Presiding Judge shall sign such form or decision indicating that the decision is the true decision of a majority of the trial panel on the case whether or not the Presiding Judge agreed with that decision.

(c) The decision form or the written findings of fact and conclusions of law shall be placed in the case file as an official document of the case.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 112, AST COURTS Code Section 112

Section 113. Records

The District Court shall be a Court of Record. To preserve such records:

(a) In all Court proceedings, the Court Reporter, which may be the Clerk in the absence of an official Court Reporter, shall record the proceedings of the Court by electronic or stenographic means. The recording shall be identified by case number and kept for five (5) years for use in appeals or collateral proceedings in which the events of the hearing are in issue. At the close of each hearing, or as otherwise specified, the Reporter shall cause a transcript to be made of the recording upon the request of any party or the Court as a permanent part of the case record. Court Reporters may be licensed by the Supreme Court, and shall be allowed such fees from the Parties for their services as shall be set by Rule of the Supreme Court.

(b) To preserve the integrity of the electronic record, the Reporter shall store the recording in a safe place and release it only to the relevant Court or pursuant to an Order of a Tribal Judge or Justice.

(c) The Clerk shall keep in a file, bearing the case name and number, every written document filed in the case.

(d) All Court records shall be public records except as otherwise provided by law.

(e) After five (5) years, court records except judgments, appearance, and other dockets may be reproduced on computer tape or disk, microfilm, or microfisch or similar space saving record keeping methods, provided, that at least one (1) hard copy, including microfilm or microfisch, electronically stored data shall be kept at all times.

(f) The Supreme Court shall provide for the publication in books or similar reporters of all of its decisions and opinions in cases before it, and the opinions and decisions of the District Court which would be useful to the Bar of the Court and the public.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 113, AST COURTS Code Section 113

Section 114. Files

(a) Except as otherwise provided by law, such as in juvenile cases, Court files on a particular case are generally open to the public. Any person may inspect the records of a case and obtain copies of documents contained therein during normal business hours.

(b) Any persons desiring to inspect the records of a case or obtain copies thereof may inspect such files only during the ordinary working hours of the Clerk, or a Judge and in their presence to insure the integrity of Court records. Under no circumstances shall anyone, except a Judge or a licensed advocate, attorney or the Clerk taking a file to a Judge in his chambers or a courtroom, take a file from the Clerk's office.

(c) A copy of any document contained in such a file may be obtained from the Clerk by any person for a reasonable copy fee, to be set by rule of the Supreme Court. The Clerk is hereby authorized to certify under the seal of his office that such copies are accurate reproductions of those documents on file in his office. The Supreme Court by rule may provide for such certification.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 114, AST COURTS Code Section 114

Section 115. Motion Day

Unless conditions make it impractical, the District Court shall establish regular times and places, at intervals sufficiently frequent for the prompt dispatch of business, at which motions requiring notice and hearing may be heard and disposed of; but the Judge at any time or place, and on such notice, if any, as he considers reasonable, may make orders for the advancement, conduct, and hearing of actions, or, the Court may make provision by rule or order for the submission and determination of motions without oral hearing upon brief written statements of reasons in support and opposition.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 115, AST COURTS Code Section 115

Sections 116-119. Reserved

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Sections 116-119, AST COURTS Code Sections 116-119

Section 120. Practice Before the Tribal Court

(a) No person shall be denied the right to have a member of the Bar of the Court represent him and present his case before the Courts.

(b) The Supreme Court, after conferring with the District Court, shall make rules which shall govern who may practice before the District Court and the Supreme Court. Such rules shall be filed in the office of the Tribal Secretary and the office of the Clerk of the Supreme and District Courts.

Absentee Shawnee Courts Code Section 120, AST COURTS Code Section 120